SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT re: Riley Trust Tobacco Compan Stock & WTS

by Oroborus21 78 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Oroborus21

    Greetings to all:

    I have no interest in pontificating on this matter which to me seems so straightforward. However, since I continue to see newbies and others periodically post in error stating that the WTS "owns" Tobacco company stock I believe that this should be corrected and the matter put to rest, hopefully for good.


    1) ANYONE, (who is lawfully eligible) may create a trust for the benefit of a charity, religious organization, person, etc. In most cases, the beneficiaries have no operational control of the trust or the trust holdings and often are largely unaware of the compilation of the trust assets. This is especially true in the case of charities or religious organizations, where all that they would receive from the trustee, would be the charitable donation on an annual basis.

    2) In 1997 a trust was created by a private individual, Henrietta Riley, entitled the "H.M. Riley Trust For Watch Tower Bible." This trust is a 501(c)3 federally tax-exempt entity whose sole beneficiary is the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. (Fed tax exempt organizations that are not otherwise exempt must file 990 Forms with the I.R.S. and the H.R. Trust has been filing these since 1998.)

    3) Riley is what is known as the Settlor of the trust and presumably is either a Witness or sympathetic to the WTS. There has never been any evidence that Ms. Riley was personally aware of the assets of the trust or ever attempted to exercise any control over the trust holdings.

    4) The Trustee and manager of the trust is Comerica Bank of Detroit, M.I. whose personnel spend approximately 2 hrs a week administering the trust and which received in 2004 $1,210.00.

    5) There is no evidence that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, or any official of the WTS has ever had any control over the assets of the trust or even knowledge of the trust holdings.

    6) The trust assets as of April 30, 2005 consisted of approximately 48% Oil & Gas Royalties (from owned or leased Oil/Gas wells I assume) and the remainder of the assets in Corporate Stocks (22%), Corporate Bonds (14%) & Mutual Funds (16%).

    6) Until June 24, 2002, the Trust held 350 Shares of Phillip Morris Companies (maker of Nabisco crackers and yes, cigarettes too). The value of these stocks as of April 30, 2002 were $54.43 each or a total asset worth of $19,050.00. [These shares were listed in the Asset Description section of the 990 Filings under "Consumer Staples"]

    7) On June 24, 2002, these 350 shares in Phillip Morris Co. were sold at a market rate of $49.53 each ($17,335.50).

    8) As of June 24, 2002, the H.M. Riley Trust has not reported holding any shares in Phillip Morris. [But the trust does hold shares in other interesting companies such as Pfizer, Harley Davidson, GE, Procter & Gamble, & WalMart among others) There is no way of knowing what motivated the sale, whether the Trustee was directed to sell the stock by Riley, or whether Comerica just made a wise decision to sell off a falling stock (from $54.43 to $49.53 in two months).

    9) In 2004 the WTS received $1,774,331.00 in charitable contribution from the trust.

    10) A beneficiary of a trust, in a situation such as this, may refuse to receive the contribution and that is the only option regarding the trust.

    PROOF of the above (financial) facts can be found by your goiing to and looking up the H.R. Riley Trust ( The 990s are available to free users for the years 2003-2005. Archived years require premium membership. The filing for 2002 was the last year of the Phillip Morris stock ownership.

    The detail of the assets transactions of the 2003 filing contains the info regarding the sale of the 350 shares of Phillip Morris Co.


    brief responses to a couple of most recent commenters:

    From Rebel8:

    As to Eduardo's post.....he has stated his opinion many times in countless threads on the tobacco topic. Then a handful of posters respond by saying, "The WTS should check into their investments and not invest in something that could lead to breaking their own rules. They require JWs to do that." And there is no defense to that.

    I will post this, again:

    By considering the background of a company, an investor can also ensure that his money will not be used to support an unethical enterprise.—See Awake! February 8, 1962, pages 21-3.


