Ensign Peak Advisor’s investment fund, currently valued at about $44.4 billion, is back in the national news. This week, the settlement deal regarding the violation of reporting laws was released. Ensign Peak is going to pay a $4 million dollar fine and the Church will pay a $1 million dollar fine to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The money to pay the fine is coming from the investment returns. Fitting, I suppose, the Church wouldn’t want to pay that directly from tithing. I also don’t know what the distinction is between Ensign Peak making a payment and the Church making a payment. Does it come from separate bank accounts? Is this going to affect the budget to pay janitors to clean the Church buildings? (Just kidding. Five million is pocket change when your fund is worth $44 billion; we can still pay janitors. Just kidding again – the Church doesn’t pay janitors.)
Before this news story broke, I hadn’t realized that the Church was supposed to report its enormous wealth to the government. I knew the Church kept the $44B a secret from Church members, but I didn’t realize the Church was fudging the reporting laws to the SEC. In order to fudge those laws, the Church had to get separate reporting numbers for each entity. My point is, this was a deliberate decision to conceal their wealth from the government too. Some Church members have defended the Church’s concealment by saying it wasn’t dishonest. The Church didn’t lie to us; it just didn’t tell us how much money it had. But it turns out the Church was SUPPOSED TO TELL the government how much money it had, and it chose to institute a shell game instead.
“Securities laws require investment managers with control over at least $100 million in publicly traded stocks to disclose the fair market value of the assets under their management. And throughout most of its 26-year history, the SEC said, Ensign Peak was aware of this requirement to file such disclosures, known as Form 13F, and brought the rule to the attention of senior church leaders — along with a plan to get around it.” Source: Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 22, 2023.
The plan was to create a network of shell companies, beginning with just a few but eventually creating thirteen of them, registered in different locations in the United States. The shell companies then separated out Ensign Peak’s enormous portfolio and disclosed the smaller holdings to the SEC, using names that weren’t immediately obvious as affiliated with the LDS Church. This began in 1992 and continued until 2019, when whistleblower David Nielsen filed a complaint with the IRS. The now-defunct MormonLeaks published the names of the LLCs and the size of the holdings in 2018.
The SEC brought charges against Ensign Peak, and against the Church, for deliberately creating those shell companies to conceal the size of the Church’s investment portfolio and the Church’s control of that portfolio. The fine settles the charges and closes out the SEC’s investigation.
The Salt Lake Tribune article describes how this developed. Internal Church investment managers noticed that the fund reporting was attracting attention, and took steps to conceal the amounts, to register LLCs in other states, to choose names that weren’t easily associated with the Church. All this to avoid the negative publicity that the Church feared if the size of its stock portfolio became public. Here’s a creepy allegation: “And when Ensign Peak obtained the signatures of business managers over the LLCs, it gave them only signature pages and not the complete documents.” Employees were being asked to sign documents that they weren’t allowed to read. That’s a huge red flag in corporate practices and after the MormonLeaks information became public, two of those business managers resigned in protest. They were replaced, and the pattern continued until publicity and the SEC forced the change.
Here’s something to be entirely clear about: This shell game was done with the approval and knowledge of the highest Church leaders. Internal Church auditors apparently told the higher-ups that the SEC might disagree with spreading the reporting among multiple entities. I have a hard time believing that Kirton McConkie didn’t at least suggest that this shell game skirted the line of legality (though we’ll never know for sure). Church leadership decided to take the risk. Church leadership controls Ensign Peak. Church leaders are not victims of bad legal advice or incompetent accounting staff. They knew that the SEC required reporting; they made a plan to technically report everything, but to do it in a way that broke the rules of transparency.
- Did you know that the Church had to take steps to actively conceal Ensign Peak’s value from the SEC?
- Do you think this reporting scheme is a big deal? Why or why not?
- Are you willing to blame this on someone besides the Q15?
With over 170 comments being made over at bycommonconsent.com regarding this issue over the last few days, this is not just a “traffic ticket” as the Ensign Peak Advisors dubbed the SEC settlement/fine.
I’m disappointed, confused on what the big plan is with the billions, and would like to see a major shift in charitable giving plus a major adjustment of some type regarding our tithing expectations.
