[Wikimedia-l] Annual Audit of the Wikimedia Foundation

Michael Snow wikipedia at frontier.com
Thu Dec 27 19:39:48 UTC 2012

On 12/27/2012 10:30 AM, James Salsman wrote:
>> The annual audit of the Wikimedia Foundation, for the fiscal year ending
>> June 30, 2012 and the corresponding FAQ have been posted on the financial
>> reports <http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Financial_reports> page of the
>> Wikimedia Foundation web site.
>> Please contact me with any questions.
> Garfield,
> During your IRC office hours of April 12, 2012, you appeared to accept
> and speak highly of the suggestion that the Foundation transfer the
> bulk of its cash reserves from Citibank certificates of deposit to
> federally insured credit union certificates of deposit, which were
> then and still paying about four times as much interest. It is unclear
> from the auditors' statements whether you accomplished this. Did you?
Reviewing the log from those office hours, it appears Garfield did not 
"accept and speak highly of the suggestion", he merely said he would 
look into the possibility. I'm also rather skeptical of the underlying 
claim about the superiority of credit union CDs in this context, and as 
an audit committee member would want to see a much clearer and better 
documented case for undertaking such an effort. It appears that your 
generic information about interest rates was based on either the highest 
rates available, which also require the longest terms, or on promotional 
rates that I doubt would fit with the Wikimedia Foundation's circumstances.

In practice, investment of cash reserves must balance the return on 
investment with the need to maintain liquidity, which is after all the 
primary reason to keep "cash" on hand. That means shorter-term 
investment vehicles, and from what I know the rates for CDs of this type 
do not diverge significantly between banks and credit unions. In the 
current interest rate environment, basically the rates are pathetically 
low either way, and even if there is some difference the return would be 
relatively trivial and unlikely to be worth the effort of switching. 
Again, the point is not absolute maximization of the possible return, 
it's more to avoid a return of nothing at all while ensuring the funds 
can be available if needed.

None of this is meant as a statement on the relative merits of banks 
versus credit unions generally. On a personal level, I transitioned from 
a bank to a credit union as my primary financial institution long ago. 
But the logic that may apply for a typical consumer doesn't necessarily 
translate over to something like institutional management of cash reserves.

--Michael Snow

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