    -- As should be completely clear from the facts, the WTS is not an INVESTOR in this situation. An Investor is the person who makes the decisions. Thus both the arguments of some referred to by Rebel8 and the Society's own statement regarding what an INVESTOR should do, do not apply to this situation where it is not an Investor but merely the beneficiary of someone else's investments.

    From Legolas:

    Ok just hold on there a second.....First, I am in trust for my childrens stock that they own ( that my father gave the kids when they where little) and I could have REFUSED to do that, and secondly I can sell that stock, thirdly do you really believe the that bullshit story that they, FOR OVER 14 -16 YEARS NEVER knew they had it?

    BULLSHIT!..... I get in my mail quarterly checks from that stock yearly...Not to mention about 3-4 other pieces mail from it yearly!

    -- As should be completely clear from the facts, Legolas is a TRUSTEE (what Comerica Bank is in the H.R. Riley Trust). The WTS does not have any administrative authority over the H.R. Riley Trust and no evidence has ever been put forth to show that anyone at the WTS has ever researched the filed 990s to ascertain just what the Trust assets consist of.

    (As to the 14-16 years comment, I don't know what Legolas is referring to?)

    Given that the WTS is no doubt receiving similar contributions from many such trusts and other planned giving sources, it is extremely unlikely that they do anything but say "thank you" and cash the checks.


    Ok, a few comments:

    I have stated previously that in an ideal world, an organization which holds itself out to be the sole one being used by God today, should hold itself to extremely high standards, perhaps as close to perfection as possible.

    Thus it would seem that the ideal would be that EVERY DOLLAR that the Society agrees to receive would be vetted in some way so that it could claim with absolute certainty that it was supported by "clean" money -- money that was not derived from immoral or illegal enterprises.

    The problem with such an ideal situation is three-fold.

    First, it would be impractical if not impossible to know the origin of every dollar or in a case such as this to monitor the trust fund manager's to insure that they NEVER invested, even for a short time, in a company that would be on the questionable or prohibited WTS list.

    Second, there is no such thing as a clean dollar or a clean company. Even otherwise unobjectionable companies have ethical problems, wrongdoing, or are otherwise connected or affiliated in some way with what would be an objectionable company or associate. (Everything is connected people and like the House that Jack Built, one need only follow enough steps to connect one thing to another.)

    Third, even the Jewish Temple and Christian churches then and now accept donations from sinners such as prostitutes, murderers, metalsmiths (weapon's makers), druggists, etc. Scripturally speaking the only instance ever recorded where a donation was not directly accepted was the 30 silver pieces of Judas which the Jewish leaders rejected but used to purchase a field for the burial of criminals and the indigent (thus making some use of it after all).

    Returning to the situation at hand....

    A whole lot of wind has been made about the 350 shares of PM stock that were held in the Trust for a period of at most 5 years. The total value of approx $20 K represents a tiny fraction of the total trust assets not too mention actual payout to the WTS from these shares.

    Are we going to start misapplying scriptures such as "A little leaven spoils the whole..." and "He that is faithful in little is faithful in much" in order to point a finger at the Society.

    [As an aside JWs misuse the later scripture all the time and give it the opposite meaning as if the scripture actually read: "He that is unfaithful in little will be unfaithful in much" but that is a logical fallacy and a complete misreading of the scripture which is describing how a righteous person is consistent in their behaviour.]

    Anyway only the most biased dishonest person, in my opinion, would fail to see just how ridiculous it would be to blame or disparage the Society for accepting a contribution because it so happened that within the entire trust of a net value of over $2 Million there was $20K that was owned in a company which - incidently has a mixture of "objectionable" (tobacco) and unobjectionable subsidiary companies (Nabisco, et al.).

    But let us for the sake of discussion, assume that someone at the Society knew that there were PM shares held within the trust. (During the period when PM stock was held in the trust.)

    Again the only option would be to refuse the donation. Is that truly reasonable?

    I don't believe that it is either reasonable nor even hypocritical.

    The reason that I say it is not HYPOCRITICAL is because what the Society has stated regarding morality and investing has been about how an INVESTOR should act.

