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Kushner Companies fails to respond to lawmaker requests on EB-5 activity

Senator Patrick Leahy and two members of House Judiciary Committee asked for info on Kushner Companies' EB-5 lobbying, property holdings, and Jared Kushner's ties to the controversial investor visa program
By Will Parker | June 16, 2017 04:45PM

From left: Laurent Morali, Patrick Leahy and Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner has gone from head of a multibillion dollar real estate developer to subject of multiple government investigations in blinding speed.

 Through his attorneys, Kushner said he will cooperate with these investigations, already well underway in the Senate and House intelligence committees. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that White House special counsel Robert Mueller was also investigating Kushner and his business dealings.

But so far, his family firm, Kushner Companies, has refused to cooperate with one request that came earlier this month from members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees related to the company’s use of the EB-5 visa, the controversial investment program that developers have tapped to finance their projects.

 In a June 1 letter addressed to current Kushner Companies president Laurent Morali, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) issued a wide-ranging list of requests for information and business disclosures related to the company’s use of EB-5.

 “We are concerned about recent reports detailing Kushner Companies’ use of the EB-5 Regional Center program, especially in light of Jared Kushner’s role in the Trump administration and the potential for conflicts of interest,” the letter states.

 The lawmakers asked that the company respond to the letter by June 16.

 A spokesperson for Leahy told The Real Deal shortly after 2 p.m. Friday that the company had yet to respond, and that if Kushner Companies did not respond, Leahy and his House colleagues planned to follow up on their original request.  Spokespersons for Conyers and Lofgren also confirmed that no response had been received.

 A Kushner Companies spokesperson declined to comment on Friday about whether the company planned on sending the lawmakers a response. The spokesperson had also declined similar requests for comment on the matter earlier this week.

 Kushner, a White House senior adviser who is said to be President Trump’s closest confidant, has retained financial interests in the overwhelming majority of Kushner Companies’ real estate portfolio, including the Jersey City project known as Trump Bay Street, which is partly financed with EB-5 dollars. In the letter, the congress members requested “complete details” on Kushner’s personal investments in every Kushner Companies real estate holding, and asked the company to identify which ones will be financed with EB-5.

 While Kushner’s financial disclosure report was released by the White House in March, the specific real estate projects he owns are obscured by a series of LLCs that do not always match the names of individual properties, leaving the full scope of his current holdings still unknown. Kushner’s attorneys have said the report will be updated sometime in the future.

 The letter to Kushner Companies also asks for more information about how the company markets its properties to Chinese investors. Last month, Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, was reported to have played up the company’s ties to Trump during a Shanghai investment pitch. Qiaowai, the migration agency hired by Kushner Companies, said on social media that the promotional events inspired a “buying rush.”

 Kushner Companies has since apologized for the incident.

The members of Congress who sent the letter further ask that Kushner Companies provide information on its own EB-5 lobbying, and its use of the US Immigration Fund, a regional center that has spent close to $1 million lobbying the government on EB-5 issues over the last four years.The letter suggests that Qiaowai may be violating US securities laws by guaranteeing Chinese nationals visas in exchange for their investments in Kushner projects.  It also asks if Qiaowai fronted the money for US Immigration Fund’s Nicholas Mastroianni III’s $100,000 donation to Trump’s inaugural committee.

Kushner was previously a member of the Real Estate Roundtable, one of Washington’s most prominent real estate lobbying groups, and the lawmakers asked in the letter if Kushner has met with the group to discuss EB-5 since Trump took office in January.

 White House spokesperson Hope Hicks has previously stated that Kushner will recuse himself from “any particular matter” related to EB-5.

 In May, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a longtime critic of the EB-5 program, formally requested that the Department of Homeland Security begin a probe into Qiaowai’s “potentially fraudulent statements and misrepresentations” in its work for the Kushners.

Congress is currently considering a number of reforms to the program after it was temporarily extended last month.

 The House and Senate intelligence committees are reportedly investigating whether Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue, which has struggled financially for years, made Kushner vulnerable to Russian interests in connection with his December meeting with the chair of the Russian government-controlled Vnesheconombank. Kushner Companies is seeking billions in financing to convert the building into a luxury condo, hotel and retail supertall skyscraper.