Investing might not be against the Mormon religion, but it's something the church keeps on the down-low. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a secret $100 billion investment fund managed by its asset management firm, Ensign Peak Advisors.
Mormon church likely made $14 million from selling GameStop shares.
According to second-quarter 2021 filings with the SEC, the fund disposed of 46,000 shares of GameStop that it bought in the fourth quarter of 2020. From the time Ensign bought shares in the video game company until it sold them, GameStop stock soared by about 900 percent. Depending on when shares were sold could mean that the fund earned anywhere from $9 million to $14 million.
Ensign also sold off about 13 percent of its Tesla stock. It still holds 561,000 shares in the electric-vehicle company, worth about $382 million, reports Market Insider.
Ensign Peak Advisors is the investment arm of the Mormon Church.
Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment arm of the Mormon church, has been around since 1997. However, the fund only first disclosed its holdings in 2020, which revealed that it held about $37.8 billion in stocks and mutual funds. The top holdings were Microsoft and Apple, followed by Amazon, Alphabet (Google), and Facebook.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over 16 million members. The members are encouraged to pay the church a “tithe,” which amounts to 10 percent of their annual income. That amounts to a boatload of money.
A whistleblower complaint gave the Mormon investment fund national attention.
In 2019, the size of the church’s investment fund got national attention after a former fund employee filed a whistleblower complaint with the IRS and the Washington Post got wind of the story.
The complaint accused church leaders of misleading members by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works, The Washington Post reported on December 17, 2019. At the time, Ensign was registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which is exempted from paying taxes in the U.S.
Ensign’s holdings reportedly included $40 billion in stocks, timberland in the Florida panhandle, and investments in hedge funds like Bridgewater Associates LP, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Mormon leaders deny claims that they improperly used funds.
Mormon church leaders were quick to respond after The Washington Post revealed details of the complaint. Most of the funds from member tithes and donations are used to meet the needs of the Church, including more meetinghouses, temples, education, humanitarian work, and missionary efforts, the leaders wrote in a statement on December 17, 2019.
“Over many years, a portion is methodically safeguarded through wise financial management and the building of a prudent reserve for the future. This is a sound doctrinal and financial principle taught by the Savior in the Parable of the Talents and lived by the Church and its members. All Church funds exist for no other reason than to support the Church’s divinely-appointed mission,” wrote church leaders in the statement.