    Regarding tobacco itself as a bad thing, it is comparing apples and oranges to equate moral statements regarding use of such a harmful product with receiving some benefit because others have used that product or invested in the companies that make it.

    To analogize, we all derive significant benefit from the taxation upon cigarettes. Should we refuse the government programs or services that are in a tiny fraction funded from the taxes paid by the users of cigarettes? Of course not.

    It is not a moral contradiction for me to enjoy the benefits of taxation of tobacco and for me to tell users of tobacco that they are doing something wrong.

    What I have found AMAZING during this whole 5 year saga regarding the headlines of opposers to the WTS who are using the headlines "Watchtower OWNS Tobacco Company stock" and the like is the sheer IGNORANCE of such ones.

    Do such ones NOT realize that if they so desired they could go open up a bank trust acct today and place into it a single stock of every "objectionable" company from Phillip Morris, to Playboy Enterprises to the Al Qaeda Support Fund (I made that last one up), to Fox Corp (ouch!), to Vivid Video, etc.. Just make the acct "For the benefit of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society" and Bingo! suddenly you can claim that the WTS is supported by all of these companies.

    The Society could not prevent anyone from doing the above And you know what? The Society would probably cash the checks that you send because they are a charity, a religious org, and ljust ike ALL religious orgs they are entitled to accept money from the worst apostates if they so desire.


    The facts show that not even the Riley trust holds any stock in Tobacco Companies and hasn't since mid-2002, so please stop spreading the lie that the WTS is currently benefiting from such an arrangement or that it OWNs tobacco company stock, because for one thing it NEVER did own the stock in the H.R. Riley trust.

    (It may be that some of its own holdings are in questionable companies but unfortunately we may never know unless we can get to the books.)

    Get a little educated about the difference between an Investor, a Settlor, a Trustee and the Beneficiary of any such trusts.

    Recognize that there is no such thing as a "clean dollar" that is morally untainted. All money is a product of this world and all jobs, companies, etc. are connected in some way. Drawing the line here or there, is the same kind of bad behaviour that JWs engage in when they are judmental about certain types of employment or ways people make a living.

    And FINALLY, Unless you are willing to acknowledge that the Society, WTS, Jehovah's Witnesses ARE MORALLY SUPERIOR in other areas to everyone else (and I am not ready to do that) THEN PLEASE STOP TRYING TO HOLD THEM to a morally superior standard when it comes to this area of receiving donations from others because they are just like everyone else and they are entitled to receive donations from the righteous and the unrighteous.

    -Eduardo Leaton Jr., Esq.

  • dozy

    In fairness , Eduardo , you are wasting your time here. Ex-witnesses / apostates are happy to spread this story which most of them know to be nonsense because it fits their needs and feeds their prejudices. As other posters have noted , this tactic actually backfires against opposers because any witness with a modicum of financial nous can quickly see through the invalidity of the argument & hence the temptation is to dismiss all other criticisms as lies originating from Satan. (Jn 8:44).

    Legitimate debate & criticism is something positive & the WTS could learn a lot from this. Sadly in the ex-JW "community" this is often clouded by a minority who act like classic apostates and who may meet the description in Mt 5:10-12 "Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you."

  • City Fan
    City Fan

    Just for Dozy, I am one ex-witness who has never spread this story, knows there is nothing to this story, realises the watchtower's wealth is in the hundreds of MILLIONS not billions, and doesn't give a monkeys about RandCam.

    A corporation as complex as the Watchtower will have these kind of financial links somewhere in the chain.

  • Clam

    OK I’ll scrub that one of my list then: Reasons to dislike the Borg having shares in a tobacco company Inhuman Shunning Policy Death and suffering due to blood policy Widespread unchecked child abuse Being a false prophet Twisting Scripture Malawi and Mexico Issues
    Anti Education and ruining lives Oppression of women etc.

  • Honesty
    Ex-witnesses / apostates are happy to spread this story which most of them know to be nonsense because it fits their needs and feeds their prejudices.

