Whistleblower Alleges $100 Billion Secret Stockpile By Mormon Church. And how much should the church be salting away for a rainy day? The whistleblower, David Nielsen, is a Mormon who worked for the church until September, his brother, Lars Nielsen, told CNN. I heard from Lars Nielsen just as I was getting ready to wrap this piece up. On the other hand, if I were involved in the preparation of that return and knew that the reason management did not give me the answer to the question was that management did not want the IRS to know what the total book value of its assets was, I would be pretty uncomfortable. Brunson -  There’s always a chance, I suppose. Of that amount, the complaint alleges, $6 billion is spent on operating costs while the remaining $1 billion is transferred to Ensign Peak Advisors and added to the church’s investment portfolio. Ensign Peak Advisors, the report claims, has not used its money as a nonprofit should. Ensign Peak Advisors. Ensign, as an integrated auxiliary of a church, would not be taxed on investment income such as interest, dividends and capital gains. - Brendan Behan. If it is an “integrated auxiliary” though, it is a different story. It makes me sick. He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. Lars Nielsen told The Tribune late Monday that his brother asked him to write an “expose fully detailing everything he knew about Ensign Peak Advisors,” which turned into the 74-page document submitted with the complaint. Life is more complicated now, but it's real and we're still happy. In June 2012, Nielsen founded his … He wrote a piece for By Common Consent. If it wants to hoard money that's fine, but its investment income should be taxed just as every other individual or corporation's investment income is taxed. That money isn’t being spent on charitable endeavors, as required by law. “My responsibility and allegiance is to the truth; we can't get there without faithfully presenting every possible alternative and eliminating them with careful and transparent evidence. I guess my plea would be that it is really hard to boil this all down. Not answering a question is not the same as getting your tax wrong. You may opt-out by. Until September 2019, Nielsen had been a senior portfolio manager for the Mormon-church run investment non-profit, Ensign Peak Advisors. (Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Visitors take in the sights at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on November 29, 2019. David Nielsen is … Either way, the janitorial objection I find most compelling is that, by shifting it from paid to volunteer, we’re taking away one manner that we could provide jobs for people who aren’t able to find jobs. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. Furthermore the church pays out lots of money every year from its tithing. But the complaint alleges that Roger Clarke, the president of the church's investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, said the funds would be used in the event of the second coming. The church reports spending $2.2 billion since 1985 through LDS Charities. © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. He … sltrib.com © 1996-2020 The Salt Lake Tribune. The complaint was filed by David Nielsen, a former portfolio manager for the church’s nonprofit investment arm Ensign Peak Advisors, with the help of his brother Lars Nielsen… The confidential complaint was filed at the IRS on Nov. 21 by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors until September. I have been a CPA for over 30 years focusing on taxation. According to the National Whistleblower Center, IRS 211 claims — under which the accusations made against Ensign Peak Advisors fall — are signed under oath and penalty of perjury. This is likely the first time this particular question has come up, at least to this degree. According to a report in the Washington Post, David Nielsen, a senior portfolio manager at the Mormon church’s investment division, known as “Ensign Peak,” left Ensign and became a whistleblower. The Washington Post report is based upon a whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service by David Nielsen, 41, who until September worked for Ensign Peak Advisors, a company that manages the church’s investments. Professor Hackney pointed me to Revenue Procedure 96-10 which indicates the sort of auxiliary organizations that share in the blessings of the church’s exemption from filing Form 990. I probably oversimplified the Nielsens' argument, which Mr. Nielsen characterized on the phone as an inadvertent straw-man argument. Ensign Peak Advisors' articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A former employee of the Church’s non-profit investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors, has complained to the IRS. EPA is characterized as an integrated auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As he was writing that document, Lars Nielsen said, he reflected on his mission to Sonora, Mexico, where he encouraged members to pay their tithing. Maybe if we knew what they were going to do with it there wouldn’t be such a surprise to members. I admire the Nielsens. The Post reported that the letter, according to a copy provided by Lars Nielsen, said, “his employment had become unworkable after his wife and children left the Mormon church and asked him to follow them.". The Nielsens are raising very important issues that Mormons need to consider. Mr. Nielsen also focuses on the question about total book value of assets not being disclosed. Here is our email exchange in interview format: Reilly - Suppose there was no separate tax exempt involved. not being required to file Form 990). We fit in. I mean, there may be moral/religious/ethical questions, but if it invested in-house, it would qualify under 501(c)(3) as an exempt org with a religious purpose. (i.e. I would think retroactivity would be really unlikely here. He worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors. Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. deductible. My ideology can be summarized at least metaphorically by this quote: The identity of IRS whistleblowers is usually kept confidential, but Nielsen apparently wanted to expose his employer; his twin brother sent a copy of the whistleblower lawsuit to The Washington Post. A inside whistle blower has alleged the Mormon Church misled members on how a $100 billion investment fund was used. It is an integrated auxiliary of a church. According to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the complaint lodged with the IRS, the funds were held in accounts dedicated to charitable causes, and the church's investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, was listed as a nonprofit organization. I have extensive experience with partnerships, real estate and high net worth individuals. Whistleblower: Mormon Church Stockpiled $100B, Falsely Claimed Non-Profit Status. The Post says since Ensign is legally registered as a “supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of … If we view total expense in comparison to endowment if there were some payout requirement it would be met. It’s been long enough that I can’t remember if it was framed as a cost-saving idea or as a way to ensure that members had a tighter connection/felt more ownership of the buildings. I focus on the tax issues of individuals, businesses & more, Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, stands outside the historic Mormon Salt Lake Temple on December 17, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. I’m not completely sure how the commensurate-in-scope rule applies to integrated auxiliaries (or even if it does). There is this “commensurate in scope” test to be concerned about for a “supporting organization”. He notes that there are two bases for Ensign’s exemption. And what needs to be done about tax-exempts accumulating vast pools of capital that is never put to charitable use? In his presentation, Mr. Nielsen makes much of the way Ensign had Form 990-T prepared. I refer to this as the “Al Capone” syndrome — the notion that the IRS is there to right wrongs rather than collect taxes. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post which shared details from the complaint. And here is an hour long podcast interview with Professor Brunson by Gina Colvin. Nielsen reportedly sent Ensign a resignation letter dated Aug. 29. Most financial scandals involving churches involve the people running them looting them, not the church saving up too much money. Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment firm connected to the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, started filing a quarterly 13F form on Feb. 14, 2010, with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates publicly traded companies and other financial firms. Hackney, who served in the IRS chief counsel’s office, has been retained by The Post to analyze the whistleblower documents.”. He wrote a 74-page supplement to his complaint that criticized church leaders for continuing to seek tithing — 10% of a member’s income — despite having huge unspent reserves. The whistleblower allegation that Ensign Peak Advisors, has in its over 20 years of existence accumulated over $100 billion dollars in excess tithes and the investment returns thereon is generating some excitement. Since it is registered as a "supporting organization and integrated auxiliary" of the church, it operates as a religious nonprofit largely exempt from U.S. taxes — provided that it operates exclusively for "religious, educational, or other charitable purposes." Religious groups are typically categorized as nonprofit organizations in the United States, meaning they are exempted from paying taxes on their income. There is nothing in these allegations that indicates that LDS leadership is enriching itself. Is it really OK for the church to not be transparent about its finances? “Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?” he wrote, according to The Post. While accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, the complaint said. The question usually comes up when discussing universities and donor advised funds. The Washington Post has a story about a whistleblower’s disclosures to the IRS that Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc, founded in 1997, has accumulated over … You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. Ensign has a problem there. Given that Ensign Peak Advisors is a tax-exempt 501C3 charity, the fact that it hoards so much money without ever spending a single dime on charity seems to run afoul of IRS regulations. Professor Brunson was also interviewed by Paul Glader of Religion Unplugged. Or would they just turn the money over to the church and fade away? So if the question is will the church lose its status, the answer is almost surely no. It is just not that big a one. Nielsen was a senior portfolio manager and filed the complaint with his twin brother, Lars. Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You can figure out the correct tax without knowing that, but I do believe in answering all the questions. The whistleblower complaint noted that David had concerns about some practices at EPA since 2013 and voiced some of those … The whistleblower. I could really nerd you out on how that question might be answered when the UBTI is being generated by partnerships, but the shortcut that Deloitte took of describing the trade or business as investing or investing in partnerships, rather than listing out the likely numerous businesses the partnerships were engaged in, was probably reasonable. My reading of the situation is that not much thought went into trade or business question. But if it is integrated maybe it is just a pocketbook for the church which puts it back to the previous question. So there’s that. This allowed the investment branch to be largely exempt from paying taxes on its income. The complaint was made to the IRS on Nov. 21 by David A. Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager for Ensign Peak Advisors, the church’s … The 41-year-Mormon formerly worked at Ensign Peak Advisors, an LDS-sanctioned company located near the church’s headquarters. He has not responded to … Why doesn’t it just issue audited financial statements every year? I also heard from Professor Samuel Brunson. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below. They are also raising important policy issues. Last week his concerns spilled into the spotlight when he publicized a whistleblower complaint that his twin brother ... to a rapidly growing investment fund called Ensign Peak Advisors Inc. (EPA This story in the Salt Lake City Tribune by Jake Jenkins, LDS Church fund unlikely to face IRS backlash, experts say, features Professors Hackney and Brunson. And, for what it is worth, under the Internal Revenue Code, integrated auxiliaries of churches are, like churches, treated differently from other tax-exempt organizations”. As you know, experts retained by the Washington Post and active on the issue for much longer and with access to primary documents disagree with your swift assessment. “One woman in particular, a very old woman who had dirt floors, went without tortillas for a week, so she could give her tortilla money to the Mormon church so her sick child would hopefully get better,” he said. SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 17: A statue of Brigham Young, the second president of the Church of ... [+] Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, stands outside the historic Mormon Salt Lake Temple on December 17, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. I heard from Professor Phillip Hackney who was quoted in the Washington Post story: “`If you have a charity that simply amasses a war chest year after year and does not spend any money for charity purposes, that does not meet the requirements of tax law,’ Hackney said in an interview. According to the whistleblower complaint, the LDS Church takes in about $7 Billion in tithing each year, spends $6 billion and invests the rest. The Washington Post report is based upon a whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service by David Nielsen, 41, who until September worked for Ensign Peak Advisors, a company that manages the church’s investments. I have brought this up a number of times in my coverage of Scientology. Nielsen’s complaint also says the church may have additional holdings outside the management of Ensign Peak Advisors. "I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer." When it comes to churches, LDS may be sui generis in that regard. Nielsen said Ensign did not use the money for charitable purposes in the past 22 years, but had twice used the money to prop up businesses, once for an insurance company and the second time for the. A whistleblower is accusing the Mormon church of allegedly violating federal tax laws and accumulating nearly $100 billion in charitable accounts. The complaint was filed by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors that is based near the church’s headquarters. I actually generally agree with what you say. Elder Holland claimed on 24 April, 2016 in Dallas TX as can be seen on the following youtube video that the Church was experiencing such incredible growth that the Church creates double digit stakes pretty much every week and that past week they had created 15. The confidential complaint was filed at the IRS on Nov. 21 by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors until September. These documents were sent to the IRS whistleblower office in Ogden, Utah, together with a thumb drive containing digital versions of documents and emails that Nielsen … Trump's … If you don’t have the patience for the whole video check out the last five minutes or so. He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. Over 22 … I have been a CPA for over 30 years focusing on taxation. Latest. Later reports indicated that Lars approached the Washington Post with the information, and that David was against releasing the information publicly. Reilly - Assuming IRS were to revoke Ensign's status, is there any chance at all that it would be retroactive? But it also invested in partnerships which would generate unrelated business taxable income. Nobody I work for has any responsibility for what goes into this blog and you should make no inference that they approve of it or even have read it. It is worth checking out this Reddit site to see some of the reactions to the story. a Monday report published by The Washington Post, The Spiritual Foundations of Church Financial Self-Reliance, a historian who has studied LDS Church finances. The whistleblower is a Mormon who worked for the church until September. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images). As a “supporting organization,” having the money going in but never going out is a problem. According to an article published by The Washington Post, a whistleblower named David Nielsen sent a 74 page letter to the IRS accusing the church of stock piling and misusing $100 billion of tithing money. Whistleblower: Mormon Church Stockpiled $100B, Falsely Claimed Non-Profit Status. It Was the Best-Kept Secret in the Investment World,” the Journal explored the remarkable growth of the investment fund. Of that amount, the complaint alleges, $6 billion is spent on operating costs while the remaining $1 billion is transferred to Ensign Peak Advisors and added to the church’s investment portfolio. By Susie Madrak on Tue, 12/17/2019 - 5:48am. "If it is true that EPA must be an active supporting organization commensurate in scope to its assets, then, in the history of supporting organizations there may have never been one with such a small numerator (zero) and such a large denominator (>$100 B).”. And he won my heart by closing with a Tolkein reference. Ensign Peak Advisors' articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that a former investment manager with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has filed a whistleblower complaint with the … The Salt Lake Tribune, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) public charity and contributions are tax Under the headline “The Mormon Church Amassed $100 Billion. We were happy in the church. The Wall Street Journal on Saturday published a story on Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is not definitive, but it indicates that you don’t evaluate Ensign in isolation. The Wall Street Journal reports that word of the Mormon Church's stockpile came after a whistleblower complained to the Internal Revenue Service that the fund, named Ensign Peak Advisors… David Nielsen, himself a Mormon, worked at Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment division of the church, prior to filing the complaint. A whistleblower alleges in the complaint, filed with the IRS, that billions of dollars collected in tithes mandatory donations by members were invested in an investment arm of the church Ensign Peak Advisors but in 22 years, has not been distributed to charitable causes in accordance with IRS rules, according to a report in the Washington Post. It’s not that paid labor is a welfare thing, but it is a useful way to make a living.”