SEC Charges The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Its Investment Management Company for Disclosure Failures and Misstated Filings
On February 21, 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC“) announced charges against Ensign Peak Advisers Inc., a non-profit entity operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to manage the Church’s investments, for failing to file forms that would have disclosed the Church’s equity investments, and for instead filing forms for shell companies that obscured the Church’s portfolio and misstated Ensign Peak’s control over the Church’s investment decisions.
The SEC also announced charges against the Church for causing these violations. To settle the charges, Ensign Peak agreed to pay a $4 million penalty and the Church agreed to pay a $1 million penalty.
The SEC’s order finds that, from 1997 through 2019, Ensign Peak failed to file Forms 13F, the forms on which investment managers are required to disclose the value of certain securities they manage. According to the order, the Church was concerned that disclosure of its portfolio, which by 2018 grew to approximately $32 billion, would lead to negative consequences.
To obscure the amount of the Church’s portfolio, and with the Church’s knowledge and approval, Ensign Peak created thirteen shell LLCs, ostensibly with locations throughout the U.S., and filed Forms 13F in the names of these LLCs rather than in Ensign Peak’s name. The order finds that Ensign Peak maintained investment discretion over all relevant securities, that it controlled the shell companies, and that it directed nominee “business managers,” most of whom were employed by the Church, to sign the Commission filings.
The shell LLCs’ Forms 13F misstated, among other things, that the LLCs had sole investment and voting discretion over the securities. In reality, the SEC’s order finds, Ensign Peak retained control over all investment and voting decisions.
Ensign Peak agreed to settle the SEC’s allegation that it violated Section 13(f) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 13f-1 thereunder by failing to file Forms 13F and for misstating information in these forms. The Church agreed to settle the SEC’s allegation that it caused Ensign Peak’s violations through its knowledge and approval of Ensign Peak’s use of the shell LLCs.
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