The Mormon Church consented to pay $5 million on Tuesday to resolve allegations of misstatements in regulatory filings and lack of disclosure.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its investment management firm, Ensign Peak Advisers, failed for 20 years to file forms that would have disclosed the church’s equity investments and instead filed forms for shell companies that concealed the church’s portfolio.
As part of the settlement, Ensign Peak agreed to pay $4 million, and the church will contribute $1 million.”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,” said Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC enforcement division.
“The requirement to file timely and accurate information on Forms 13F applies to all institutional investment managers, including non-profit and charitable organizations.”
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The church agreed to the establishment of more than a dozen shell companies to disguise its assets because, according to the SEC, it was worried that disclosing a portfolio that had grown to $32 billion would have unfavorable effects.
“To address this issue, on March 21, 2005, the senior leadership of the Church approved a new reporting entity to be created with ‘better care being taken to ensure that neither the ‘Street’ nor the media [could] connect the new entity to Ensign Peak,'” the SEC order said.
It continued, “The senior leadership of the Church approved Ensign Peak’s recommendation to ‘gradually and carefully adapt Ensign Peak’s corporate structure to strengthen the portfolio’s confidentiality.'”
Through the use of this approach for almost 20 years, Ensign Peak’s significant role in the securities markets as an institutional investment manager was not disclosed to the SEC, the markets, and the investing public, the SEC said.
The church said in a statement it had adjusted its approach to filing since the SEC first expressed concern in June 2019 and began filing a single aggregated report.
“This settlement relates to how the forms were filed previously. Ensign Peak and the Church have cooperated with the government over a period of time as we sought resolution,” it said. “We affirm our commitment to comply with the law, regret mistakes made, and now consider this matter closed.”
For almost 4 years, Jason Martin has been a freelance writer for newspapers, journals, blogs, books, and online material. He covers the most recent news as well as many other topics.