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Eli Lilly’s Church Claims JP Morgan Chase Mismanaged Millions

Pastor-supporting philanthropist’s 'religious home' alleges it lost $13 million from bank’s big fees and bad investments.
Eli Lilly’s Church Claims JP Morgan Chase Mismanaged Millions
Image: Flickr / Thomas Belknap

[Update (Jan. 8, 2015): Bloomberg examines the church's lawsuit and related complaints against Chase.]

Eli Lilly, Jr., of Eli Lilly and Co. pharmaceutical company and the Lilly Endowment, was baptized, sang in the youth choir, and served as an adult at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis.

Now the church has filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase after the bank’s alleged mismanagement lost the church millions of dollars, reports the Indianapolis Star.

The church, which was founded in 1837, received three trusts when Lilly died in 1977. Through a series of bank mergers, two of those trusts ended up at JPMorgan, where they went from a high of $39.2 million in 2007 to a low of $26.7 million just a year later. JPMorgan voluntarily resigned as trustee last November.

“JPMorgan caused the church trusts to lose approximately $13 million in value as a result of JPMorgan’s decisions to purchase over 177 different investment products, mostly from itself, using Church funds because they produced the highest revenues to JPMorgan,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit comes days after news broke about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation of JPMorgan Chase for steering “private-banking clients to its own investment products and away from those offered by outside firms,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Lilly, who was a life-long Episcopalian, co-founded the Lilly Endowment with his father and brother in 1937. The endowment has been a tremendous benefit to churches and Christians ever since, Emory University preaching professor Tom Long told PBS when his friend Craig Dykstra retired from 23 years of leading the endowment’s religion division in 2012.

“Anytime you work with the church you’re working with a thimble in the ocean, and there are these tremendous secular powers and forces at work that are not always in our interest," he said. "So this is a remarkable part of Craig’s hope, that he knows that these efforts, when you put the telescope on them, are quite small over against the cultural forces, will pay off in terms of—have paid off and will pay off in terms of deeper church life, more faithful ministry.”

Under Dykstra’s leadership, the endowment gave more than $100 million to enable thousands of pastors to take sabbaticals.*

Dykstra and the Lilly Endowment “changed the tone of how Christians in America think about the future, by making it more focused around hope, around possibilities, around excellence, around a way of life abundant,” L. Gregory Jones, Christian ministry professor at Duke University Divinity School, told PBS.

The endowment, which also gives grants in the areas of community development and education, aims to “deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians, primarily by helping to strengthen their congregations.”

CT has covered a myriad of projects funded by the Lilly Endowment, including a video series on why Christians need to know their history, a study to discern why young people drift away from their faith, and research revealing that we don’t go to church as often as we say we do.

*Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the figures involved in Lilly Endowment's clergy renewal program. Lilly Endowment Inc says it has has given more than $108 million through its Clergy Renewal programs since 1998. In a statement to CT, an endowment spokesperson said: "Awarded to congregations nationwide, Clergy Renewal grants have allowed 2,421 pastors to step away from the day-to-day leadership of their congregations for travel, reflection, study and other rejuvenating experiences. Clergy Renewal is part of the Endowment’s larger commitment to grantmaking designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians." CT apologizes for the error.

[Photo courtesy Thomas Belknap - Flickr]

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