Posts Tagged ‘financial disclosure’

Kushner’s Financial Ties to Israel Deepen Even With Mideast Diplomatic Role

January 7, 2018
Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, at the end of a diplomatic trip to Israel in May. Shortly before, Kushner Companies received a $30 million investment from one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, Menora Mivtachim. Credit Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Last May, Jared Kushner accompanied President Trump, his father-in-law, on the pair’s first diplomatic trip to Israel, part of Mr. Kushner’s White House assignment to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Shortly before, his family real estate company received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, an insurer that is one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, according to a Menora executive.

The deal, which was not made public, pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Kushner’s firm. While Mr. Kushner has sold parts of his business since taking a White House job last year, he still has stakes in most of the family empire — including the apartment buildings in and around Baltimore.

The Menora transaction is the latest financial arrangement that has surfaced between Mr. Kushner’s family business and Israeli partners, including one of the country’s wealthiest families and a large Israeli bank that is the subject of a United States criminal investigation.

The business dealings don’t appear to violate federal ethics laws, which only require Mr. Kushner to recuse himself from narrow government decisions that would have a “direct and predictable effect” on his financial interests. And no evidence has emerged that Mr. Kushner was personally involved in brokering the deal.

But the deal last spring illustrates how the Kushner Companies’ extensive financial ties to Israel continue to deepen, even with his prominent diplomatic role in the Middle East. The arrangement could undermine the ability of the United States to be seen as an independent broker in the region. The Trump administration already inflamed tensions there when it said last month that it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the United States Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

“I think it’s reasonable for people to ask whether his business interests are somehow affecting his judgment,” said Matthew T. Sanderson, a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington who specializes in government ethics and was general counsel to Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign.

Raj Shah, a deputy White House press secretary, said the Trump administration has “tremendous confidence in the job Jared is doing leading our peace efforts, and he takes the ethics rules very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration.”

Christine Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Kushner Companies, said the company has partners around the world. It “does no business,” she said, “with foreign sovereigns or governments, and is not precluded from doing business with any foreign company simply because Jared is working in the government.”


Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump behind her father, President Trump, and the first lady, Melania Trump, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem during the trip. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Menora, which is also Israel’s largest manager of pension funds, has done numerous other real estate deals, including several in the United States, said Ran Markman, Menora’s head of real estate. He said he had never met Mr. Kushner. In negotiating the deal with Kushner Companies, Mr. Markman said, he worked with Laurent Morali, the firm’s president.

The deal was “not done because of the so-called connections of Jared Kushner or Donald Trump,” Mr. Markman said. “The connection to the president was not an issue. It didn’t make us do the deal, it didn’t make us not do the deal.”

Mr. Kushner resigned as chief executive of Kushner Companies when he joined the White House last January. But he remains the beneficiary of a series of trusts that own stakes in Kushner properties and other investments. Those are worth as much as $761 million, according to government ethics filings, and most likely much more: The estimate nets out the significant debt accumulated by the firm, which has done about $7 billion of deals in the past decade.

The Baltimore-area buildings in which Menora invested were the subject of an article by a ProPublica reporter in the The New York Times Magazine last year that documented the poor living conditions and aggressive tactics used by Kushner Companies, including garnishing the bank accounts of low-income tenants and turning off heat and hot water.

The White House has said Mr. Kushner would work with his ethics advisers to ensure he recused himself from “any particular matter involving specific parties in which he has a business relationship with a party to the matter.”

But a White House official also said Mr. Kushner had sold stakes in properties that would present unique complexity. For example, he sold his stake in the company’s headquarters at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which is seeking new investors around the world.

It is unclear why Mr. Kushner hasn’t applied that same principle to the buildings in Maryland that received an investment from Menora.

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Jared Kushner reportedly did not include Israel bond holdings in initial financial disclosure

July 15, 2017

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump walking down the West Wing Colonnade, Feb. 10, 2017. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Jared Kushner reportedly is disclosing up to $250,000 in Israel bonds that he previously owned but did not include on his initial financial disclosure in March.

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Kushner, who serves as senior adviser to President Donald Trump and is married to his daughter Ivanka, has reported the Israel bond holdings in an amended financial disclosure form that is expected to be publicly available soon, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing “people close to” Kushner. The president’s Jewish son-in-law sold the holdings earlier this year, according to The Journal.

Other additions to the disclosure include an art collection that he and Ivanka Trump own and his ties to the real-estate startup Cadre.

The Journal article also reported on a meeting last month between Trump and technology business leaders organized by Kushner. Among those on hand was the CEO of a small startup, OpenGov, of which Kushner’s brother, Joshua, is a part owner by way of the venture capital firm Thrive. Kushner held a stake in Thrive, but sold it earlier this year to his brother, The Journal reported.

Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told The Journal that OpenGov’s presence at the meeting “seems like a textbook example of cronyism in action.”

However, Matt Lira, Trump’s special assistant for innovation policy and initiatives, told The Journal that it was his idea, not Kushner’s, to invite OpenGov to the event.

