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Mormon Church pays $5 million to settle accusations it covered up $32 billion investment portfolio

Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The Mormon Church agreed Tuesday to pay $5 million to settle charges involving disclosure failures and misstated regulatory filings.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its investment management company, 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 obscured the church’s portfolio, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ensign Peak agreed to pay $4 million and the church itself will pay $1 million to settle the charges.

“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.”

The church was concerned the disclosure of a portfolio that grew to $32 billion would lead to negative consequences so it consented to the creation of more than a dozen shell companies to cover its investments, according to the SEC.

“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.

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