LDS Church says ‘unfortunate’ ‘60 Minutes’ episode was based on ‘unfounded allegations’

Utah-based faith says it believes in having “adequate resources available to fulfill its divinely appointed responsibilities.”

(Rick Bowmer | AP) The Salt Lake Temple, before undergoing its current renovation, is seen in 2019. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says the "60 Minutes" episode was based on "unfounded allegations."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a news release Monday calling a story broadcast by the CBS newsmagazine show “60 Minutes” on the faith’s huge investment portfolio “unfortunate” and said it was based on “unfounded allegations.”

The 13-minute segment featured former portfolio-manager-turned-whistleblower David A. Nielsen accusing Ensign Peak Advisors, the Salt Lake City-based investment arm of the church, of violating its tax-exempt status, hiding assets from authorities and the public, and stockpiling upward of $100 billion instead of spending money earned from member donations on charitable purposes.

(CBS News) David Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager with the LDS Church's investment wing who turned whistleblower, talks to correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi in Sunday's edition of "60 Minutes."

Nielsen, speaking publicly for the first time since filing a complaint in late 2019 with the IRS, told “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi the church’s investment account was “really a clandestine hedge fund” posing as a charity.

In response, the Utah-based faith issued the following two-paragraph release Monday:

“The church believes in being financially responsible by carefully ensuring it has adequate resources available to fulfill its divinely appointed responsibilities. To church members who support the work of salvation through living the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for those in need, inviting all to receive the gospel and uniting families for eternity, we’ll continue to move forward consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ which makes this world a better place.

“It’s unfortunate ‘60 Minutes’ sought to elevate a story based on unfounded allegations by a former employee who has a different view on how the church should manage its resources.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Christopher Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In the segment, W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, the ecclesiastical overseers of the church’s far-reaching financial, real estate, investment and charitable operations, referred to Ensign Peak as the faith’s “treasury” and reiterated that it is seen as a “rainy day fund” intended to buffer it economically.

He declined to address assertions that the Ensign Peak assets have reached as much as $150 billion. When asked at one point if that figure “was in the ballpark,” Waddell smiled and said only that the church had “significant resources.”