David Nielsen, a former Ensign Peak portfolio manager, shared with his twin brother Lars about the shady practices and massive amounts of money the Mormon church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have in investments. Together the brothers compiled information and reported it to the authorities at the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) and the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). The whistleblower report indicates that the Mormon church held over $100 billion of assets in a large investment fund and that the church-operated fund failed to use its revenues for charitable purposes and instead used them in for-profit ventures. It also alleges that the church misled contributors and the public about the usage and extent of those funds. The church hid and misstated most of the money in shell corporations making it difficult to trace back to the church.
Lars Nielsen wanted to also share the report with the media, but David was less interested in defaming the church publicly. After encouraging his brother in vain, in the end, Lars leaked the documents to reporters himself in late 2019. He believes members deserve an apology from church leaders and the investment company.
The complaint was filed with the IRS on November 21, 2019, by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old church member who worked for Ensign as a portfolio manager—but his twin brother, Lars, provided the Post with a copy of the complaint.Mormon Church Reportedly Amassed $100 Billion Fund For ‘Second Coming Of Christ’
The brothers decided to compile the complaint after each had come to question aspects of the religion their family had practiced since the earliest days of the church, according to interviews with Lars and correspondence from his brother that Lars provided to The Washington Post. But it was Lars, acting alone, who decided to go public with the complaint. And after a lifetime of shared aims, that decision has opened a rift between the twins so deep that they stopped speaking to each other.These Mormon twins worked together on an IRS whistleblower complaint over the church’s billions — and it tore them apart
Letter to an IRS Director
Lars even created videos posted to youtube in order to explain all the complex financial and legal concepts in layman’s terms. He calls his documents a Letter to an IRS Director (presumably a nod to the Letter to a CES Director which discusses church history and doctrine issues). He has a complete video which is over an hour, and an abridged version coming in at 7 minutes (see video above).
He explains in the description of the Letter to an IRS Director that the analysis of the church (the wealthiest church in America) explains that the church funneled excess tithing funds to Ensign Peak for investment. These investments have been tax-free even though it should not qualify for tax exemptions. The funds have only ever been used for commercial purposes and the church leadership has deceived members and the government.
An exposé on the full financial picture of America’s wealthiest religion. An analysis submitted to the IRS Whistleblower Office. How the Mormon Church and Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc. operate today. The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives Ensign Peak Advisors (EPA), the “reserve of the reserves,” between $1 and $2 billion each year. EPA’s investment income is currently $7 billion per year. EPA has received around $20 billion in tax breaks from the American public over the past 22 years; however, it has never spent one dollar on anything religious, educational, or charitable despite now having more than $100 billion in highly-liquid (non-real estate) assets. EPA allegedly has made two unlawful distributions to bail out Beneficial Financial Group and to build the City Creek Mall using 100% never-invested tithing surplus. Public statements by Mormon leaders reveal a sustained intent to deceive the public, the membership, and the IRS about its size and use of funds.Lars Nielsen, Letter to an IRS Director
Is Tithing Still Needed?
This report challenges the tax-exempt status of the church and exposes the fact that they have so much money on hand and invested that tithing from membership is no longer needed financially to support the mission of the church. As has been taught in the church, there would come a day when the church “will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose,” “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.”
Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes not a dollar that it cannot pay at once. At last we are in a position that we can pay as we go. We do not have to borrow any more, and we wont have to if the Latter-day Saints continue to live their religion and observe this law of tithing, It is the law of revenue to the Church.
Furthermore, I want to say to you, we may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask you 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. I want to live to see that day, if the Lord will spare my life. It does not make any difference, though, so far as that is concerned, whether I live or not. That is the true policy, the true purpose of the Lord in the management of the affairs of His Church.Joseph F. Smith
April 1907 General Conference
Maximizing Donations Through Obfuscation
The reason so much effort was put into hiding and obfuscating these funds was so that members wouldn’t think that tithing was no longer needed. Even though that is an expectation past leaders of the church have set. Roger Clarke, the head of Ensign Peak Advisors, stated that he believed church leaders were concerned that public knowledge of the fund’s wealth might discourage tithing. “Paying tithing is more of a sense of commitment than it is the church needing the money,” Mr. Clarke said. “So they never wanted to be in a position where people felt like, you know, they shouldn’t make a contribution.”
The First Official Response from the Church Newsroom
The church issued a press release to respond to the whistleblower’s claims and subsequent news coverage. They claim innocence. They claim that they have been misunderstood and that the circulated claims are based on a “narrow perspective and limited information”. They clearly state that they “comply with all applicable law”. They even state that they welcome the opportunity to work with officials and address questions. These authorities are the SEC who started an investigation when they received the documents.
Claims being currently circulated are based on a narrow perspective and limited information. The Church complies with all applicable law governing our donations, investments, taxes, and reserves. We continue to welcome the opportunity to work with officials to address questions they may have.First Presidency Statement on Church Finances, 17 December 2019
Their defensive reassurances prove to be simple posturing and empty claims because since then, the mormon church has been ordered to cease misstating investments and came to a settlement of $5 million with the SEC. Since the settlement, the church issued a new press release expressing that they “regret mistakes made” and that they “consider the matter closed” because they are hoping it will go away and the investigations end. The IRS is still taking a look though.