    Adhominen attacks from JW apologists are a trademark of the Watchtower.

    Who cares what stocks the Watchtower owns, buys, trades or imprisons its followers in.

    The big issues are their false prophecies, unscriptural doctrines and the fact that the Watchtower claims to represent Jehovah while, in reality they and their false religion of Jehovah's Witnesses persistently heap shame and disgrace on Him.

  • luna2

    Eduardo - thanks for the education on trust funds. Not ever having been a beneficiary of one, I really had no idea how they work.

    I guess many feel that the good old Holy Spit should have been doing a better job of keeping the WTS, as Jehover's only TRUE channel of light, wisdom and all that is good and pure, clean from the taint of monies earned from certain WTS-condemned sources.

    I do understand what you are saying about how the real world works, how investments work, and how there is almost no way humanly possible to know that all the stocks in a large portfolio are from "good" companies. ...and that's the thing, the WTS is just a human-run organization passing itself off as something holy.

    But your point is well taken. I'll be sure not to accuse them of owning tobacco company or other objectionable stock just because they are beneficiaries of a trust that holds such stocks in its portfolio.

  • wanda

    For Oroburus/Eduardo/all Watchtower-paid-for-his-education Attorneys:

    The Watchtower Society benefits financially from the gains on stock purchased by members and or other friendly parties in tobacco and military industries.

    That's only a bit different from saying the WTS has stock in those industries though the end result is the same: Watchtower "Mother" organization gets money from stock in tobacco and the military.

    You like to play little word games and try to bluff people into silence but it only backfires and you still learn little to nothing.

    Go ahead and "Pontificate" as you put it all you want to.

  • Terry

    The Watchtower Society turns a deaf ear to any honest inquiry which has the tone of criticism. Consequently, it goes into rebuttal mode which quickly becomes attack mode. The end result is the retaliation which can take the form of putting a label of Apostate on the perceived "enemy".

    Sometimes the enemy is an enemy. Often it is not.

    Failure to recognise the difference is the failure of conscience to care.

    Every organization requires an outlet for query, transparency and accountability if it is to escape becoming fascist.

    The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has long been fascist on purpose.

    Why? Hubris!

    By not creating a mechanism for the Loyal Opposition the Society guarantees erosive conflicts due to misperception.

    By treating every inquiry as if it were a vendetta the Watchtower organization unwittingly empowers the darkest suspicions in everyone whose questions are regarded as demonic character assainations. What they hate (accountability) is explaining themselves humbly as custodians of the trust of others. They do not act as (faithful) "discreet" slaves. They act as bullies and power merchants awash in crude oceans of mysterious cash. If they wish to escape this (mis)characterization they have only to open their books and their haughty hearts

    Dialogue and reasonable debate would enhance their position in the World Community. It would reflect ingenuous respect for the truth.

    The Watchtower is forever pointing out the splinter in every eye while stumbling awkwardly about with a beam in their own.

    What could easily set the Watchtower Society apart from Christendom would be opening their finances up to scrutiny.

    Ain't never gonna happen, Bro!

    They are just like the whore riding Babylon the Great. The stains on their dress are plentiful enough. Tobacco stock is the least of their blemishes.


  • metatron

    "lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you" ?

    What about saying that they have lied for 120 years in saying that Armageddon is soon? What about 120 years of false

    prophesy? What about the assurance in 1969 to young people that "you will never grow old in this system of things"?

    Dozy, you strain out gnats --- and swallow camels.


  • daystar

    Thanks for clarifying that Eduardo. I've not been very interested in the subject as a whole.

    However, you and I will continue to disagree as to what the Society should have done once it was discovered that some of the money was blatantly tainted by their own standards. They may not have been the investor, but they are the beneficiary of the trust.

    By their own standards, not mine, if I received monies from a source who received that money from a dubious source, I probably should have refused it. Yet they don't hold themselves to the same standards as they do their own people.

    Again, thanks for the clarification on the specifics!

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