Is nothing sacred?
That’s what I wondered when I read about the former bishop of the Mormon Church who pled guilty to federal fraud charges.
Shawn Merriman faces up to 20 years in prison for allegedly bilking investors out of $21 million dollars. I know, it pales in comparison to the $65 billion Madoff scandal. That one after all also includes a couple of suicides. But there’s something particularly distasteful when religious leaders—who are charged with giving spiritual and moral guidance—use funds given in trust to take safari trips and to buy antique cars.
G.K. Chesterton once quipped that original sin is the one doctrine which can really be proved.
Whether it’s Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians, or Mormon Bishops, the love of money does seem to be the root of all kinds of evil, for religious or non-religious people. As bees are drawn to honey, crooks are drawn to money. And the market’s decline—and perhaps increased enforcement by the SEC—seem to be exposing these frauds, left, right, and center.
That’s why it’s so important to understand how your money is being invested. Look at the credentials of your adviser. Examine what he does. Question everything. If the manager has any integrity, he’ll welcome the chance to explain his approach—he won’t get defensive. And ask what controls are in place to prevent fraud. Dual controls, regular audits, and third-party involvement are industry-standards. Don’t settle for less.
The bad news is that no one is above financial temptation—even highly-religious folks. The good news is, with a little common sense, you don’t have to be a victim.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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