. In 2019, the Washington Post reported a whistleblower complaint had been filed with the Internal Revenue Service(IRS) by a former EP employee, David A. Nielsen, that brought national attention to the reported size of the investments. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. This is also true of others who have consulted with Paul Glader, as I'm sure you saw in his coincident breaking story in Religion Unplugged. Ask Larry: Will Changes In The Full Retirement Age Reduce My Social Security Benefit At 70? Brunson - No, not really. Nielsen Founded His Own Tech Startip in Silicon Valley in 2012. One of the complaints that seems to come up a lot is that LDS does not have paid janitors. Why are churches treated differently when it comes to disclosure? According to the whistleblower complaint, the LDS Church takes in about $7 Billion in tithing each year, spends $6 billion and invests the rest. The complaint was shared with The Post by Lars Nielsen of Minnesota, who said he worked with his brother on the complaint. But you should know how much you gave their (Ensign Peak Advisors) slush fund since the COP (Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) created it … Lars Nielsen, brother of whistleblower David Nielsen, explains how Ensign Peak Advisors allegedly operates. We’ll see how that goes. My difference with them is in the expectation that there is a role for the IRS here given the current state of the law. The church has its own investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, with offices close to the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City. All rights reserved. Mormon Whistleblower – Commentary on the $100 Billion at Ensign Peak Advisors. Republican Demands For Covid Relief Forced Some Bizarre Choices, Congress Takes Lead On PPP In New Stimulus Bill, Defying Treasury, Stimulus Payments, Paycheck Protection Program Expense Deductibility Headline Tax Changes In Latest Covid Relief Package, Here’s A Look At What’s In The Massive Covid-Response Stimulus Bill, Covid Relief Bill — Significant Tax Relief For Individuals And Businesses, Loren Ponds Talks Secrets To Success And Writing Tax Reform, All You Need To Know About Round Two Of Covid-Related Stimulus Checks. That’s because the company only distributed funds twice, both times to for-profit entities, while continuing to invest the funds and acquire tithes from Mormons who donate 10% of their income in order “ While accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, the complaint said. Included is an organization that is exclusively financing, funding the activities of or managing the funds of a church. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you … He wrote me: “As for janitors: it’s within my lifetime that the church shifted from paid janitors to asking members to clean the church. The 74-page document filed with the IRS and obtained by Religion Unplugged shows that Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc. saw owned assets under management grow to more than $100 billion from $10 billion in the past 22 years, fueled by a mix of investment strategy and tithe money from church members. The whistleblower is a Mormon who worked for the church until September. The 41-year-old is the former senior portfolio manager of the Church’s investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors. “I remember sitting in dirt-poor people’s houses on my mission telling them that they needed to pay 10% or they wouldn’t get to see their family for eternity. Ensign is not a private foundation. All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. Lars Nielsen, who provided the documents to reporters, said members deserve an apology from church leaders and the investment company. In some sense I think what we are witnessing is the asking and answering of different questions. I saw your piece. He said he is no longer a member of the faith, but he felt compelled to release his brother’s whistleblower complaint in part because of Latter-day Saint teachings about telling the whole truth. That may be so and because of that the IRS would almost surely never challenge this situation. I wrote: “My thinking was that if it was an integrated auxiliary of the church it is really the church accumulating and there is really no rule about that. He had an issue with something in my previous piece. But what I was being asked was whether the brothers raised legitimate concerns. As an integral part of the Mormon church, Ensign is required to operate exclusively for religious, educational, or other charitable purposes. Of all the experts I have communicated with Professor Brunson is the one with most serious concerns about Ensign. So I looked to him for the bottom line on the chance that there will be a tab in the billions for Ensign to pay if the IRS takes the whistleblower complaint seriously. According to an article published by The Washington Post, a whistleblower named David Nielsen sent a 74 page letter to the IRS accusing the church of stock piling and misusing $100 billion of tithing money. The blank where it says book value of total assets does seem indicative of management holding out, but choosing not to answer a question that is not required to compute the tax is not something that puts you on the eve of destruction. A whistleblower complaint to the IRS accuses The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of building a $100 billion investment portfolio using donations intended for charitable purposes, potentially in violation of federal tax laws, according to, Church spokesman Eric Hawkins declined to respond to The Post’s reporting, and instead directed The Salt Lake Tribune to, According to The Post, Nielsen’s complaint describes the church collecting roughly $7 billion in member contributions each year. A church-owned ‘anti-bank’ Consider what happened in … I asked Professor Brunson about that. 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