In May 2018, Truth & Transparency compiled public information connecting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, to 13 LLCs holding assets in the U.S. stock market worth over $32 billion. The public filings for the third quarter of 2019 for 12 of these LLCs show they are now worth a combined total of $34.9 billion. New filings for the final quarter of 2019 are expected to be made public in the coming weeks.
In addition to these companies, Truth & Transparency has connected two other LLCs to the Church: Morgan Hills Group and Marshfield Advisers. Of the two, Marshfield Advisers, was listed in 3 separate filings publicly available via the United States Security and Exchange Commission. However, unlike the reports regarding the previous 13 discovered in 2018, these reports did not deal with trading in the U.S. stock markets, but rather as a venture capital investor.
When transitioning from being privately held to publicly traded in the U.S., companies may or may not be required to publicly file documents with the SEC outlining voter and investor rights for all parties who hold financial stake in the organization. If filed, these documents are approved and signed by a representative from each stakeholder. Marshfield Advisers is identified in such filings for Gossamer Bio, aTyr Pharma, and Fastly.
The amount Marshfield Advisers holds in each organization, the price paid for their shares, as well as the point in time the investments were made are not disclosed in the reports and, therefore, publicly unknown. All three documents were signed by the same representative of the Church whose employment Truth & Transparency was able to independently verify.
Gossamer Bio, a San Diego-based biopharmaceutical company, announced its first round of private fundraising in January 2018 and filed for their initial public offering in July of the same year. Since going public, the company has enjoyed spikes in its stock price, but has ultimately decreased approximately 28% from opening price at the time of publication.
aTyr Pharma’s website states its mission is “to translate newly discovered biological pathways to develop innovative therapeutics with improved outcomes for patients.” According to Crunchbase, a website dedicated to tracking venture capitalist investments in a crowdfunding fashion, aTyr began fundraising as far back as 2007. The company went public in 2015 and its stock price has since dropped 97% in value.
Fastly specializes in web content delivery, providing their customers with fast hosting solutions. It was founded in 2011 and went public in 2019. It has since risen in public value approximately 42%.
Marshfield Advisers and Morgan Hills Group were discovered as part of a deeper investigation into the original 13 LLCs discovered in 2018. Those organizations’ ties to the Mormon Church were uncovered by observing that the Church was listed publicly as the owner of their internet domain names, such as elkforkpartners.com. The ownership of the domains was corroborated by the fact that the Church controlled the IP addresses of those domains.
The control of all domain names is done via the internet's domain name system or DNS. The function of DNS is perhaps easiest to understand when compared to a phone book. When a user enters a domain, such as truthandtransparency.org, into an internet browser, the computer queries the DNS to receive the IP address where the website is hosted, such as 18.104.22.168. This is similar to looking up a phone number in a phone book. Upon Truth & Transparency’s reporting in 2018, the Mormon Church’s DNS servers were hosting the authoritative records to the domains for all 13 of the LLCs.
However, in April 2019 the control of those records was relinquished to a third party known as Brand Shelter, a company that helps protect organizations trademarks online. The Church, owning thousands of domain names, appeared to only have moved the 13 LLCs' domains to the third party.
In an attempt to find any additional domains moved from the Church’s control to Brand Shelter’s, Truth & Transparency leveraged a database of historical domain ownership and DNS records maintained by Security Trails. By checking the tens of thousands of domains with records hosted with Brand Shelter, only 17 were once hosted by the Mormon Church. 15 were already known domains, the others belonged to Morgan Hills Group and Marshfield Advisers.
The code used to conduct this investigation can be found here.
At this time, the function of Morgan Hills Group is unclear. Business licenses were found in both Delaware and California for the company.
In December 2019, the Washington Post reported on a complaint filed by a whistleblower to the United States Internal Revenue Service. The whistleblower, a former employee of Ensign Peak Advisers, the subsidiary of the Church that oversees all investments, claimed the Church manages more than $100 billion for the Mormon Church.
It is believed that the LLCs discovered by Truth & Transparency in May 2018, and the additional two reported here, are part of that sum. However, this cannot be confirmed. Ensign Peak redirected comment to the Church who did not respond before the publication of this article.
This investigation cost Truth & Transparency over $1000, a significant amount of our budget, and dozens of hours of work. If you found it valuable, please consider making a recurring or one time donation here. Thank you for your generosity.
The following lists the LLCs originally reported on in May 2018 and links to their most recent SEC filings: