Andrew Wakefield: paid $316k to administer $80k in grants by the Strategic Autism Inititiative

7 Nov

When Andrew Wakefield left Thoughtful House (which has since changed it’s name and removed all mention of him from their website), he announced a new effort: the Strategic Autism Initiative. He was going to manage research into the causes of autism. That was in 2010. Now he bills himself as a video director of the Autism Media Channel. Makes one wonder how well that Strategic Autism Initiative thing worked out.

Well, we can’t tell for sure as tax forms are only available through 2012. But the trends tell us that perhaps, just perhaps, the Strategic Autism Initiative lost steam in their fundraising.  Donations are way down.  And a lot of money has gone into salaries and very little into actual programs.

Strategic Autism Initiative 2010 tax form
Strategic Autism Initiative 2011 tax form
Strategic Autism Initiative 2012 tax form

Let’s do a little summarizing. Let’s look at trends for the money they take in (contributions) and the money that they’ve put out in salaries. The Strategic Autism Initiative pays Andrew Wakefield and Terry Arranga.

SAI contributions and salaries

OK, you gotta hand it to Andrew Wakefield–he pulled in $623k in 3 years, basically on his name and reputation. And, he took $316k of that money, about 50%. In total, salaries accounted for 58% of what the SAI took in. The first year of the SAI (2010) was a short year, hence the low salary. Mr. Wakefield’s salary appears to be based on $270,000/year full time. Officially he was working 30hours/week in 2010 and 2011. 15 hours/week in 2012.

Notice that the contributions were way down in 2012. Still a sizable $113k, but down from the previous years.

How does the salary outlay compare to the intake over the years? Well, it was relatively low the first year (the short year) and climbed to 80% in 2011 and 100% in 2012.

Salary Fraction

Not what one would call sustainable. Well, I guess if all one does is put money into salaries, that’s sustainable. Not exactly what a charity is supposed to be, though. Which begs the question, how much money did they have on hand at the end of each year?


Yep, pay out most of your money in salary and watch your assets go down. Also gives a partial explanation for why Mr. Wakefield is only listed as working 15 hours a week in 2012–there wasn’t the money to pay him more. The SAI would be about $70k in debt had they paid him for 30 hours/week.

In 2010, they paid out $20,260 in a grant to perform a UK Somali study.

SAI 2010 grants

In 2011 they paid out a $25k grant to Generation Rescue for a “vax/unvax study”

SAI 2011 grants

In 2012 they paid out $35k in grants. One to Mr. Wakefield’s former Thoughtful House colleague Arthur Krigsman and another to the Geiers for a study using the Florida medical database.

SAI 2012 grants

So, let’s consider this. In three years, Mr. Wakefield managed to give out 4 grants. Total of about $80k in grants. And for that effort he was paid $316k. What’s the supposed goal of the Strategic Autism Initiative?

SAI mission

“…to promote research in areas of autism and neurological disorders…”

Right. Promote research. About 13% of their budget went to promoting research. And that’s before we even consider the quality of that research.

Some bright people believe Andrew Wakefield. Some wealthy people believe Andrew Wakefield. Why, I don’t know. But even those who believe in what he says may someday question whether getting $0.13 on the dollar to the cause is worth keeping Andrew Wakefield employed.

By Matt Carey

35 Responses to “Andrew Wakefield: paid $316k to administer $80k in grants by the Strategic Autism Inititiative”

  1. Craig Payne November 7, 2014 at 01:45 #

    ..and none of that research has been published yet either.

  2. Narad November 7, 2014 at 09:38 #

    On the off chance that anyone was wondering what the deal was with a Georgia tax preparer for a Texas company, see here and here.

  3. Chris Hickie November 7, 2014 at 12:13 #

    Does this ” Strategic Autism Initiative” even have a web page? I can’t find it anywhere.

    Some “nonprofit”, huh?

  4. chavisory November 7, 2014 at 14:16 #

    One could weep for the number of communication devices or iPads that could’ve been paid for….

  5. Todd W. November 7, 2014 at 16:30 #

    So instead of that money going to promoting sound research into autism, nearly all of it went to pay Wakefield’s for lavish lifestyle. Despicable.

    • Kathy Sayers Hennessy November 8, 2014 at 04:40 #

      Yes that is despicable, I agree. Is it perhaps a front just to give him a paycheck? Was it really set up as a non profit with research intentions? One should always look into any charity before donating and this amount of money spent on admin is disgusting. Red flags would indicate do not donate! They are not spending your money wisely!!

  6. reissd November 7, 2014 at 18:12 #

    Well, he has to leave off something while making inaccurate, inflammatory YouTubes about vaccine issues.

