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Whistleblower David Nielsen speaks out after reporting the Mormon church to IRS in 2019

Nielsen on working for the Mormon church
David Nielsen's experience working for the Mormon church's investment firm 02:48

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors, were fined $5 million in February for using shell companies to hide the size of a $32 billion equity portfolio, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. A former Ensign Peak portfolio manager blew the whistle on the fund to the IRS in 2019, after working at the firm for nine years. He alleged that the church had accumulated $100 billion in assets and, instead of spending the money on good works, used the money to bail out business with church ties. He claimed that the church violated its religious tax exemption status. 

Church leaders have denied the allegations.

60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, and spoke to David Nielsen about his time at Ensign Peak Advisors and his decision to file a complaint to the IRS.

David Nielsen was a former Wall Street money manager who left New York for Utah to work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' financial arm, Ensign Peak Advisors, as a senior portfolio manager. As a devout Mormon, Nielsen explained he felt a calling to serve his church and community, and was excited to work somewhere that was "really going to make a difference." 

David Nielsen explains where funds from tithing go 01:38

David Nielsen explained the concept of tithing, the payment that each Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member is expected to make to the religion.

David Nielsen on why he reported the Church to the IRS in 2019 01:42

David Nielsen turned whistleblower in 2019, after reporting the church to the IRS because, as he told Sharyn Alfonsi and 60 Minutes, "this is too big a deal… this is not an example for how we should be." Unable to fix things from inside the firm, Nielsen says he turned to the government because "integrity is at stake."

Bishop Christopher Waddell defends the Mormon church's handling of its vast holdings 02:20

Bishop Christopher Waddell defended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' handling of its financial holdings and assets, and said Ensign Peak Advisors is "the church's treasury…they're just holding the assets, reserves, on behalf of the church…" 

When asked if the confidential nature of this fund could erode trust between the church and its members, Waddell said "no." He believes that total resources at Ensign Peak don't need to be disclosed, and that whistleblower Nielsen didn't have a full grasp on the situation.

"We do announce missionary work. We do share what we're doing with humanitarian work. I think part of the lack of trust or lack of confidence comes from statements or comments from a whistleblower who doesn't have all the information, who doesn't understand…" 

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