‘Panama Papers’ Put Beijing’s Corruption Fight Under Fresh Scrutiny

April 9, 2016

Chinese links to offshore companies are reported to include relative of President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and State Councilor Yang Jiechi attended the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last week. Reports from the ‘Panama Papers’ have cast a spotlight on Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and State Councilor Yang Jiechi attended the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last week. Reports from the ‘Panama Papers’ have cast a spotlight on Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
The Wall Street Journal
April 5, 2016 11:14 a.m. ET

BEIJING—Reports that relatives of several current and former Chinese leaders have set up offshore companies through a Panamanian law firm have cast a spotlight on Beijing’s efforts to boost financial disclosure and curb corruption among its Communist Party elite.

President Xi Jinping, whose signature anticorruption campaign has shaken up his ruling party and won him public support, is among the top Chinese officials whose relatives were named in leaked documents as directors or shareholders of companies registered in offshore tax havens. People linked to some other members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, were also identified.

Chinese law doesn’t prohibit citizens from setting up or investing in offshore firms, which can serve legitimate purposes but have also been used for hiding wealth and funneling illicit funds abroad. News outlets that reviewed the so-called Panama Papers haven’t reported any alleged wrongdoing by any of the China-linked individuals or companies they identified.

Still, the revelations about alleged offshore activities by relatives of top Chinese officials adds fuel to perceptions of double standards in Beijing’s efforts to fight graft. Mr. Xi has used his anticorruption credentials to hone his image as a strong and incorruptible leader, while critics say his efforts are, in part, a political purge to consolidate power.

“The Panama Papers reinforce the cynicism that many citizens and grass roots party members feel about the aims of Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign,” said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese elite politics at the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

More than 750,000 party members have been punished in Mr. Xi’s antigraft drive since he came to power in late 2012. They include high-ranking “tigers” such as Zhou Yongkang, once China’s security czar and a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee. China also has stepped up efforts to pursue illicit wealth allegedly amassed by as many as 18,000 economic fugitives believed to be hiding overseas.

Even so, many Chinese believe that “the families of Politburo Standing Committee members, present and past, are still a privileged class that enjoy a higher degree of immunity from corruption investigations,” Mr. Lam said. “Some party members are more equal than others.”

Apart from Mr. Xi, who has a brother-in-law named in the Panama Papers, the documents also identified Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and top party propagandist Liu Yunshan—both Politburo Standing Committee members—as having relatives who are shareholders of offshore companies, according to the British Broadcasting Corp., one of the more than 100 news organizations that have examined the Panama Papers.

Relatives of former Premier Li Peng and ex-Politburo Standing Committee member Jia Qinglin are also named in the papers, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which helped to review the roughly 11 million documents allegedly leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co. The Wall Street Journal hasn’t independently confirmed the leaked material. Mossack Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing.

China has long prohibited officials and their close relatives from exploiting political privileges and familial connections for financial gain. The party’s disciplinary code bars members from registering or investing in offshore companies, among a range of for-profit activities. Offenders face punishment ranging from warnings to expulsion from the party. However, it doesn’t specify similar restrictions for members’ relatives.

The Communist Party and its Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, or CCDI, didn’t respond to requests for comment. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said he wouldn’t comment on “these groundless accusations” when asked at a regular news briefing whether Beijing would investigate the people named in the Panama Papers.

Chinese state media largely ignored the leaked papers, while government censors tried to curb online reports and comments around the documents.

The party has steadily demanded greater financial disclosure from cadres over the past two decades, albeit only to internal monitors. The requirements still fall far short of a so-called sunshine law—advocated by some academics and reform-minded officials—that would require officials to publicly declare all of their personal assets.

In 1995, the party started requiring “leading cadres” to report their income. It has since added rules asking officials to disclose more personal and financial information, including details of their spouses’ and children’s employment situation and real estate and investment holdings.

In May 2015, Shanghai imposed rules to keep the spouses and children of top local officials from entering private business in the city and profiting from their government connections. The regulations, a pilot program described as a model for the rest of China, didn’t appear to cover families of officials from other parts of the country, while relatives of Shanghai officials appear free to do business elsewhere in the country.

Chinese authorities increasingly have gone after offshore assets linked to economic fugitives, as part of their “Fox Hunt” operation against alleged white-collar criminals and “Sky Net” campaign against corruption targets.

“The revelations from the Panama Papers shows that more cooperation is needed between the CCDI and other departments,” such as tax and anti-money-laundering agencies, said He Zengke, director of the China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics in Beijing.

Write to Chun Han Wong at



Sen. Robert Menendez, likely to face corruption charges, denies wrongdoing

March 7, 2015

.U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez

Mitt Romney seeks to end debate on his tax rate

August 16, 2012

US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he never paid less than 13% in taxes over the past 10 years, seeking to end public debate about his personal finances.

“I think the most recent year is 13.6% or something like that,” he said.

From the BBC

In January, Mr Romney released his 2010 tax return, but has so far refused to show records from earlier years.

Democrats have questioned whether the former private equity high-flier has something to hide about his wealth.

Mitt Romney. Photo: 16 August 2012

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has accused Mr Romney of not paying taxes in some years – a claim denied by the Republican.

Mr Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has an estimated net worth of about $250m (£159m).

The 2010 tax returned showed that he had paid nearly 14% in taxes – mostly on capital gains from investments.

The top tax rate for wages in America is 35%, but taxes on capital gains are lower.