Southwestern Seminary and Baylor University File Suit Against Foundation, Alleging ‘Secret Coup’

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Southwestern Seminary and Baylor University have filed suit against a charitable foundation which was set up solely to benefit the schools.

The schools allege some members of the board of the Harold E. Riley Foundation led a “secret coup” in an “attempt to seize control of the Foundation and its assets” — altering the foundation’s purpose, stripping the schools of their rights and status as beneficiaries and misappropriating assets worth millions.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday (Sept. 8), stems from an alleged meeting in June 2018 at which the schools claim the foundation’s governing documents were improperly restructured. The lawsuit also states the Riley Foundation board is attempting to “seize control” of the board of directors of Citizens Inc., a publicly held insurance company whose stock forms the primary asset of the foundation.

The Riley Foundation recently filed suit to force Citizens to seat five directors, including former Southwestern President Paige Patterson and Riley Foundation trustees Augie Boto, Charles Hott and Mike Hughes. According to the schools’ lawsuit, positions on the Citizens board of directors are compensated annually in excess of $100,000.

Hughes, the foundation’s president, is a former Southwestern vice president under Patterson. Hott, a current member of Southwestern’s board of trustees, serves as chief investment officer for the Riley Foundation.

Boto is the former executive vice president of the SBC Executive Committee. He served as interim president of the EC from 2018-2019.

Patterson was terminated as Southwestern president in May 2018 by the seminary’s board of trustees over allegations he had mishandled sexual abuse claims by students at Southwestern and another seminary where he had previously been president.

Current Southwestern President Adam W. Greenway, who succeeded Patterson, described the Riley Foundation board members involved in the alleged actions as “self-appointed rogue leadership” in a statement released by the school. But in interviews Wednesday with Baptist Press, Boto and Hott denied any wrongdoing. Boto called the claims “absurd.”

“The entire (foundation) board is committed to supporting the ongoing work of both (Southwestern and Baylor) for as long as possible, and as well as possible,” Boto said. “That was what Harold Riley wanted. We’ll stay true to that assignment.”

Harold Riley, who died in 2017, was a major donor to both Southwestern, where his father had been a student, and Baylor, his alma mater. He set up the charitable foundation that bears his name in 2002. The foundation, headquartered on the campus at Southwestern, is funded with shares from Citizens Inc., a Texas-based insurance company Riley founded in 1969. Citizens, which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, is valued at more than $300 million.

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Source: Baptist Press