The federal Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Ensign Peak Advisors, which manages a $32 billion equities portfolio for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for obscuring the church’s investments and misstating Ensign Peak’s control over the investment decisions. Ensign Peak agreed to pay a $4 million penalty and the church agreed to pay a $1 million penalty.
According to the SEC, Ensign Peak created and filed forms under 13 shell companies between 1997 and 2019 instead of filing them in the company’s name, all with the Church’s knowledge and approval.
“To obscure the amount of the Church’s portfolio, and with the Church’s knowledge and approval, Ensign Peak created thirteen shell LLCs, ostensibly with locations throughout the U.S., and filed Forms 13F in the names of these LLCs rather than in Ensign Peak’s name,” the SEC said in its press release.
Gurbir Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in the SEC’s statement: “We allege that the LDS Church’s investment manager, with the Church’s knowledge, went to great lengths to avoid disclosing the Church’s investments, depriving the Commission and the investing public of accurate market information.”
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In 2019, David Nielsen—a member of the church and former Ensign Peak investment manager—filed a complaint with the SEC alleging that Ensign Peak had amassed $100 billion in accounts intended for charitable purposes, but that money had not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in over 20 years, according to The Washington Post.
Nielsen said that the money was intended to be used for the “second coming of Christ.” In a 74-page narrative that accompanied his complaint, he wrote: “Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?”
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