The SEC has launched an investigation into the real-estate company run by White House senior adviser (and Trump's son-in-law) Jared Kushner for its use of the "green cards for money" Federal visa program, according to the WSJ. Specifically, the SEC is probing Kushner Companies over its use of the investment-for-visa EB-5 program, which provides green cards to immigrants who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. businesses.
While the WSJ explains that "the precise nature of the SEC’s inquiry isn’t clear, nor is whether the subpoena identified particular projects" it notes that in May 2017, Kushner Cos. received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission requesting information about its use of the program. That month the company also received a separate subpoena from New York federal prosecutors asking for information about development projects financed in part by the EB-5 program. Kushner had been running the real estate business until last year, but resigned from the company to join the White House staff.
The SEC probe, which hasn’t been previously reported, is being conducted out of the commission’s Texas office and in collaboration with federal prosecutors from the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, according to another person familiar with it.
By way of background, the EB-5 program offers green cards to aspiring immigrants who invest at least $500,000 in certain U.S. businesses that have been determined to create at least 10 jobs per investor. A green card permits a foreign national to live and work in the U.S. The majority of EB-5 visas go to wealthy Chinese individuals, according to DHS data.
The federal and SEC subpoenas came shortly after the company drew attention for a marketing campaign in Beijing and Shanghai that solicited Chinese investors for One Journal Square, saying that as many as 300 individuals who invested $500,000 each into the project could be eligible for green cards under the EB-5 program, the Journal reported.
The Kushner Companies has had a controversial history with Chinese investors, following reports that the company's prize real estate jewel, the flagship skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue, was in financial dire straits and was scrambling to finalize an investment for redevelopment from troubled Chinese conglomerate Anbang.
The federal subpoena, which included a request for email correspondence, concerned at least one specific project: a Jersey City, N.J., development of twin, 66-floor commercial-and-residential towers called One Journal Square, the Journal reported.
But why is the SEC involved in a non-public company matter?
Well, although Kushner Cos. isn’t a publicly traded company, EB-5 investments are considered securities offerings, and the SEC has previously examined other companies in relation to the EB-5 program.
In April, the SEC reached a settlement with an Idaho man it accused of misappropriating some of the $140 million he raised through EB-5 offerings to acquire and develop luxury real estate. Instead, the defendant spent some of the funds on personal expenses and other operations unrelated to the advertised project, the SEC said.
The news of the SEC probe is only the latest in a series of federal inquiries that have emerged in recent months concerning Kushner Companies. In mid-November, federal prosecutors requested documents from the company pertaining to a $285 million loan the firm received from Deutsche Bank AG , the Journal reported last month.
A spokeswoman for Kushner Cos. referred to a previous comment provided by the company’s general counsel, Emily Wolf, who said of the Brooklyn-based inquiry that “Kushner Cos. utilized the program, fully complied with its rules and regulations, and did nothing improper. We are cooperating with legal requests for information.”