A whistleblower complaint filed at the Internal Revenue Service in November by a knowledgeable church member alleges that a non-profit supporting organization controlled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used member tithes to amass more than $100 billion in a set of investment funds and the Church misled members about uses of the money.
The complaint may be the most important look at LDS finances in decades, a window into one of the wealthiest religious organizations in the United States and the world. Details of the IRS filing reveal financial assets largely hidden from the church’s membership (often known as “Mormons”) and the public view.
The 74-page document filed with the IRS and obtained by Religion Unplugged shows that Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc. (EPA) owned assets under management grew to more than $100 billion from $10 billion in the past 22 years, fueled by a mix of investment strategy and tithe money from church members.Ads by scrollerads.com
Religion Unplugged reached EPA’s managing director Roger Clarke by phone on Monday, offering to explain key parts of this story and to ask questions for EPA to give a response. “We don’t really answer questions with the public press. So thanks,” he said, before hanging up the phone.
Ensign Peak Advisors’ articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As registered under section 509(a)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc. (EPA) is a “supporting organization” of the Church under article 3 in its registration document. Upon dissolution, all Ensign Peak assets go the Church or affiliated organizations according to article 5 and that article cannot be changed without “the written consent of The First Presidency” of the Church. Because Ensign Peak Advisers is a support organization to a church it is not subject to disclosure requirements that other non-profit organizations are required to make.
A former Church member in Minnesota named Lars Nielsen published a 74-page document filed with the IRS that makes several allegations. The filing also included several internal EPA documents including an EPA Policy book, an EPA master plan, an EPA New Staff Orientation Guide, statements of financial condition and data downloads and analysis of the firm’s investment portfolio. One presentation slide in the document from March of 2013 is labeled “New Staff Orientation Deck” and shows a Church investment governance structure including a “Council on Disposition of Tithes” that allocates funds from tithes to holding organizations in the church such as EPA.
Nielsen learned of the allegations from an LDS church member, who prefers to be unnamed. The whistleblower worked with Nielsen on a two-month research project to research and explain the inner workings of EPA. The complaint (Form 211) was filed with the IRS whistleblower office on Nov. 15, 2019 and received by the IRS on Nov. 22, 2019. Nielsen has chosen to go public with the allegations by releasing the report online and explaining the allegations in videos.