Maybe this Joseph F. Smith comment really was prophetic:
“We may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask your for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God.”
— President Joseph F. Smith, General Conference, April, 1907 —
Transparency announcements would be the least we should be hearing about during this upcoming general conference. (I’m also wondering how in the world the traditional auditing report over the pulpit is going to play out.)
Not directly answering the questions listed, but a thought. Instead of getting people in SLC to manage investments, why not hire a Wall Street firm that knows the rules well? Similarly, why hire locals who know nothing east of the Rockies to manage PR? Why not hire a Madison Avenue firm who knows PR? Maybe it would be wise for the Church to use Church employees (and wholly owned or controlled firms) only for things that require ecclesiastical leadership, and outsource the rest? Not to Utah firms, but to the best and brightest, who might be in places like New York. A good and competent New York funds management company knows what the SEC requires, and Church membership isn’t really necessary here. Similarly, PR can be outsourced; we’ve seen examples where our leadership has made announcements and done things, well, let’s say clumsily, and good members of the Church in the Mountain West sometimes have zero clue how things sound on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. Ecclesiastical: hire church employees. Non-ecclesiastical: outsource to the best firm, which frequently won’t be in Utah. If an outside firm gives bad advice to the client (the Church leaders) and the client gets a fine, the client sues the outside firm for breach of contract, because the outside firm is on contract to provide correct advice.
Going to the OP’s questions: it is a big deal. I am not ready to lay blame (3), and I didn’t know the steps that were taken (1), but on question 2, yes, it is a big deal. Without knowing all of the facts, it just doesn’t appear seemly. And that’s why I mentioned PR. I get the fine against the fund management firm, but there was also a separate fine against the Church. The Church said it would pay it and considers the matter closed, which is probably legally correct. Once $5M was agreed to, why couldn’t Ensign Peak pay the whole amount (with Church money, of course)? No, it seems like the SEC insisted on a “meaningful” amount directly from the Church, and that probably means something.
@Georgis: Because the church is obsessed with central control. According to Sam Brunson on BCC, “if EPA had actually contributed assets to these LLCs and allowed the LLCs to make investment decisions on their own, it looks to me like there would have been no SEC investigation or fine.” But there must be Correlation in All Things. They didn’t get bad legal advice, they preferred breaking the law to ceding control.
As we’ve been reminded recently, the church is Jesus. And Jesus is in charge of everything. We consider this matter closed.
The details are indeed disheartening – would love to know who exactly signed off on this…
Cue all the snarky thoughts on this temple recommend question – Do you strive to be honest in all that you do?
I work in a closely related industry so on a personal level, the church truth claims just don’t add up for me – the SEC issue here reminds me of the weak attempts at historical transparency (essays, Saints etc). In my job I am always looking for supporting evidence for risk and compliance issues. Any supporting evidence to refute the CES letter, for example, is just mental gymnastics.
I can’t stay in the boat if I am staring down all the cracks in the hull.
@Janey, this topic has received quite a bit of coverage across LDS themed blogs, and I am glad you are addressing it too because it needs broad and ongoing discussion. Thank you for taking the time to queue up your thoughts on it. I’ll provide some direct answers to your questions.
Did you know that the Church had to take steps to actively conceal Ensign Peak’s value from the SEC?
No. While I have some experience working with regulatory agencies, the SEC is not one of them and I am no expert on securities law. I have been troubled enough by the fact the church sought to shroud its investments from members–this alone, to me, is a big deal. Finding out the church knowingly skirted the law only underscores how morally compromised the church is. Since the 1950s, the church has centralized more and more power and brought more and more of its inner workings under the cover of secrecy, particularly its finances. After nearly missing payroll and facing insolvency in the late 50s, instead of continuing financial transparency as a way to guard against financial problems, it withdrew all financial disclosures from the public. This should bother every member, critic and TBM alike. I have always advocated government in the sunshine laws. Sunshine is an apt metaphor. Sunlight is both a cleanser, and source of energy, enabling growth. Darkness is the opposite. Despite being private entities, churches, especially, should feel an obligation to be transparent and willingly share decisions of social, material and moral consequence. Gordon Hinkley used to tell the story about the jar of money his mother kept, change received from trips to the store. She contributed this small savings to his missionary fund and he said he always considered those funds to be sacred. Because money is fungible, I don’t buy the argument in which earnings on investment is parsed from tithing. It all starts and is sustained from the same source: The widow’s mite. The church’s actions are offensive and I think its difficult to make an argument that justifies their actions in this matter.
