'We consider this matter closed': Mormon Church agrees to $5 million fine in SEC settlement

'We consider this matter closed': Mormon Church agrees to $5 million fine in SEC settlement
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On Tuesday, February 21, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an order concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a nonprofit it was associated with, Ensign Peak Advisors. The SEC collectively fined them $5 million for failing to fully disclose the size of the Mormon Church's investment holdings.

NBC News' Rob Wile reports that the SEC alleged that the Mormon Church "illicitly hid its investments and their management behind multiple shell companies from 1997 to 2019."

Wile explains, "The allegations of the illicit shell company structure first emerged in 2018, when a group formerly called MormonLeaks — now known as the Truth and Transparency Foundation — claimed that that year, the extent of the Church's investments had reached $32 billion. The following year, a whistleblower filed a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a 2020 Wall Street Journal report. That year, the newspaper said, the Church's holdings had grown to $100 billion."

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In an official statement on February 21, SEC Enforcement Director Gurbir S. Grewal, noted, "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 Mormon Church, meanwhile, released a statement of its own on February 21, confirming that it had reached a settlement with the SEC and agreed to the $5 million fine that the Church and Ensign Peak must collectively pay.

According to that statement, "Ensign Peak and the Church have cooperated with the government over a period of time as we sought resolution. We affirm our commitment to comply with the law, regret mistakes made, and now consider this matter closed."

The Washington Post's Rachel Lerman, reporting on February 21, points out that the complaint against the Mormon Church was "filed by a former Ensign Peak investment manager" and "alleged that the Church was misleading its members by holding onto donations instead of using them for charity."

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"Members of the Church are commonly asked to give 10 percent of their income to the Church," Lerman notes. "The former employee later filed a whistleblower complaint with the SEC, according to his lawyer."

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