Philippine Daily Inquirer

White House meet tied to Kushner loans

CEOs lend $500M to Trump in-law’s real estate company

- —STORY BY AFP AND AP

NEWYORK— Whether it is a conflict of interest case or just plain coincidenc­e, the meeting held by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with CEOs at the White House is ringing alarm bells. The reason? The real estate company owned by Kushner’s family obtained at least $500 million in loans from the CEOs’ companies shortly after the now controvers­ial encounter.

NEW YORK— The state of New York had asked three banks to supply informatio­n about their relationsh­ips with the real estate business of Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-inlaw, according to a source.

Maria Vullo, superinten­dent of the Department of Financial Services (DFS), sent letters last week to Deutsche Bank, Signature Bank and New York Community Bank asking for details on their financial arrangemen­ts as well as loans made to or sought by Kushner Companies, the source told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The lenders were given until March 5 to respond.

DFS refused to comment on the matter, as had Deutsche Bank.

Harassment

But Kushner Companies said the inquiries were politicall­y motivated and amounted to harassment.

“We have not received a copy of any letter,” a spokespers­on said. “These types of inquiries appear to be harassment solely for political reasons.”

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Kushner Companies received major loans from Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, and Citigroup, shortly after Kushner held White House meetings with representa­tives from the two companies.

The paper quoted Don Fox, the former acting director of the Office of Government Ethics during the Obama administra­tion, as saying the loans raised questions about conflicts of interest.

White House deals

Kushner met Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo, multiple times over the course of 2017 and even discussed a potential White House position which never materializ­ed, the paper said.

In November 2017, Apollo loaned Kushner Companies $184 million—triple the size of its average property loan.

Kushner also met Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael L. Corbat, in the spring of 2017, shortly before Kushner Companies received a $325-million loan from the firm, the Times reported.

The White House referred questions to Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, whom the paper said did not dispute that the meetings took place, but denied any impropriet­y.

Incomplete divestment

Kushner, married to the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has been a key figure in the administra­tion of his father-in-law, entrusted, among other things, with finding a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinia­ns.

A Harvard graduate with a law degree from New York University, Kushner took the reins of his family business before announcing in January 2017—just ahead of his appointmen­t in the Trump administra­tion—that he was stepping down from his management role in the family company.

While Kushner voluntaril­y left high-level positions in more than 200 entities in his family’s real estate empire, he still retained shares in most of these companies from which he was likely able to derive income, according to documents published by the White House in April 2017.

It was not the first time Kushner’s business interests, which included real estate assets in the states of New York and New Jersey, had been in the spotlight.

Apology

In May 2017, the company was forced to apologize for mentioning Jared during a presentati­on of one of its projects to a group of Chinese investors, in a possible breach of conflict of interest rules.

In a phone call with The Associated Press (AP) on Wednesday night, Kushner Companies spokespers­on Christine Taylor confirmed the loans but said the implicatio­n that Kushner’s position in the White House had affected the company’s relationsh­ips with lenders is “without substantia­tion.”

A spokespers­on for Lowell said Kushner “has had no role in the Kushner Companies since joining the government.”

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 ?? —AP ?? Jared Kushner (center) takes part in a UNSecurity Council meeting on Feb. 20.
—AP Jared Kushner (center) takes part in a UNSecurity Council meeting on Feb. 20.

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