Do you think this reporting scheme is a big deal? Why or why not?
I think it is a huge deal simply because the church premediated the scheme to keep its investment activities and generated wealth a secret. Hidden from the government. Hidden from members. The church chose to be dishonest in its dealings with its fellow man. It violated the law, and is a moral failing on the part of the church, and demonstrates the degree to which the church’s institutional ethics are compromised. This puts into question our senior most leaders’ sense of morality and judgment. This is an institutional failing and personal leadership failing. If the church is certain their actions were justified, they are obligated to engage their members in reasoned discussion. Yet we get nothing but “mistakes were made…we’ll pay the fine…we consider the matter closed.”
Are you willing to blame this on someone besides the Q15?
No. Especially since most sources, even if its hearsay, suggest very few knew about the investment fund. This compounds the magnitude of the problem. It is likely the first presidency even hid the fund from the Q12. It is plausible only the first presidency, presiding bishop and EPA knew about the investment fund–does anyone know if the church’s internal audit department was kept in the dark? Think about the implications if they weren’t read in from the beginning. I think evidence and the SEC’s statement demonstrate this starts and ends with the first presidency. The church wants to blame this on faulty advice from lawyers, but the SEC’s conclusions center this squarely on decisions made by the first presidency, both the first presidency’s decision and its motive. My guess is the church will continue to be defensive and deflect full ownership of the decisions they made. Sadly, I’m also certain they won’t engaged their members or the public in an honest discussion about the matter. I think the church could recover from this breach of trust by apologizing and providing financial transparency. An annual, simple balance sheet report with the primary budget categories (investment value, charitable donations, temple, church and real estate holdings, administrative costs, and CES) would be sufficient. Think of what the church has to gain by being more open and displaying the institutional fortitude to apologize to its members. The math here is easy, yet I doubt we’ll see any real change in the church’s practices.
I’ve always found it laughable how church leaders try to compartmentalize how money is used. When the City Creek mall was constructed Hinkley (I think) stated it wasn’t tithing money used to pay for it, but rather profits made from investments. The thing is that money is fungible so it doesn’t really matter if the money came directly from tithing coffers or something else the church owns. It’s all the same money.
My guess is that the decision was recommended by the presiding bishopric and approved by some in the Q15 but that’s speculation on my part. With that amount of money and risk involved it almost certainly went to the very top. However since transparency is not an LDS church strength it may give an opportunity for plausible deniability for Nelson and Oaks. A dollar to be a fly on the wall in the COB this week.
I recently left the church and I haven’t paid traditional tithing for 20 years so I’m not as emotionally invested as some, but to me this is a tier 2 financial scandal. It doesn’t strike me as being on the same level as say the Q15 directly siphoning funds for lavish lifestyles and it’s not Enron level market manipulation. BUT it’s troubling for an organization that prides itself on being above reproach.
I think the general church attitude for TBMs will be “meh, I cut corners a little on my tax returns so I get it.” Or “no harm no foul.” Also I’ve worked with many attorneys in my professional life in the financial services and they have never made business decisions. They always say here are the risks with this particular decision. If the church is blaming their advisors, the decision makers are either incompetent for passing the buck or lying about who decided.
Yes I think this is a big deal, and I’m not interested in arguments that it’s somehow akin to a speeding ticket (though for the record I also think speeding tickets are a big deal as car-related fatalities are a big deal).
Am I willing to blame someone beside the Q15? As BigSky notes, it’s possible even the Q12 didn’t know about it. But I can’t get Elder Hamilton out of my head that Jesus chose to create shell companies because Jesus was afraid the members wouldn’t pay tithing and therefore Jesus agreed to pay the SEC $5M. I’m therefore quite disappointed in Jesus.
