When Jared Kushner was chief executive of Kushner Cos., his family's New York City-based real estate firm, the company "routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds," according to a report by the Associated Press.
Kushner stepped down from his role at Kushner Cos. last year, when he accepted a position as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, but he has recently come under fire for potential conflicts of interest and ethics violations regarding continued involvement with the real estate firm. His top-secret security clearance was downgraded last month amid heightened scrutiny over how his financial holdings may have influenced his actions on behalf of the White House.
The tenant rights watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative, the AP reports, "found the Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City from 2013 to 2016, all of them indicating there were no rent-regulated tenants. Instead, tax documents show there were more than 300 rent-regulated units. Nearly all the permit applications were signed by a Kushner employee, including sometimes the chief operating officer."
"While none of the documents during a three-year period when Kushner was CEO bore his personal signature," the AP notes, "they provide a window into the ethics of the business empire he ran before he went on to become one of the most trusted advisers to the President of the United States."
Kushner Cos., when reached for comment, blamed the false filings on third parties, claiming that it outsources document preparation. But no matter how the false filings occurred, they provide insight into how the firm was able to purchase three Queens apartment buildings in 2015, quickly conduct renovations, raise the rent, and then sell the buildings for a multimillion-dollar profit just two years later.
Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics chief and current chair of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), compared the revelation to Kushner's troubled attempts to retain security clearance for his government role.
Striking for similarity to Jared’s SF-78 security clearance debacle. In both cases, the official forms were filed with massive omissions. In both cases, Jared blamed third parties. How many times does something have to happen before coincidence improbable? https://t.co/KTLbh2NpTM
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) March 18, 2018
Others, including Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) wondered how, in light of recent reports, Kushner has held on to his post in the Trump administration.
Jared Kushner was head of Kushner Cos at the time of the alleged false filings.
Why is Kushner still a Senior White House Advisor? https://t.co/wLg8BrkUIp
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 18, 2018
In response to the AP's findings, several commenters labeled Kushner a "slumlord"—far from the first time the accusation has been levied at him.
Jared Kushner is a slumlord. That much we knew from prior reporting. Now, @AP tells us that his real estate company hid rent-regulated tenants in Queens—preventing city oversight while they harassed them into leaving, making room for higher-paying tenants. https://t.co/GeyA1OgwAe
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 19, 2018
Slumlord Jared Kushner bought buildings in New York and then filed at least 80 false documents with the city claiming it had no rent-regulated tenants so he could raise rents, push them out and re-sell the buildings for millions of dollars of profit. https://t.co/Zf44a3HCuZ
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) March 18, 2018
"It's bare-faced greed," Housing Rights Initiative founder Aaron Carr told the AP. "The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment."