Mormon Church made large profit on GameStop and Tesla stock craze, security filings show

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FILE – In this April 18, 2019, file photo, the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City is viewed. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has asked all its members in Utah to wear face coverings when in public, a request that comes as confirmed coronavirus infections in the state increase. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(KTVX) – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was one of those groups with “diamond hands,” making large profits from GameStop and Tesla stock earlier this year, documents show.

Recent security filings show the Church’s investment branch, Ensign Peak Advisors, purchased a large quantity of GameStop shares — 46,000 to be exact — near the end of 2020. At the time of that purchase, the stake was valued at under a million dollars, or $867,000.

Following the short squeeze of the video game retailer’s stock, which was catapulted by movement on a Reddit forum called “Wall Street Bets” in the first quarter of 2021, the value of that purchase has skyrocketed. Ensign Peak reported that those 46,000 shares were worth $8,732,000 at the end of the first quarter of 2021, meaning that the hedge fund made a profit of over 900% on its investment at that time.

The price of GameStop stock has fluctuated this week, but if Ensign Peak is maintaining “diamond hands,” and holding those shares, the stake would be worth $7,727,540 as of market opening time on Thursday.

KTVX reached out to Ensign Peak to inquire if the fund planned to hold onto its GameStop holdings but calls were not immediately returned.

The GameStop stock phenomenon took U.S. culture by storm in Jan. 2021 when the Reddit community coordinated to facilitate a short squeeze on the company’s value on the stock market, raising the embattled video game retailer’s stock by over 1,500%. GameStop stock began the month with a value of $17.25 and reached an all-time high of $483 on Jan. 28, with no reasoning other than the rallied support of internet “bros,” social media, and the ease of stock trading on platforms such as Robinhood.

Expressions coined on Reddit, such as “diamond hands,” which identified GameStop shareholders unwilling to sell their shares despite the market’s volatility, and “TO THE MOON,” expressing excitement at the shares’ astronomical increase in value, became commonplace on social media and in American vernacular due to the craze.

Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk, who is also said to have raised and lower other markets, such as the Dogecoin cryptocurrency, with his remarks on Twitter, was in on the mania. He sent a simple tweet, “Gamestonk!!,” a play on a popular meme, after GameStop’s stock hit $200 on Jan. 26.

Interestingly, Ensign Peak also cashed in on Tesla stock, growing its holdings of Musk’s company to a stake value of $433 million, according to the same regulatory filings.

The Church came under fire in Dec. 2019, when David Nielsen, a former employee of Ensign Peak Advisors, revealed evidence the hedge fund had ballooned to a value of $100 billion and alleged the Church had misused that money, which was gathered by tithing funds and intended for charitable purposes, according to Nielsen’s allegations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded to Nielsen’s with the following statement.

“We take seriously the responsibility to care for the tithes and donations received from members. The vast majority of these funds are used immediately to meet the needs of the growing Church including more meetinghouses, temples, education, humanitarian work, and missionary efforts throughout the world. Over many years, a portion is methodically safeguarded through wise financial management and the building of a prudent reserve for the future. This is a sound doctrinal and financial principle taught by the Savior in the Parable of the Talents and lived by the Church and its members. All Church funds exist for no other reason than to support the Church’s divinely-appointed mission.”

The statement given on Dec. 18, 2019, continued:

“Claims being currently circulated are based on a narrow perspective and limited information. The Church complies with all applicable law governing our donations, investments, taxes, and reserves. We continue to welcome the opportunity to work with officials to address questions they may have.”

KTVX reached out to the Church for comment on the GameStop stock fillings and has yet to hear back.

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