Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The raison d’etre for the nascent low-profit limited liability company (L3C) is to stimulate collaboration (“sectorization”) among government, private and charitable sectors in order to redirect for-profit capital models into the nonprofit sector. The hope is that the L3C will not only generate additional resources for charitable purposes, but also fundamentally transform business culture by signaling a more efficient way to “do good while doing well.” The L3C has been criticized for targeting only private foundation program related investments, a capital pipeline already exhausted by existing profit entity models. When compared to the existing nonprofit joint venture, the L3C emerges as a less efficient arbitrage model for stimulating profit sector investment in charitable enterprises. A comparative analysis yields instructive lessons regarding deficiencies in federal tax regulation of program related investments and joint ventures. In both cases, the federal tax rules utilize a differing “control test” to assure the exempt entity directs assets toward its charitable mission and away from private benefit to profit sector participants. This Article provides the first comprehensive comparative theory that the existing nonprofit-profit joint venture model is a more efficient solution to assuring compliance with the charitable mission when blending market returns to market capital investors. This theoretical framework exposes why L3C statutory operating procedures unnecessarily cripple profit efforts, undermine its effectiveness, and present policy dilemmas less prevalent in joint ventures where the nonprofit must exercise control over the business entity rather than simply an investment in the entity. As a result, program related investments should be scaled back and limited to determining only whether an investment jeopardizes a foundation’s exempt mission where the scale of the investment has a self-limiting role.