RELIGION | LDS organization fined for hiding assets
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Federal officials ordered the governing body of Mormonism and its investment arm to pay $5 million in fines last month for obscuring investments. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which announced the fines on Feb. 21, said the Utah-based Latter-day Saints organization had used shell companies to hide its assets.
The LDS organization maintains investments in stocks, bonds, agriculture, and real estate collectively worth over $32 billion. Ensign Peak Advisors, a nonprofit management firm overseen by ecclesiastical officials, manages most of those investments. In 2019 and 2021, whistleblowers—including former Ensign Peak employee David Nielsen—alleged mismanagement of the religious group’s funds. Federal investigators ultimately found that for 22 years, Ensign Peak did not file paperwork disclosing all of its assets. Instead, it disclosed them via 13 shell companies manned by LDS employees, hiding the true scope of its portfolio.
LDS officials acknowledged “mistakes” but said they had “relied upon legal counsel … while attempting to maintain the privacy of the portfolio.” The LDS organization agreed to pay $1 million in penalties, while Ensign Peak agreed to pay $4 million.
Pope Francis has nationalized all property and assets owned or acquired by Vatican departments and affiliates, according to a new law the Holy See published Feb. 23. The law states that such assets are “ecclesiastic public property” owned by the Vatican, “entrusted” to different groups but destined to serve the universal needs and missions of the Roman Catholic Church.
The change marks the latest move in Francis’ campaign to prevent mismanagement of church assets. Previously, he transferred the Vatican secretariat of state’s $635 billion investment portfolio to the church’s patrimony office after a 2021 scandal in which 10 people, including a cardinal, were charged with defrauding the church of tens of millions of euros through a London property venture. Francis also previously ordered all Vatican offices to use standardized annual budgeting and accounting procedures and banned speculative investments. —E.R.
At church for a recharge
The United Methodist Church’s Baltimore-Washington Conference is partnering with infrastructure company Charge Enterprises to install electric vehicle charging stations on select church campuses in Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The company tapped churches as ideal sites given their central locations and ample parking—while church leaders hope to gain ministry opportunities as community members use the stations. —E.R.