LV Philharmonic Lawsuit Alleges Financial Misconduct

The 2/21/22 edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a pair of articles by Katelyn Newberg and John Katsilometes, respectively, that reports on a lawsuit filed by former Las Vegas Philharmonic (LV Phil) executive director, Anne Berquist, against her former employer.

According to the articles, Berquist alleges insurance fraud and discriminatory practices. Excerpts of the complaint are published in the 2/18/22 edition of

During the pandemic, the LV Phil followed suit of many orchestras and instituted pay cuts. Berquist claims board chair Jeri Crawford selected some, but not all, employees to receive additional payments to cover those cuts.

This is where things get interesting because Berquist’s suit alleges the orchestra failed to report those payments or pay employment taxes.

Additionally, Katsilometes’ article reports that Berquist claims the board chair instructed her to keep knowledge of a $250,000 Shuttered Venue Operators Grant the organization received in November from the full board and employees.

According to Newberg’s article, Berquist reported the alleged financial misconduct and related retaliatory actions against her by the board chair to the full board. Berquist asserts she was subsequently terminated after making clear her intent to report the alleged misconduct to governmental agencies.

In December, Berquist sent a letter to the board reporting the “financial misconduct and the retaliatory conduct,” the suit states. Berquist was later placed on administrative leave and was fired Jan. 25 following a mediation meeting with Crawford that “concluded without a settlement.”

“The LVP terminated Ms. Berquist in retaliation for Ms. Berquist’s refusal to participate in the Financial Misconduct and Ms. Berquist’s stated intention to report Financial Misconduct to the appropriate governmental authorities,” the suit states.

It will be fascinating to see if Berquist asserts any whistleblower protections afforded to nonprofit employees via the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. If so, it introduces the potential for added criminal penalties for retaliation.

Given the nature of some allegations, it appears that Berquist should have a comparatively straightforward time quantifying her claims and a court will determine their validity.

By the time it concludes, the case could serve as a benchmark for whistleblower protections as applied to the nonprofit performing arts sector. According to court records, the next scheduled event for case A-22-848273-B in the Eighth Judicial District Count is 4/20/22 where the court will consider Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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