I’m at the stage where I laugh so I won’t cry. Because otherwise I’m terribly sad that money I gave the institution is simply sitting on the sidelines. But hey when we know better we do better.
1) Yes, I knew all this when the story broke.
2) Yes, it’s a HUGE deal. It’s appalling.
3) This is 100% the fault of top Church leaders. It’s a failure of leadership, stewardship, accountability, example, you name it.
The idea that the lawyers are to blame is also a cop-out. Lawyers aren’t the decision makers. Turning the portfolio over to a Wall Street firm also wouldn’t work because the Church would not cede control. As I said on Elisa’s post, I think a bigger issue is that there is no vision of what to do with these funds. If there were, they could have actually divided it up to do some good in the world. Hoarding it is a total failure of leadership and spiritual vision.
Those in the Church who seek to downplay it (including leaders and PR) do so at the peril of their souls and the soul of the Church. “This matter is now closed”? You wish. This matter isn’t closed because it’s literally just another Tuesday for how things are being run. This is just one symptom of the much deeper problem.
SEC: Security and Exchange Commission
Just think if the US government had a History Commission. How would the Church do?
What I find interesting is that no one cares about this but fence sitting, apostates, and anti LDS people. I live on the east coast and we are concerned about violent crime and jobs. The church was not being dishonest they tried to conceal what they had but didn’t allow those shell companies to run those investments but instead ensign peak did. I still can’t see what all the fuss is about. People who leave the church over this were gone already in the hearts so no lost love there.
Headline for an industry email I received a few days ago from a news aggregator in NYC- email probably received by >600K people nationwide
“Mormon Church, Investment Manager Pay $5 Million to Settle SEC Probe”
Whether someone equates this to a traffic ticket or complains that the fine is too small, the response should be the same: Read the order. Its description, in excruciating detail, of what went on is far more damaging to the Church than the fine.
On question #3 can we blame anyone other than top church leaders? No, though I place more blame on the Presiding Bishop (PB) than the First Presidency (FP). The PB’s full-time job is overseeing stuff like this. The FP has lots of concerns, like preventing gays from feeling love and acceptance.
I do wonder if this would have happened had Oaks a lawyer been in the FP when Ensign Peaks started these shenanigans? At the time, the FP consisted of a publisher with dementia, an educator, and a pilot. And to make matters worse, the PB was a businessman with an MBA from the University of Michigan. (As anyone who’s ever lived in Ohio knows, those educated in Michigan are more likely to give bad advice like this.)
I recommend Sam Brunson’s article for describing what happened. Sam Brunson is very knowledgeable about this area and is an Associate Prof who researches and writes about taxes and nonprofits.
Not only does the church collect tithes— but also fast offerings. Some time ago the church added a line to the donation slips something to the effect that the money could be used for whatever. Some countries make public the tax returns of institutions like the church— so one can see what is done with the money collected there.
Questions (fixed according to Elder Hamilton):
1. Did you know that Jesus [The Church] had to take steps to actively conceal Ensign Peak’s value from the SEC?
– Yes, but it wasn’t clear what those steps were and when they were taken as well as what advice they had been given by financial professionals. It still isn’t clear what advice their legal counsel gave, but it looks like the results are apparent.
2. Do you think this reporting scheme is a big deal? Why or why not?
– Yes, it is a big deal and highlights just how un-trustworthy this organization is toward laws and its own members.
3. Are you willing to blame this on someone besides Jesus [the Q15]?
– It’s probably hard to blame this one on Jesus at this point. He would have had to have made a significant shift in finance handling since the “rendering unto Ceasar” days or when he told the young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor. That advice today would likely be: sell all you have and give it to me to add to my astronomically large (like nigh unto Kolob large), well-managed, and strategically hidden stock market slush fund. It is apparent the blame rests squarely on the first presidency.
It is an exercise in Comedy of the Absurd to read comments at BCC and here supporting the Church’s actions. I guess the Triple Platinum Medallion crowd is not capable of understanding the concept of fallibility. Their machinations range from using ridiculous metrics (total members/$ in reserve???) to long winded diatribes that have zero legal or analytical relevance. It is as if Mormon Apologetics has been reborn to include even the unwashed, non-CES/BYU crowd. God help us all.
