The Mormon church’s secret $100B investment fund, explained

The Mormon Church has quietly amassed a $100B fund to support religious and humanitarian causes. A new lawsuit alleges donation misuse fraud.

March 26, 2021

Photo via Getty Images

Earlier this week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was hit with a federal lawsuit alleging donation misuse fraud.

The lawsuit comes ~2 years after a whistleblower alleged the church’s secretive $100B investment division was using church donations to fund commercial ventures.

Wait — the Mormon church has a $100B investment fund?!

Yes… probably. For decades, information on the fund’s holdings has been kept secret. Few outside of the church knew much about it — that is, until an inside source tipped off the IRS in 2019.

The fund, Ensign Peak Advisors, got its name from a Salt Lake City hill that Brigham Young scaled in 1847 while scoping out a settlement.

Today, Ensign maintains a portfolio that spans hot stocks, Florida timberland, and investments in hedge funds. 

At first, church leaders had to approve every trade

Ensign started small, managing ~$1B in the 1970s. By 2019, the fund had reportedly grown 100x.

Today, Ensign is a little more transparent about its holdings. Voluntarily submitted SEC documents show the company had a fantastic Q4 in 2020:

  • Overall, the value of its stocks rose 11% to $44B
  • The fund grabbed 46k GameStop shares at <$19 each, pre-mania
  • The fund 4x’d its Tesla stake to 467k shares

At Ensign’s offices, biblical paintings hang alongside TVs playing CNBC and — as per church values — there are no investments in tobacco, alcohol, or gambling.

The lawsuit addresses the ancient practice of tithing 

There are 16m+ worldwide members of the Mormon church, and they are expected to contribute tithes (donations that amount to 10% of their income) to the Mormon church.

This week’s lawsuit alleges portions of these tithes were used by Ensign — a registered tax-exempt charity — for commercial purposes instead of religious ones. (The church denies this.)

Whatever the case, Masayoshi Son, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Harvard University should consider taking a page out of the Mormons’ investment playbook:

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