The national board of the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity filed for Chapter Seven bankruptcy last Monday, but brothers of the Cornell chapter said their fraternity would not be affected.
The bankruptcy claim came in the midst of a legal dispute over the actions of national executive director George Hasenberg and national president Glenn S. Linder, who were accused of stealing from the national fraternity and driving away chapters through wrongful financial demands, according to The New York Times.
Adam Gitlin ’12, the treasurer for the Tau Epsilon Phi chapter at Cornell, said that his chapter is “solvent and thriving.” He explained that the national filing for bankruptcy does not reflect the Cornell chapter’s finances, but is a way to legally examine all of the organization’s finances in preparation for a transition to new national leadership.
Since Hasenberg assumed his role at the helm of the national organization in 1999, Tau Epsilon Phi’s membership dwindled from 42 chapters to 13 active chapters, according to The Times.
The filing for bankruptcy should not affect individual Tau Epsilon Phi chapters, according to Daniel Graber, the lawyer representing Nathaniel Broughty, one of many current and former members of the fraternity who are accusing Hasenberg, Linder and their associates.
“[Tau Epsilon Phi] is still in existence. At the local level, there shouldn’t be any disruption to the chapters,” Broughty said. “It’s just that we’re trying to get a new group to oversee what’s going on on the national level.”
Steven Wald ’12, former chapter president, criticized the national leadership of the last 10 years, citing “multiple lawsuits ... regarding the illegality of [the national leadership’s] control, such as not holding elections at the proper dates, making demands for wrongful dues and aggressive practices to get chapters to pay more than they had to.”
Wald, like other Tau Epsilon Phi brothers, said the Cornell chapter would not be affected, given that the chapter handles its own “fiscal abilities.” “It has nothing to do with what’s going on on the national level,” Wald said.
“I think that over the past few years there’s been considerable frustration with the nationals, and we’ve doing a pretty good job of operating as a chapter and maintaining good relations with the nationals,” Max Blumenthal ’12 said. “The effect [on the Tau Epsilon Phi chapter at Cornell] will probably be pretty minimal.”
A Manhattan judge appointed former New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams to organize and oversee a national election that would replace the fraternity’s current national leadership the week prior to the bankruptcy claim.
Hasenberg and other national representatives could not be reached for comment.
In a Chapter Seven bankruptcy claim, an organization seeks to sell off its assets with the basic objective of liquidating and dissolving itself. The fraternity’s filing for bankruptcy also suspends all existing legal proceedings — in this case, the court-ordered action to carry out a national election to replace Hasenberg, Linder, and other executive members.
“We feel that the bankruptcy charge will be overturned fairly soon,” Broughty said, who added he believes Hasenberg and other national executive officers tried to raid the national fraternity’s coffers, file for bankruptcy, and disappear.
Broughty explained that the bankruptcy claim was filed by the old leadership and that current members do not support the decision.
The bankruptcy court seems to “understand that the filing seems to have been done in error or may even have been done fraudulently,” Broughty said.
Citing the national fraternity’s current liabilities and assets, Broughty said that the numbers fail to indicate an urgent need for bankruptcy relief. The fraternity listed approximately $315,000 in assets and $31,000 in liabilities in the bankruptcy claim, according to The Times.