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Cousteau Society

CharityWatch report issued
March 2022

CharityWatch Grade

Contact Information

Cousteau Society
732 Eden Way North
Suite E, #707
Chesapeake, VA 23320-2798

Other Names


Tax Status


Stated Mission

Dedicated to the protection & improvement of the quality of life for present & future generations. Educational activities directed towards members, classrooms & the general public promote environmental awareness leading to sound decisions to protect & manage the world's natural resources.

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Data based on Fiscal Year Ended 12/31/2019

*Why a Question Mark Rating?

CharityWatch currently has concerns about this organization and/or is unable to provide complete rating information due to the organization's nondisclosure of financial information. Please see the Analysts' Notes section for a more detailed explanation.

Governance & Transparency

CharityWatch evaluates certain criteria related to a charity's Governance and Transparency. Donors may want to consider a charity's willingness to be open and transparent with CharityWatch to be a good litmus test for determining its commitment to public accountability.
Cousteau Society
does not meet governance benchmarks.
Cousteau Society
does not meet transparency benchmarks.

CharityWatch Governance Concerns

See Analysts' Notes for Explanation
Provides Financial Information
Audit Accessibility
Governance: Policies
Reports regularly & consistently monitoring & enforcing compliance with a written Conflict of Interest Policy
Reports required, annual disclosure by officers, directors, and key staff of interests that could give rise to conflicts
Reports having a written Whistleblower Policy
Reports having a written Document Retention and Destruction Policy
Governance: Financials
Reports providing copy of tax form to all board members prior to filing it with IRS
Reports that financial statements were audited by an independent accountant
Governance: Board of Directors
Reports at least 5 voting board members
51% or more of voting board members reported as independent
Reports documenting minutes of board and board committee meetings
Privacy Policy
Privacy Policy

Unable to Provide Salaries

CharityWatch is unable to provide a range of Top Three Salaries for this charity for the above fiscal reporting year because we lack complete salary data for the organization. Except for officers, directors, and trustees, the IRS does not require breakouts of salaries totaling less than $100,000.

For example, XYZ charity would be required to provide a breakout in its tax form of compensation to its president of $55,000, but would not be required to provide a breakout of $99,000 in compensation to its top medical researcher if that person is not also an officer, director, or trustee of the organization.

This charity reports that compensation to its officers, directors, and trustees is under $100,000 per individual. Donors who would like to view limited salary data for this organization should refer to its tax form, which may be available on the charity's web site or from a number of third-party sources. See CharityWatch's Links page for information on obtaining copies of charity tax forms.

CharityWatch Analysts perform an in-depth analysis of charities' audited financial statements and IRS tax filings, and often review other documents such as state filings, annual reports, and fundraising contracts during their evaluations. Below are select notes that CharityWatch believes may be of interest to donors.

CharityWatch has issued a rating of "?" to The Cousteau Society (the Society), which indicates that we have specific concerns about the organization's financial reporting. Among our concerns:

1) CharityWatch obtained The Cousteau Society's 2019 IRS Form 990 from a public source. As of March 16, 2022, the Society has not responded to our December 7, 2021 request for copies of its audited financial statements and IRS Forms 990 for its fiscal years 2019 or 2020.

2) In its 2019 IRS Form 990, The Cousteau Society reports that it is required to file a copy of its Form 990 in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. Charity regulators in some of these states host online databases where the public may obtain copies of charity audited financial statements, tax filings, and other registration documents. Though our research was not exhaustive, CharityWatch has thus far identified the following issues with the Society's registrations in the following states:

California:  The Cousteau Society's "Registry Status" is listed as "Delinquent" as of 3/16/2022, with a cited Renewal Due / Expiration Date of 5/15/2020.

New Mexico:  For the tax year 2020, the Society's "Registration Status" is listed as "Registration Submission Delinquent" as of a status date of 7/8/2021. Its registration for the tax year 2021 is listed as "Open" as of a status date of 1/1/2022. 

North Carolina:  In a notice dated June 27, 2021, the Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division (CSL) communicated to the Society that its license application for licensure as a charitable organization "is incomplete and will be placed in a 'Holding' status until CSL receives all pertinent documents." The documents cited include a completed and signed copy of the Society's IRS Form 990 and Schedule A for the fiscal year ended December 2020, and a "Notary Page" signed by the charity's Treasurer or Chief Financial Officer "under oath as required by law."

If CharityWatch is able to obtain more current copies of The Cousteau Society's audited financial statements and IRS Forms 990 for the years 2019 or 2020, we will update the charity's rating at that time.

As previously reported by CharityWatch, according to The Cousteau Society audit of December 31, 2018 (Note 5, Foreign VAT Payable):

"During 2014 an administrative court in France rendered a judgment against the Society in the amount of $557,945 related to VAT [Value Added Tax] liabilities. During the year ended December 31, 2016 the Society suspended its efforts to contest the judgment and began making payments in satisfaction of the liability. The remaining unpaid balance at December 31, 2018 and 2017 was $252,888 and $310,196, respectively. Because the taxes stem from costs incurred in restoring the Calypso vessel, the entire amount was included in construction in progress in the accompanying [audited] statement of net assets."

As previously reported by CharityWatch, according to The Cousteau Society audit of December 31, 2018 (Note 2, Transactions with Officers and Related Organizations, Related organizations):

"The Society shares certain expenses with Equipe Cousteau and Cousteau Divers, two French nonprofit organizations under common management..." At December 31, 2018, Cousteau Society owed $111,648 to Equipe Cousteau and $20,268 to Cousteau Divers.

According to The Cousteau Society 2019 tax filing, the Society reports re: the existence of family or business relationships among officers, directors, trustees, or key employees (IRS Form 990, Part VI, Section A, line 2):

"Francine Cousteau, President, and Michael Garin, Director[,] are married. Diane Cousteau, Director, is the daughter of Francine Cousteau, President. Pierre Yves Cousteau, Director, is the son of Francine Cousteau, President" (IRS Form 990, Schedule O).

[The Society reports that only two of the six voting members on the board of directors at year-end 2019 are independent (IRS Form 990, Part VI, Section A, line 1a & 1b).]

As previously reported by CharityWatch, according to The Cousteau Society audit of December 31, 2018 (Note 2, Transactions with Officers and Related Organizations, Officers):

"During his lifetime, Jacques Y. Cousteau made interest-free loans to the Society to support the production of films. The amount due the Estate of Jacques Y. Cousteau was $2,568,388 at December 31, 2018 and 2017 and does not bear interest. The estate is still in probate and repayment terms have not yet been established.

"During 2009 the Society's board set the annual salary of its president at $200,000. Due to its financial condition the Society has not paid the entire balance of this salary each year. At December 31, 2018 and 2017 the balance of unpaid salary was $53,032... The total amount due to officers, including the unpaid salaries, was $186,338 at December 31, 2018 and 2017."

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