  7. jonathan November 8, 2014 at 03:10 #

    I’m waiting for you to comment on ASAN’s 990 tax forms and comment on Ari Ne’eman giving himself a 62% annual pay increase from $40,000 to $65,000 when increases in revenue were only half that percentage. I’m also curious as how he can justify that increase when they lost $15,000 in a fund raising event. Even if he does not make the money Wakefield did, i’m still curious I’m also curious about the contracting work he did that garnered the money in 2012. I wish you’d write a post explaining ASAN’s tax forms.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 8, 2014 at 04:32 #

      No time like the present.

      Let’s start with the salary, since that is the main part of your question.

      So, he’s averaged about the median salary for Washington DC (which is $73k, Mr. Ne’eman’s average is $60k)? His hours worked are listed as 50/week in 2011 and 60/week in 2012. $65,000/year is about $22/hour at 60 hours per week (assuming no premium for overtime). Assuming time and a half for overtime, that’s about $18.50/hour. Much more than the median salary for an autistic (as most are unemployed), but not an extreme wage. $40,000/year at 50 hours a week would have been about $14.50/hour (assuming overtime pay at 1.5x). $14.50 to $18.50, that’s about a 14% increase. Doesn’t seem like that much considering that in 2012 ASAN brought in a lot of money to run their program services (as discussed below, the contract work done by the organization, not Mr. Ne’eman alone).

      Let’s look at what ASAN spent. $176,672 in program services expenses in 2011 and $293,237 in program service expenses in 2012. That’s a significant growth.

      Let’s take a closer look at that fundraising amount, shall we? They lost $15,000 for one event, and brought in $26,784 in other fundraising. So, yep, the loss is significant, but they remained in the black for fundraising.

      As to the contracting work, have you asked ASAN (note it was ASAN that managed contract work, not Mr. Ne’eman himself doing contract work)? My suspicion is that this would be a grant to do research. If you find that to be the case (or not) will you come back and let us know?

      They list $93,641 in revenue for their project “research activity programs that partner autistic adults to develop tools to improve primary healthcare”

      and another project “public education, outreach, and advocacy that supports the disability rights movement with regard to autism” for $128,417.

      I suspect the contract service revenue is a part of those two projects. I actually strongly suspect that because of the way the numbers add up if you don’t assume that.

      Was that sufficient? Did I answer your questions? Will you include these facts and figures in future discussions of the topic?

  8. Jennifer McAnally (@Jen_in_TX) November 8, 2014 at 03:31 #

    Awww…poor Andy Wakefield. It must really suck to no longer have the filthy rich heirs to the Johnson & Johnson fortune filling his coffers, eh?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 8, 2014 at 06:21 #

      Don’t count him out. He has a producer of the Spy Kids movies, the owner of soccer teams in the UK and the US and a retired millionaire on his team at present. And more.

  9. Kathy Sayers Hennessy November 8, 2014 at 04:41 #

    I wonder how that compares to autism science foundation? I am sure they spend very little on admin and most of their $$ on research. Shame good people are taken in by shysters (Wakefield).

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 8, 2014 at 04:53 #

      Yep, I keep meaning to write about ASF. Alison Singer lists 60 hours/week and zero pay. I actually think she works more than 60 hours/week.

  10. jonathan November 8, 2014 at 05:28 #

    I’d ask ASAN, but ari ne’eman no longer answers my email and i doubt anyone else from ASAN either. overtime is not usually paid to salaried employees. You don’t discuss why he raised his own pay 62% in one year while revenue only increased by half that amount. Also, you seem to comment on the salaries of other 501(c)organizations but not ASAN. About 20% of their revenue in 2012 went to Ne’eman’s salary. I’ll have to look at the other things but I’m still curious what those contract services are. Looks like with their expenses they were actually in the red on fund raising. Your figures are misleading as they factor in salaries and other expenses that ASAN paid out (again nearly 20% of their revenue alone went to ne’eman’s salary) Sort of like the top exec at autism speaks making four million a year or more, I bet you’d be blogging about that. I’ll have to go look at your post in more detail and look at their forms again before commenting further. If they’ve spent money on any constructive activities to help autistic people it is not clear to me.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 8, 2014 at 06:09 #

      “You don’t discuss why he raised his own pay 62% in one year while revenue only increased by half that amount.”

      Actually, I did discuss that. And I just did discuss ASAN. I did discuss contract services too. And they weren’t in the red for fund raising, as the screenshot I posted shows. My figures are far more complete than yours.

      I haven’t discussed the salaries at Autism Speaks much. I don’t find them interesting.

      I would hope you would have read my comment in detail before responding.

