David Nielsen is the former Mormon investment manager who became a whistleblower regarding the church’s finances and tax-exempt status.
A criminal complaint has been filed with the IRS by Nielsen, 41, and his identical twin brother, Lars. That confidential complaint was obtained by the Washington Post. Nielsen alleges that the Mormon church built a lucrative investment portfolio worth around $100 billion through the donations of members and did not use those funds for charitable purposes.
The Mormon church typically asks members to contribute 10 percent of their income to the organization in a practice known as tithing. In Nielsen’s complaint, he wrote, “Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Nielsen Is Looking for a Cut of What the Mormon Church Owes in Back Taxes, as Per IRS Policy
Nielsen has asked for the IRS to strip the church of its tax-exempt status and is looking for a cut of the back-taxes allegedly owed by the church. The IRS typically offers rewards for whistleblowers. Ensign Peak Advisors is based in Salt Lake City, close to the Mormon church’s headquarters.
The company was founded in 1997. Ensign Peak was set up in order to “benefit, perform the functions of, or carry out the purposes of” the LDS Church, according to Ensign’s articles of incorporation.” A website for the investment firm is no longer operational.
Until September 2019, Nielsen had been a senior portfolio manager for the Mormon-church run investment non-profit, Ensign Peak Advisors. Nielsen said that the money that went through Ensign Peak was used to prop-up a struggling shopping mall in Salt Lake City and an equally struggling insurance company.
A section on the Mormon church’s website regarding finances says that the church retains some donations for the future. Most of the donations go toward the day-to-day running of the church.
2. David Nielsen Began Working at Ensign Peak Advisors in 2010
According to Nielsen’s LinkedIn page, he is a finance graduate of Brigham Young University and attained his MBA from UCLA. Nielsen is from Modesto, California. Since graduation, Nielsen has worked for a variety of financial services companies before landing at Ensign Peak Advisors in September 2010.
A brief profile on David Nielsen from the Ultralink’s website says that he founded his first company, CMG Marketing, while a student at Brigham Young University. Nielsen’s job in finance was in New York City with the hedge-fund, The D.E. Shaw Group.
3. Nielsen Founded His Own Tech Startip in Silicon Valley in 2012
In June 2012, Nielsen founded his own company, Ultralink. On his Facebook page, Nielsen says that he founded the company along with Spencer Nielsen.
Ultralink was founded in Silicon Valley, according to the company’s website. The company’s mission is listed as “to explore, improve and innovate linking technology.” The blurb goes on to say, “The Ultralink itself is a modern, flexible, and intelligent way of connecting data and accessing it wherever you want. Hyperlinks can easily break or become stale. They can be tedious to author and you can’t use too many of them. Ultralinks can supplement and even replace hyperlinks in many different scenarios.”
4. Nielsen Has Now Followed His Wife & Has Left the Mormon Church
Nielsen resigned from Ensign Peak in late August 2019. In a letter, according to the Washington Post, Nielsen wrote that his employment with the organization had become “unworkable” because his wife and children had left the church and wanted him to follow. Nielsen’s wife, Karly, is the founder of the boutique real estate agency, Niche Homes, in Salt Lake City.
According to her LinkedIn page, Karly is also a graduate of Brigham Young University. A bio of Karly on that page reads, “Don’t be fooled by Karly Nielsen’s easy demeanor and warm charm—she is one of the fiercest and grittiest people you will ever meet.” The bio adds that Karly has lived all across the United States with her family and that in her spare time “you can find her and her family hiking, dirt biking, camping and climbing in the nearby Wasatch Mountains.”
5. In Drafting the Complaint, Lars Nielsen Recalled a Woman He Met in Mexico Who Saved Every Penny to Donate to the Church
In an interview about the complaint, Lars Nielsen, a health care consultant in Minnesota, told the Salt Lake Tribune that David Nielsen wanted to “expose fully detailing everything he knew about Ensign Peak Advisors.” Lars went on to tell the newspaper that while writing the complaint, he remembered a missionary trip he went on to Mexico. Lars said that he met a woman who couldn’t afford food or to clean her home because she was saving her money to donate it to the Mormon church.
Lars Nielsen said, “I am so utterly ashamed that her money, week after week, has gotten buried in a mountain, which is Ensign Peak Advisors.” According to his LinkedIn page, Lars Nielsen received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2009.