When we defend Nephi for murder, it apparently goes without saying that we will defend our leaders about anything, whether it be hoarding wealth, protecting child abusers, believing accounts involving angels with flaming swords, or justifying murder. It would be comedy if it wasn’t so dark.
It’s my understanding that the church chose to settle the issue by paying the fine and being done with it. The allegations in the SEC’s order could have been challenged in court–but the church wasn’t interested going through a long drawn out battle with the SEC. And so what the whole thing boiled down to was: either pay the fine or take the SEC to court; those are the only two options.
As to your first question: my uneducated understanding is that all of the funds were reported by the individual shell companies. But where EPA made its mistake (according to the SEC) was that the parent company should’ve have been lumping those funds together in one single quarterly report–thus making them more transparent to the investment community.
I’m not going to get into a back and forth with Jack on this, but if you know anything about SEC settlement orders (and I do): they are heavily negotiated with the other side (here, the Church). They do not contain factual errors. They don’t.
There may be situations where someone disagrees that something they did was actually illegal, and some securities laws are going to be a lot more fact-dependent and uncertain, and you could still agree on a baseline of what happened but then settle without admitting that whatever happened was actually illegal.
This is not one of those situations.
What the Church did was illegal, the Church knows it was illegal, the Church had been advised it was illegal before the SEC got involved and proceeded anyway. The facts in the order are not in dispute.
You can argue that the law is stupid and the violation didn’t actually hurt anyone (I disagree, but you can argue that) but you simply cannot argue that what the SEC and Church said happened from a factual perspective didn’t happen. It did.
This morning, Saturday, when I woke up and opened the curtains, 15 feet away there were rainbow lorikeets (red, blue, green) eating pink blossoms in a tree in the rainforest. Peace and joy.
When I was a teenager my father was a building supervisor missionary. He worked 70 hours a week 52 weeks a year, because he believed he was working for the Lord. I was a bit affronted a couple of years ago to find out the prophet at that time enjoyed fly fishing. How could he have time for fly fishing?
These people don’t seem to be working for the Lord.
Thank you for making my point for me. Going to trial would ensure that a lot more people read the order or learn of the details it contains. That is exactly what the Church doesn’t want–even if they could win at trial and have the fine wiped out.
Let’s take a closer look at the Church’s attempt to say their lawyers gave them bad advice. The statement from the LDS Newsroom says this: “Since 2000, Ensign Peak received and relied upon legal counsel regarding how to comply with its reporting obligations while attempting to maintain the privacy of the portfolio.”
That’s cagey. As Elisa pointed out in her post on this topic, and Hawkgrrl said in her comment, lawyer’s do not tell clients what to do. They write a risk assessment of different options and then the client (the Church) makes the decision. The incriminating part of this statement is the last part — the Church made it a priority to “attempt to maintain the privacy of the portfolio.” In other words, the direction to the lawyers was probably something like asking them what could they do to obscure the amount of money and still technically comply with the law. It’s about violating the spirit of the law while pretending to comply with the letter of the law.
I bet the lawyers at Kirton McConkie grinding their teeth at the Church leaders blaming them. “Church leadership received and relied upon legal counsel.” Or maybe they’re so faithful they’re happy to take the fall; I dunno. But as a lawyer, I can guarantee that the first line of advice was to file the report honestly. Lawyers don’t get tricky with the rules unless the client insists on it.
Jack (responding to your 4:21 comment), as far as I can tell, all of the funds were reported, just split up among thirteen entities with names that wouldn’t be linked back to the Church. And it wasn’t a mistake. It was a deliberate decision made after they looked at a really clear rule. The rule is not complicated like lots of SEC requirements are. The rule is that if your fund is more than $100 million, you file the report. There really isn’t a lot of room for interpretation there. It wasn’t a mistake.
And I second Elisa’s comment. Settlement orders are not one-sided. You negotiate every word in them. If the SEC got to put in the order that the Church maintained control over all of the funds in the different entities, then the Church had no way to challenge that because the SEC was telling the truth. Basically, the SEC and the Church had to agree on the facts as written in that order.
