That inquiry? Skip it

Via Talking Points Memo:

The Securities and Exchange Commission late last year dropped its inquiry into a financial company that a month earlier had given White House adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm a $180 million loan.

While there’s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agency’s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Kushner’s family business and his role as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

That is, there’s no evidence that outsiders are aware of, so far, that we know of – but that doesn’t rule out the existence of evidence known to a few or not yet discovered or so well hidden that it will never be discovered. That’s one reason the ethics rules exist: to remove the potential for conflicts of interest so that there can’t be the appearance of conflict of interest, with or without conclusive evidence.

There may be no evidence that the public is aware of so far, but there sure as hell is motive, and that’s the problem.

Apollo said in its 2018 annual report that the SEC had halted its inquiry into how the firm reported the financial results of its private equity funds and other costs and personnel changes. Apollo had previously reported that the Obama administration SEC had subpoenaed it for information related to the issue.

Maybe it’s all purely routine and normal, but we can’t tell, can we, and that’s a problem.

Apollo said the company founder who met with Jared Kushner did not discuss with him “a loan, investment, or any other business arrangement or regulatory matter involving Apollo.” It added that the Kushner loan to refinance a Chicago skyscraper went through the “standard approval process” and that the founder was not involved in the decision.

Well Apollo would say that, wouldn’t it. It’s worth precisely nothing.

Kushner Cos. said in a statement that the implication that Kushner’s position in the White House had affected the company’s relationships with lenders is “without substantiation.”

That’s worse than worthless – it’s cynical and insultingly unethical. We’re not supposed to have to wait until there’s “substantiation” that Kushner’s nepotistic job in the White House would influence the company’s relationships with lenders, we’re supposed to have a system in which such influence is made impossible.

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Jared Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell, had no comment on the dropped SEC inquiry or whether it was influenced by Kushner’s contacts with Apollo. He added that Kushner has “had no role in the Kushner Companies since joining the government and has taken no part of any business, loans or projects with or for the Companies after that.”

But he’s still an owner and he still profits when they profit, so the fact that he’s not currently involved in hands-on administration does nothing to remove the conflicts of interest.


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