Questioning a Corporately Structured Church and its Tax Exempt Status
In his complaint, Nielson alleges that the Church redirects charitable donations by members to the investment portfolio managed by Ensign, which allegedly grew from $12 billion in 1997, when Ensign was formed, to about $100 billion in 2019. According to the complaint, “while accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years,” The Washington Post reports. Nielson claims that Ensign is improperly designated as a tax-exempt religious organization and is violating federal tax law.Mormon Church to Pay SEC Millions Following Whistleblower Allegations – Whistleblower Network News
The whistleblower documents also challenge the tax-exempt status of the church. They claim that the church operates more like a corporation and should thus pay taxes. This is a fair point, as we know the church is heavily involved in politics and legislation, they run multiple businesses and make plenty of profit. They also operate as a church, but that seems to be ancillary to the real corporate nature of the church. One reason they have been able to amass so much wealth is that they have not had to pay any taxes. No taxes ever. They act as if they are above the law, but then expect members to follow the law of the land.
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.Article of Faith 12
This brings us back to the beginning. David and Lars Nielsen felt that the church should have the same integrity it expects of its members. The church should be subject to obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. They saw evidence firsthand that the church was not doing this. They saw the church was actually committing fraud and illegal activities, so they put it all on the line and reported it. They became whistleblowers because they had integrity. The same integrity they learned by being raised in the church. They outgrew the church and saw it was lacking this integrity, but the first step to repentance is admitting fault and correcting the issue. The only way to achieve this was to report it so the law could investigate and bring the secret Mormon billions into the public light.
Whistleblower Memorandum – The 2023 Update
The documents in the 2019 report included some placeholder content and now in 2023, they have updated the report to contain even more information. This information details the foreign accounts, deceptive statements, fraudulent SEC filings and tax avoidance and more from the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The First Presidency and the Presiding Bishopric, and Ensign Peak Advisors. Here’s the more recent document available to download:
David A. Nielsen, a former employee at EPA, says in the filing that the new memorandum contains more information than the document he submitted to the IRS Whistleblower Office in November of 2019 that was a “placeholder” submission and was given to ReligionUnplugged.com and other outlets by Nielsen’s twin brother, Lars Nielsen, in the fall of 2019. The new document updates, reframes and renews allegations about Ensign Peak Advisors and the Latter-day Saints church.Whistleblower Details New Allegations About $100 Billion LDS Fund, Paul Glader
New accusations in the memo
The new document alleges several new violations by EPA and its leaders.
Whistleblower Details New Allegations About $100 Billion LDS Fund, Paul Glader
- Foreign accounts: “EPA now admits having foreign accounts, after denying it under oath for 10+ years: Mr. Nielsen’s prior submissions demonstrated that EPA has falsely denied under oath each year since at least 2007 that EPA has long had foreign bank and investment accounts, estimated to exceed $9 billion — and thus EPA is liable for FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) penalties of more than $2 billion. Now, EPA has finally admitted in a recently published Form 990-T filing in November 2020 (for 2019) that EPA does have foreign bank and investment accounts.” Nielsen’s document argues that EPA should be liable for more than $2 billion in penalties.
- Deceptive statements: Nielsen’s document states that EPA was deceptive in describing its assets to regulators even after the stories broke in 2019 and the firm came under national scrutiny. “EPA has always had billions in assets since its formation in 1997. The deception began in 2007 with the false statement of EPA’s having only ‘$1,000,000’ in assets,” says Nielsen’s document. “In the 2019 filing, EPA continued to withhold that required information from the IRS, and to repeat the annual, false and deceptive statement, ‘OVER 1,000,000.’“
- Fraudulent SEC filings: Nielsen’s document says EPA disguised its massive investment business by making filings with the SEC of Form 13F in the names of various LLCs more than 260 times over 10+ years, rather than in EPA’s own name. “Upon learning of Mr. Nielsen’s IRS submission in December 2019, EPA abruptly began filing in its own name as required. EPA’s change in approach is an admission by conduct that its more than 260 fraudulent SEC filings were improper and were acts in furtherance of a Klein conspiracy to defraud the IRS, by concealing its massive securities investment business,” the document reads.
- Tax avoidance: Nielsen’s document claims EPA has not disputed his original allegations that 1) EPA engaged in no “religious, charitable or … educational” activities in the entire relevant period, 1997-2019, and 2) “EPA’s only distributions over 22 years were for the for-profit operations of an insurance company and a luxury shopping mall. This was approximately $2 billion to fund classic ‘private’ interests.”
Feature on 60 Minutes
David Nielsen had not spoken publicly until 2023 regarding his whistleblower report on the church. In May 2023 though, he was featured on 60 Minutes in an investigative journalism piece regarding the church titled Whistleblower David Nielsen Speaks Out After Reporting the Mormon Church to IRS in 2019. He reiterated the issues in his whistleblower report and they also interviewed Christopher Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. He stated the church is not secretive about its finances but is confidential and when pressed on what the difference was, he stammered to come up with an intelligible answer. The church has responded with an official statement of the news segment calling it “unfortunate” and dismissing the whistleblower report as “unfounded allegations” which has already caused the SEC to fine the church 5 million dollars.
- LDS Church’s Misstated Filings to SEC Approved by First Presidency
- 60 Minutes Transcript: Whistleblower David Nielsen Speaks Out After Reporting the Mormon Church to IRS in 2019