SEC Fines Mormon Church and Investment Management Company Largest Fine Ever for a Church Group
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Written by: Sam Orlando
SEC Fines Mormon Church and Investment Management Company for Concealing $32 Billion in Investments, Largest Fine Ever for a Church Group
Washington, DC: Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its investment management company, Ensign Peak Advisers, have been fined $5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for creating shell companies to hide the church's $32 billion investment portfolio.
According to the SEC's findings, Ensign Peak Advisers failed to file Forms 13F, which are used to disclose the value of certain securities managed by investment managers, from 1997 through 2019.
The church was reportedly concerned that disclosing the size of its investment portfolio would have negative consequences, and with the church's knowledge and approval, Ensign Peak created thirteen shell companies to file Forms 13F in their names instead of in the name of Ensign Peak Advisers.
The SEC's order found that Ensign Peak Advisers maintained investment discretion over all relevant securities and controlled the shell companies, even though the companies' Forms 13F misrepresented that they had sole investment and voting discretion over the securities. The SEC also found that Ensign Peak Advisers directed nominee "business managers," most of whom were employed by the church, to sign the commission filings. The church was accused of causing these violations through its knowledge and approval of Ensign Peak's use of the shell companies.
In a statement, Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement, said, "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. The requirement to file timely and accurate information on Forms 13F applies to all institutional investment managers, including non-profit and charitable organizations."
Ensign Peak Advisers agreed to pay a $4 million penalty, and the church agreed to pay a $1 million penalty to settle the charges. The SEC's investigation was conducted by Paul Feindt under the supervision of Tracy Combs and Tanya Beard of the Salt Lake Regional Office and Laura Metcalfe of the Denver Regional Office.
The fine is the largest ever levied by the SEC against a church or a religious institution, and the case raises questions about the transparency of non-profit organizations that manage large amounts of money.