Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced an ethics complaint earlier this week against the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. The complaint states that Kushner failed to disclose his ownership of Cadre, a real estate tech startup he co-founded. This links him to billionaires George Soros and Peter Theil, both of whom have stakes in the company. An article in The Wall Street Journal published in May also mentions Goldman Sachs has having as stake.
While Kushner did disclose BFPS Ventures LLC (which Cadre falls under) on his financial disclosure form, he continues to own a significant part of Cadre, a company now valued at $800 million. On his disclosure form, BFPS Ventures LLC was described as “Real Estate in New York, NY” which doesn’t accurately describe Cadre, an online investment platform. This broad characterization makes any potential conflicts of interest incredibly difficult to suss out.
This means the Office of Government Ethics had incomplete information when it granted Kushner permission to sell off similar assets and avoid paying certain taxes on them. Certificates of divestiture allow officials to defer capital gains taxes on property they sell in order to comply with divestiture. This preferential tax treatment, however, is only granted to those who have completely divested. Crew argues that Kushner has not.
Kushner’s partial ownership of Cadre also presents a conflict of interest in the technology and commerce field. Meanwhile, he has organized White House meetings featuring the top tech luminaries in America, including the CEOs of Apple, Google and Microsoft. Kushner divested in other technology and commerce ventures, so that he could work on those matters, but retained ownership of Cadre. The concern is that Kushner could be leveraging his position in the White House to benefit Cadre, now or in the future.
Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told the Journal that Kushner has “resigned from Cadre’s board, assigned his voting rights and reduced his ownership share,” however a recent report by CREW found that the value of the company rose after Kushner became a part of the White House staff.
CREW is specifically calling on the OGE to investigate and determine “whether any sanction or referral is appropriate for Kushner’s potential disclosure violations and whether it is necessary for him to fully divest from Cadre.” This could prove itself to be difficult, given that the former head of the OGE, Walter Shaub Jr., resigned from his position on Thursday. One of the reasons why Shaub left the OGE was the current administration’s blatant disregard for ethics rules, the kind of disregard that was shown in Kushner’s case.
Additionally, Kushner did not disclose the $1 billion in debt he currently owes to 20 lenders and the personal guarantees to pay more than $300 million of that. Debts and guarantees need to be disclosed in order for officials to decide whether or not someone should divest.
Someone else carrying around a lot of debt is Kushner’s father-in-law, President Donald Trump. According to his most recent financial disclosures, Trump has liabilities totaling at least $311 million, including mortgages and loans.