  11. jonathan November 8, 2014 at 06:00 #

    I’m also trying to understand the 26,784 figure which says GROSS from fundraising versus the NET of nearly 15,000. It gives a figure of about 4,000 something with 19,000 something spent. it says there was a total NET loss of fundraising of nearly 15 thousand. Maybe there’s something i’m missing, but if there were a NET amount where they were in the black I think that figure would be listed instead of the -14,937. I’ll admit i’m not sure I understand all the numbers but it looks like there was a total net loss for all fundraising that year and not just for one event, this is an overall net loss and the 26,784 is just the GROSS which is different from the net. Maybe you can explain that to me. I’ll come back if i find out more, but since you always extoll ASAN and think they are so great, I wish you’d write a blog post about their 990 forms explaining everything since you seem to do it only for organizations you don’t like. I’m sure interested in some answers.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 8, 2014 at 06:10 #

      Tell you what, you let me decide what you write on your blog first, then you can tell me what to write here?

      I gave you answers. Apparently you don’t like them.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 8, 2014 at 06:13 #

      It’s the net fundraising amount, if you leave out $26,784 in donations. Very straightforward. I thought perhaps readers would want to see that. Have you included that point in your discussions elsewhere on this topic? It is a pretty important point. One which should not be left out. Will you include it in the future, assuming you missed the importance before?

      • Brian Deer November 8, 2014 at 09:45 #

        With Wakefield, it has always been about the money. I recall recently seeing Paul Offit quoted to the effect that scientists are not motivated by personal profit, but Wakefield always has been. Not only is he documented, way back to about 1995, talking about how he needs to be “incentivised”, but in 1996 he sat down and schemed out a company, based on test results on one child, while that child was still on the hospital’s ward.

        When he left his last academic position, in 2001, the university paid him $256,000, at today’s prices, AFTER TAX, just for him to go. This was after he refused a request from his managers to try to replicate his Lancet research findings, and after they had offered him a year’s paid leave to develop his company. A quarter of a million bucks, just to fuck off.

        But it’s not the money, in itself, that’s the irony. The irony is how he and his wife (who the British taxpayer funded to go through medical school and hugely expensive training, and then turned her back on the frightful fag of seeing patients) whine about how he lost his job and his career, and all that shit, for the children. Oooh, the children. Not the millions he has pocketed from rich American dopes.

    • Anne November 8, 2014 at 08:41 #

      What it looks like Jonathan is that fundraising events produced gross income of $31,509. Of that amount, $26,784 consisted of contributions and was moved to the line item for contributions and grants, leaving $4,725 in the gross income from fundraising line item. Then the direct expenses of fundraising events ($19,662) were deducted from the $4,725, leaving a net loss for fundraising of -$14,937. So ASAN took in more money from its fundraising events than it spent, but a large portion of that money is reported on the Form 990 as contributions. It still shows up in the revenue though. Hope that helps!

  12. cannabisforautism November 9, 2014 at 07:39 #

    I’ve been paid nothing for four years. Do I get a gold star?

  13. lilady November 9, 2014 at 23:20 #

    If you think that ~ $100 K is keeping Wakefield and his clan ensconced in his huge home in Austin Texas, you are mistaken; he has the income from his Autism Media Channel, which he shares with his partner, ex-pat Polly Tommey. The Autism File Magazine is chock full of paid advertisements.

    “…..The founder of Autism File is a woman named Polly Tommey, who is also the mother of an autistic child. In 2010, according to an Observer review of records kept by the Texas Secretary of State, Andrew Wakefield registered a company called The Autism File Global in Texas, listing Tommey as a fellow manager. In June 2011, an amendment was filed changing the company’s name to the Autism Media Channel. Today, its website contains general autism tips, diet and nutritional information, and various embedded videos, many of which feature Tommey. Wakefield remains a director of the company….”

    Then there’s the D.A.I.R. Foundation, the latest of Wakefield’s charities, which holds secret fundraisers; that nasty U.K. journalist keeps “pursuing” Andy in court and Andy needs money to defend himself.

  14. Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 10, 2014 at 06:24 #

    After the discussion of the contract work above, I took as second look at the tax forms. In specific 2012. And I don’t quite get it.

    The summary for 2012 shows $35,500 in grants, $142k in salaries, and ~$33k in other expenses:

    But in another place, they report $145k in expenses for a Florida medical database study, plus more for two other projects. A total of $194k.

    This suggests that the salaries (in the summary) are being charged against these projects–i.e. that this work is being done largely in house. The Flordia medical records description is odd–it looks like they spent a lot of time putting the data into a format that could be accessed from a microsoft excel front end. I.e. they were making it accessible to someone who is not fluent in the database tools of epidemiology (SAS, SSPS, etc.).

    I have to figure out how this fits in with the above discussion.


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