Billionaire T. Denny Sanford has been removed from the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic movement initiated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, after being investigated for child pornography. Sanford, the richest person in South Dakota with an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion, was quietly scrubbed from The Giving Pledge’s website in May, following the unsealing of documents related to the investigation. The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office closed the case in May 2022 without filing any charges against Sanford.
The investigation into Sanford began after an email account linked to him was flagged by AOL’s parent company to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Authorities discovered dozens of images of nude children, estimated to be as young as 8 years old, in the email account. Sanford’s legal team claimed that his accounts were hacked and provided preliminary allegations to law enforcement. However, the investigation concluded that no prosecutable offense occurred.
Sanford, who has donated nearly $2.5 billion to charity during his lifetime, was one of the earliest signatories of the Giving Pledge in 2010. He pledged to make Sanford Health, a nonprofit hospital chain to which he has donated over $1 billion, the primary beneficiary of his estate as long as its headquarters remain in Sioux Falls.
The Giving Pledge spokesperson confirmed Sanford’s removal from the movement in May 2023, stating that it was in accordance with the spirit and intention of the Giving Pledge community. Sanford is not the first person to be removed from the pledge, as FTX founder Sam Bankman Fried was also removed in December 2022 after being charged with defrauding investors.