On Friday, a federal judge rejected a request to hide details of rental properties affiliated with Jared Kushner’s real estate empire.
Kushner was CEO of Kushner Companies, which owns the companies involved in the suit, before stepping down in January 2017 to join his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, in the White House as a senior adviser. Kushner still owns a stake in, and collects income from, at least one of the companies in the suit, according to his last financial disclosure filed with the federal government.
And those Kushner-owned companies are fighting to keep their investors secret.
A class action suit filed in Baltimore accuses the firms of collecting illegal fees from Maryland tenants, in violation of state law. The suit also claims the company threatened to evict tenants who protested the fees.
The plaintiffs are a series of limited liability companies, or pass-throughs, that manage properties in Maryland and other states. They’ve fought to keep information about how they are structured secret by asking for a protective order on court records.
Five news-media outlets — The Baltimore Sun, ProPublica, The Washington Post, WMAR-TV, and the Associated Press — filed a complaint in the case to force the companies to make those details public.
Under the order issued Friday, the companies have to file the unsealed information about their investors in federal court by February 9. The information could provide the public with a rare look into how the companies are structured.
Both Kushner and Trump have kept details of their companies’ ownership and structure away from the public eye. Their financial don’t reveal who invests in their LLCs, how much money comes from companies or individuals overseas, which banks might be lending them money, or even how much debt they owe.
Kushner has repeatedly filed incomplete and incorrect financial disclosures that omit, among other things, real estate holdings. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have been the subject of lawsuits over their financial disclosures.
The plaintiffs in the current case say media coverage is “politically motivated.” If they were forced to disclose their partners, the companies say, it would hurt their chances of receiving fair treatment.
In making his ruling Friday,Judge James Bredar cited the public expectation that “the Court conducts its business in the sunlight.” Bredar also cited Kushner’s role as a public official — and the keen public interest in matters related to Trump family businesses — as a key reason to force the companies to make their ownership structure public.
“[I]ncreased public interest in a case does not, by itself, overcome the presumption of access,” Bredar wrote. “In fact, it would logically strengthen it, particularly when the interest is due to the presence of important public figures in the litigation.”