The Church’s statement released in the Newsroom is wide-eyed and disengenuous. “Gosh, we sure didn’t realize that this law that clearly says big investment funds have to publicly identify themselves meant that we were supposed to publicly identify ourselves! Huh, I guess no one else with a billion dollars has thought of splitting up their fund and choosing fake names to hide the amount. We must be super smart! It’s a good thing we’ve got lawyers we can order around and tell them what advice we’ll follow because then we can blame them.”
Janey, Thank you for your perspective.
As far as I know, the “legal counsel” has not been formally and specifically identified. I suspect that Kirton McConkie was indeed the counsel. I believe that US taxpayers and LDS tithe payers have a right to know. But if so, Kirton McConkie is not about to “bite the hand” that has fed them million of dollars in legal fees over the decades.
The Church’s excuse reminds me of the conversion between Elohim, Jehovah, Adam and Eve, as depicted in the temple endowment film in regard to the forbidden fruit. Adam blames Eve who in turn blames the Serpent. What was Adam and Eve’s real sin? Partaking of the forbidden fruit? Or failing to take personal responsibility for their misdeed?
Alas, the lesson of taking personal responsibility is largely ignored by the Church and its members.
tomirvine999 – That’s an interesting parallel to draw to the story of the Garden. I hadn’t thought of that, but I like the implications of your question. It’s so true that often a cover-up makes the problem bigger.
You’re right that they haven’t identified Kirton McConkie as the law firm. I don’t know if any lawyers specializing in SEC laws work there, actually, it seems like an unusual practice area for a firm in Salt Lake. I took a quick look at their website and Securities Law isn’t listed as a practice area.
In addition to “biting the hand that feeds them,” the lawyers who advised the Church couldn’t say anything in any event. Lawyers are bound by strict confidentiality rules. Breaking those confidentiality rules would pretty much end the lawyer-client relationship, and open up the law firm to being disciplined for violating ethical rules.
@Jabulani: I wonder what that $5 million fine could have done to alleviate crime or give people jobs on the East Coast. I guess we’ll never know, Oh well.
Following up on tomirvine999’s comments about Adam and Eve and the serpent, I saw the following on another forum yesterday. (I wish I had thought of this, but I’m not that clever.)
In trying to lay the blame on the lawyers, the essential message of the church leaders was:
“The lawyers thou gavest me and commanded that they should remain with me: they did give me of the advice, and I did partake.”
At least some of the Q12 knew about it. Elder Stevenson was the Presiding Bishop during several of the years this scam was going, before being elevated to an Apostle.
I personally know at least 3 EPA employees. They all commuted to NYC and worked on Wall Street.
It wasn’t a scam.
@Jack: I just googled “scam definition”. Google’s definition is, “a dishonest scheme; a fraud”. The Church’s intentional and illegal use of shell companies was most certainly a “dishonest scheme” to hide assets.
To what end?
@Jack, one does not need to know the reason(s) for a scam (“a dishonest scheme”) to identify a scam. Just ask the SEC.
That said, I rather suspect that if the Church had a noble purpose for perpetrating their SEC scam that they would have let the world know about it long ago (very shortly after the scam was leaked) to try to head off some of the terrible PR.
“Jack, one does not need to know the reason(s) for a scam (“a dishonest scheme”) to identify a scam.”
It seems to me that we ought to know what it is about the practice that makes it immoral before we label it a scam. If we were to learn that the “scam” was really nothing more than plucking corn on the Sabbath we might feel differently about calling it a scam–even though it could be categorized as a legitimate infraction.
The creation of 13 fake LLCs was unethical, and so was lying to the SEC and the public. Most people with strict scruples in business would find that immoral. Asking the fake directors of the sham corporations to sign off on the signature page without seeing the document was unethical, so much that two of them quit, and were replaced with employees who would help execute the scam. The entire shady enterprise was perpetrated to keep the full amount of Ensign Peak holdings from the public, which large market players keep scheming to do, since the beginning of the stock exchange, for whatever advantage they can gain over the small investors. But since the days of the 1929 stock market crash, the SEC tries to make everyone follow the same rules. So whatever aspersions you want to cast against the SEC, they do prevent a repeat of 1929 and its aftermath, the Great Depression.
