What to Do About Ensign Peak Advisors

In my last post, I wrote about the 60 Minutes segment on Ensign Peak Advisors. As part of that segment, the interviewer asks Bishop Waddell, “But don’t you agree this would be a nonissue if there were more transparency?”

He responds, “No. Because then everyone would be telling us what they want us to do with the money.”

Frankly, I think he’s wrong. But for now let’s respect that. For purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that the church will maintain a significant investment portfolio. And whatever I think about it,[fn1] I’m going to be indifferent to whether and how it should spend down that portfolio. Because I think EPA’s current status, as an external tax-exempt investment advisor, is ultimately untenable, notwithstanding the fact that it’s legal.

What do I mean? Well, as a general rule, investment managers are for-profit, taxable endeavors. EPA is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. (Critically, “nonprofit” doesn’t mean it can’t earn a profit. Some nonprofits—including, notably, hospital chains—are tremendously profitable. The “non” in nonprofit means that the profit earned can’t benefit any individual. While this is a little over-simplified, it basically means a nonprofit can’t distribute its profits as dividends.)

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