LDS Church Finances Whistleblower To Break Silence On 60 Minutes

Former Ensign Peak portfolio manager David Nielsen will share his experience on exposing details of LDS Church finances

For the first time, the whistleblower will speak publicly about revealing the size and use of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ investment portfolio. David Nielsen, a former portfolio manager for the LDS Church’s investment arm, Ensign Peak, blew the whistle on the church’s $100 billion reserve portfolio and misuse of charitable donations. He has never spoken about his experience or told his story publicly, but that’s about to change.

60 Minutes will air a report, including an interview with Nielsen, on Sunday, May 14.

How did we get here?

In November 2019, David Nielsen, a former money manager at Ensign Peak, the investment management branch of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints, files a whistleblower complaint with the IRS. Nielsen reveals that Ensign Peak had a $100 billion reserve portfolio from stockpiling charitable donations (given as tithing and other monetary donations by members) rather than using them for charitable purposes—possibly breaching federal tax rules. 

The whistleblower complaint accuses LDS Church leaders of misleading members about how their donations are spent. (Members are encouraged to donate 10% of their earnings as tithings to the church to remain in good standing and participate in religious ceremonies and services in its temples.) The complaint also accuses the church of using those tax-exempt donations for business ventures like the City Creek shopping center. 

Come January 2023, Nielsen calls on the Senate to investigate the LDS Church and Ensign Peak Advisors for tax fraud. He files a 90-page memorandum with the Senate Finance Committee, which shows “evidence of false statements, systematic accounting fraud” and violations of tax laws. It goes on to say, “For at least 22 years, [Ensign Peak] and certain senior executives have perpetrated an unlawful scheme that relies on willfully and materially false statements to the IRS and the SEC, so this for-profit, securities investment business that unfairly competes with large hedge funds can masquerade as a tax-exempt, charitable organization.” 

Following the whistleblower complaint, the LDS Church responded with a statement, asserting that “The Church complies with all applicable law governing our donations, investments, taxes, and reserves.” The LDS Church has since agreed that was a lie and the church did intentionally violate the law, per a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The SEC settlement outlines the efforts made by Ensign Peak, with the knowledge and approval of the LDS Church’s First Presidency, to hide the nature and wealth of the Church’s holdings. Ensign Peak broke the law by creating 13 shell companies to avoid disclosing the size of the Church’s portfolio to the SEC and the public. To what end? “The Church was concerned that disclosure of the assets…would lead to negative consequences in light of the size of the Church’s portfolio.“ One might assume those negative consequences included church members’ refusing to pay to tithe if they knew the billions in the Church’s “reserve funds.”

Find a timeline of the LDS Church’s history of concealing its wealth from federal authorities and the public here.

There are other cases and investigations regarding the LDS Church’s finances, at least partially as fallout from Nielsen’s whistleblower complaint, that are still outstanding. James Huntsman, brother of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., filed suit against the LDS Church, claiming the church misused the money he donated (tithed) to the LDS Church. Nielsen filed a statement in the case, claiming the LDS church used tithing money for improper purposes, such as funding its mall, the City Creek Center. The IRS could also further investigate the claims made by the whistleblower complaint that are under its purview.

About the upcoming 60 Minutes report on LDS church finances whistleblower, “The Church’s Firm”

60 Minutes “reports on the $100 billion fortune built by the secretive investment arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a whistleblower’s allegation that instead of spending the money on good works, hundreds of millions were used to bail out businesses with church ties. Sharyn Alfonsi speaks with David Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager at the church’s firm, about his role in a federal investigation and decision to come forward. Guy Campanile is the producer.”

The 60 Minutes report will air Sunday, May 14 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and Paramount+ and Tuesday, at 8 p.m. ET, on the CBS News app.

This is perhaps the most attention the LDS Church has received on the newsmagazine program since Mike Wallace interviewed LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley on 60 Minutes back in 1996. 

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Christie Porter
Christie Porter
Christie Porter is the managing editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade, writing about everything under the sun, but she really loves writing about nerdy things and the weird stuff. She recently published her first comic book short this year.

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