The church has damaged its own reputation with outsiders rather badly, and has damaged the trust of many good members. Geez, Jack, you work too hard at obfuscating. Get some sleep.
(And thanks to Elisa, Janey, and Sam B at BCC for the tutorial. )
The thing I find interesting is that no one can identify the precise reason as to why the church wanted to keep a low profile. Some folks have assumed that there were sinister motives involved–but no one really knows. And so I’m giving the church the benefit of the doubt — with respect to its motives that is — especially in light of the fact that it has a well established pattern of respecting the law.
As I’ve said elsewhere: The church donated five million dollars to charity in order to help the victims of an earthquake. And now it has to pay a five million dollar fine to a government agency for plucking corn on the Sabbath.
Oh the irony.
Jack, they didn’t pluck corn on the sabbath (though they do that too). Go read the SEC order and educate yourself, or stop lying about how bad it was. You either don’t know what you’re talking about, or you’re flat out being decietful. Given the amount of responses you have read and the opportunities you’ve been presented to learn the truth, it seems like the latter, which puts you on the road to hell.
Stop with your crap already. Given the Church’s response to their deeds being put in the light, they have changed their tactics and have started following the rules. Meaning, your current tactics of disinformation and lies no longer match with their tactics (at least, in this case).
I don’t believe there is any way you are commenting in good faith anymore. All you want to do say a black fence is white because you love that fence so much. The end result is that you’re looking very much the fool.
Truly a shell game and yet another blow to the institution’s reputation with outsiders. Wondering about the missionary work now in NYC, Boston, or Chicago.
I truly cannot attend EQ today – this sentence is found in the assigned GC talk: “by divine design the Book of Mormon was prepared in ancient America to come forth”
I have learned too much now to accept this as truth despite the Church creating separate entities known as the Gospel Topics Essays.
Maybe some day I will see the likeness of Brigham Young in a plate of Irish nachos.
@Jack, “The thing I find interesting is that no one can identify the precise reason as to why the church wanted to keep a low profile.” The thing I find interesting is the reason no one can identify the precise reason as to why the Church wanted to keep a low profile is that only Church leaders know the answer to this question, and they have been mum on this topic. Their silence is very telling. If Church leaders had a noble reason for perpetrating their scam, they would have let the world know as soon as their scam was leaked to the public to avoid the terrible PR. Their silence implies that stating their actual reasons for hiding the funds is more embarrassing than just keeping their mouth shut.
I suspect that your objections really boil down to your conviction–that you’ve expressed multiple times on other threads–that the Q15 simply don’t make big mistakes when it comes to leading the Church. It sounds like you believe that Christ likely instructed the Q15 to hide the funds for some sacred reason that the they are not at liberty to reveal to “the World”. When we have Church leaders that almost never admit to making mistakes in leading the Church, there is always the possibility, however remote, that their apparent screw ups are actually them obeying God’s will that we as mortal humans can’t fully comprehend. However, when we have case after case of apparent screw ups in Church leadership over the years, it becomes harder and harder to believe that the Q15 are infallible. In this case, they even publicly stated that they “regretted” their actions. As has been noted elsewhere, that kind of speech is extremely rare from the Q15. It’s as close to an apology that we’ve ever heard from them. If you can’t see it in this case, I’m not really sure what it would take for you to ever come to the conclusion that the Q15 screws up sometimes in leading the Church.
Engaging pointlessly with Jack against all my better judgment. Jack, here is a stated reason from the head of Ensign Peak. Not speculation. “Roger Clarke, the head of Ensign Peak Advisors, told the Journal that church leaders were concerned that knowledge of the fund would discourage regular donations from its members known as tithes.
‘Paying tithing is more of a sense of commitment than it is the church needing the money,’ Clarke said two years ago. ‘So they never wanted to be in a position where people felt like, you know, they shouldn’t make a contribution.’”
The church kept a low profile because they didn’t want people to stop paying tithing. They didn’t need the money. They just wanted more.
