It was June of 2017 that Jared Kushner was reported to have a conflict of interest in seeking a $2 billion government contract to build the new FBI headquarters. New York real estate firm Vornado Realty Trust was among the three finalists for the lucrative project.
The company’s founder and chairman, Steven Roth, is a friend of Trump’s who works with his infrastructure advisory council and even traveled with Trump to Cincinnati as part of Trump’s “Infrastructure Week.” The two stood on a stage together as Trump hailed Roth as one of the “greatest builders in America.”
Roth’s firm is jointly invested in two buildings with the Trump Organization, and was negotiating with the Kushner Company over its investments in the 666 Fifth Avenue skyscraper in New York.
In July of 2017 an ethics complaint against Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was filed over alleged conflicts of interest between his stake in a real estate company and his role at the White House. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) alleged that Kushner failed to declare his ownership interest in online real estate investment company Cadre, which is valued at $800 million.
Kushner’s interest in Cadre did not appear on his public financial disclosure statement, suggesting the Office of Government Ethics was not aware of the extent of Kushner’s investments when it granted him permission to sell similar assets.
“Kushner’s failure to disclose his ownership in Cadre is very troubling,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “It appears to be one of his larger investments, not something he could easily overlook, and it is impossible to ensure that senior government officials are behaving ethically if they fail to disclose key assets.”
Kushner’s interest in Cadre was revealed by The Wall Street Journal in May, with the publication alleging the husband of Ivanka Trump, had also failed to disclose more than $1 billion in loans from 20 lenders.
The complaint filed by CREW claims the Office of Government Ethics granted Kushner a certificate of divesture based on “incomplete information” and urges the department to “thoroughly review whether Mr. Kushner properly disclosed his assets as required, as well as whether he has properly divested from all of his ownership interests, including Cadre, that present a conflict of interest.”
This wasn’t the first time that Kushner failed to disclose possible conflicts of interest. In May of 2017 Kushner also failed to disclose his business ties with George Soros, Peter Thiel, and Goldman Sachs, or that he owes $1 billion in loans according to the The Wall Street Journal.
In April of 2017 two leading U.S. news outlets reported on business ties totaling tens of millions of dollars between the family of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and the Steinmetz family.
Now, Kushner is actively trying to hide the names of real estate investors in a project of his in Baltimore.Two tenants in a real estate project owned by Kushner and other investors filed a class-action lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court in late September saying the firm has charged them improper fees and threatened eviction to force payment.
A judge moved the case to the U.S. District Court of Maryland this month after Westminster invoked a rule that allows such a transfer if the defendants are not residents of or companies in Maryland. Thus the identity of the owners is relevant to jurisdictional questions in the suit.
Westminster Management said in a court filing that four of its members reside in other states. In a separate filing, Westminster says Jared Kushner and his brother, Josh, are members of another corporate entity, JK2 Westminster, and that all are based in New York. Another entity, Carroll Park Holdings LLC, has one member, Delaware-based Middle River JV LLC.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump moved to Washington this year after both became White House advisers for President Trump. Jared Kushner was CEO of the Kushner Cos., the parent company of Westminster Management, from 2008 until Jan. 19, when he stepped down to join the Trump administration. He retains ownership of the firm.
The companies being sued by the tenants still need to prove to the court that none of their investors are Maryland residents or companies in order to qualify for “diversity” required to show diversity for Federal Court Jurisdiction. Westminster Management operates 17 apartment complexes in Maryland, mostly in Baltimore County.
In its filing of Nov. 20, Westminster asked Chief Judge James K. Bredar to shield the identities of other investors because there is “unprecedented interest in this case.”
“Defendants’ remote and private investors are understandably reticent to have their identities exposed to similar media disclosure, scrutiny, speculation, and scorn,” Westminster says. The company included a Sept. 27 Baltimore Sun article about the lawsuit as an exhibit.
TenantTenae Smith, who lives in Dutch Village apartments in Northeast Baltimore, and Howard Smith, who lives in the Carroll Park apartments in Middle River in Baltimore County, are seeking damages in excess of $75,000 and attorneys’ fees. They want their lawsuit to be certified as a class action.
Westminster said the judge needs to rule on what right the public has to know the identities of “private investors/members of remote companies and partnerships not involved in the day-to-day operations,” especially since no allegations have been made against them.
This is just one more example of the vast investments that Trump and relatives have in a variety of companies. It is a glaring example of the very reason that resigning control over an investment does not eliminate the conflict of interest. As long as there is ownership interest, Trump and his relatives have a blatant conflict of interest.