The Chan Zuckerberg Project - Hope or Hype
When Mark Zuckerberg announced his Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, it appeared in the headlines of many papers, probably just as he expected. The notion that Zuckerberg touted - of an organization committed to the eradication of diseases, and the management of those that could not be eradicated - is in itself noble without reservation.
However, the actual details and the ethics of the company and the process were not even given a decent once-over by a gushing media. Zuckerberg does not have billions of dollars in cash - the amount that is being donated is the value of 99% of his Facebook stock. This stock is not being surrendered immediately; the transfer will actually take place over the course of Zuckerberg's lifetime.
Also, he has chosen not to donate to any of the hundreds of reputable existing charities. Instead, he is creating a family-run foundation with his wife, Priscilla Chan. Yes, that's correct. The couple will run the organization themselves.
So, why is that a concern? For one, the point that the adoring media failed to latch on to is that Chan Zuckerberg is an LLC, a limited liability company and not a charity. This means it and its managers have no obligation to work as a non-profit organization. Chan and Zuckerberg can now channel the company's money into whichever profit-earning investments and businesses that they decide.
Apart from this, Chan and Zuckerberg have pulled off an epic tax coup. They will pay $0 in capital gains taxes. In fact, neither they nor their children and grandchildren nor any other descendants will ever pay a single cent in estate taxes.
Critics have been suspicious of Zuckerberg's philanthropy since the announcement of his $100 million donation to the Newark school system. Evidence being suppressed at the time now reveals that the gesture was actually a ploy to counter the negative publicity from the hit movie 'The Social Network'.
Zuckerberg was invited on Oprah with Gov. Chris Christie to announce the initiative, garnering widespread praise and an audience of hundreds of millions.
Today, again, Zuckerberg's name is emblazoned in lights and he is toasted as a brilliant humanist. We do not know exactly how this 'donation' will play out in the long term. Neither do we know if medical science will benefit from it in a way. Like so many times before in his life, the man has pulled off a brilliant public relations coup and most of us are in awe.