There are a lot of good reasons for setting up the shell companies–anything from protecting the church’s land purchases (a la Disney in Florida) to discouraging greedy law firms from seeking huge settlements and everything in between. It’s a normal thing to do. In fact it’s so normal that some folks would say that paying the five million is just the price of doing business at that level.
Having said that, I’m not suggesting that absolutely no mistakes were made. Apparently there were enough made to warrant a relatively small fine. But that’s not to say that there was mal intent involved–especially on the part of the apostles. As I’ve said elsewhere–the church doesn’t have a pattern of engaging in shady business deals. That’s not its MO. If this little fiasco were as bad as some folks make it out to be–then there would likely be some history of similar fiascos. But it isn’t there.
Jack, for the gazillionth time, you don’t understand the problem. It’s not that the Church created LLCs. It’s not even about how much money the Church has. Your attempts at gaslightning are failing. Or, if that’s not whats going on, your lack of reading comprehension and/or empathetic abilities are astonishingly low.
Honestly, I’m not sure how you define the problem. If it has to do with the SEC’s treatment of the situation–then let me share this paragraph from its order for clarification:
“In anticipation of the institution of these proceedings, Respondents have submitted Offers of Settlement (the “Offers”) which the Commission has determined to accept. Solely for the purpose of these proceedings and any other proceedings brought by or on behalf of the Commission, or to which the Commission is a party. . .
Respondents consent to the entry of this Order Instituting Cease-and-Desist Proceedings Pursuant to Section 21C of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Making Findings, and Imposing a Cease-and-Desist Order (“Order”), as set forth below.”
The Church doesn’t admit to any of the findings by the SEC–only to its authority to levy a fine against them. Receiving an order from the SEC isn’t necessarily the end in terms of finding fault on moral grounds. The SEC certainly has its opinion about EPA’s and the church’s actions–but if they had wanted to impose a larger fine or make even more damaging claims of malfeasance the church may have exercised its right to take them to court to protect itself. But as it is, they chose to took the slap on the wrist and admit to nothing involving mal intent. They simply chose to comply and be done with it instead of going through a long drawn out court battle over something that is, in the world of big finance, rather trivial.
Oops, I goofed. The primary sentence I was trying to highlight from the quoted paragraph reads”
“. . . and without admitting or denying the findings herein, except as to the Commission’s jurisdiction over them and the subject matter of these proceedings, which are admitted. . .”
Mistakes are errors made through ignorance or negligence (though negligence does still make one legally culpable) with correct intent. The church didn’t make mistakes; they consciously broke existing laws with malice aforethought. The first presidency knew what they were doing and what reporting laws they were trying to skirt. The full SEC report makes that clear. You should read it, Jack.
Also, don’t create the ‘shady business deal’ strawman. That’s not the allegation or the reason for SEC fines. They knowingly broke reporting laws in an effort to hide church wealth from members out of fear that it would diminish tithing revenue.
Personally, as a lifetime member of the Church, I’m becoming increasingly disgusted by a presumed “Church of Christ” managing an investment and real estate portfolio of over $100 billion dollars. This, plus the behavior and choices of leadership over following the law – have pretty much destroyed any trust I had remaining that “our” resources are being used as Christ would. This is not good.
Personally, as a lifetime member of the Church, I’m becoming increasingly disgusted by a presumed “Church of Christ” managing an investment and real estate portfolio of over $100 billion dollars. This, plus the behavior and choices of leadership over following the law – have pretty much destroyed any trust I had remaining that “our” resources are being used as Christ would. This is not good.
Not true. Lots of tithe paying, temple attending members that go every week that served missions and followed every thing are very very concerned. How do I know? I am one of them, and so is every family or friend that I dare ask. This isn’t a concern of the left or the right. It’s a concern for any member that took the time to read the SEC order the church stipulated to in the settlement
It’s only funds over a certain amount that have to report publicly. The church broke the funds down into smaller pieces so they were under this amount. They “misstated” who managed the fund and where the fund was managed. They had employees sign and attest to who managed it and where with only a signature page so they couldn’t read what they were signing.
The whole point was to not make the total amount the church was managing publicly visible by hiding the fact they were managing these several accounts for smaller amounts