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Jared Kushner’s family business falls under SEC scrutiny over foreign investor visas

Federal prosecutors are trying to determine whether the company acted improperly in courting Chinese investors.

Jared Kushner wears a suit and red tie and sits at a conference room table.
Jared Kushner.
Andrew Harrer/Pool/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Federal regulators are investigating Kushner Companies — the real estate company run by President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and his family — over its use of the EB-5 visa program. The measure exchanges investments for visas: Through the program, foreigners are eligible to apply for a green card if they invest half a million dollars into a commercial enterprise in the United States.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter, Kushner Cos. received a subpoena from the SEC in May 2017 requesting information about its use of the program. It also received a separate subpoena from New York federal prosecutors asking for information about its development projects funded partly by the visa program.

Both probes came after reports emerged that the Kushner family was using the prospect of US visas to woo Chinese investors. The Washington Post attended a presentation delivered by Nicole Kushner Meyer, Jared Kushner’s sister, telling a room of wealthy Chinese investors in Beijing that for a $500,000 investment they could immigrate to the United States — namely, to a New Jersey luxury apartment complex the family was developing.

“It’s incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate,” Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told the Post at the time. It appears federal agencies have taken note and are acting accordingly.

Prosecutors are specifically focused on a development of two 66-floor commercial and residential towers called One Journal Square, located in Jersey City, New Jersey. The company’s general counsel, Emily Wolf, told the Journal that the company “utilized the program, fully complied with its rules and regulations, and did nothing improper.” Kushner Cos. is cooperating with legal requests.

The program Kushner’s using has been in place for more than 25 years

The EB-5 program, created in 1990 under President George H.W. Bush, offers green cards to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in certain US businesses, which are required to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time permanent US jobs per investor. According to US Citizen and Immigration Services, the program is intended to “stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.” (Vox’s Dara Lind has a great explainer on the ins and outs of the EB-5 program.) Trump signed legislation renewing the program in 2017.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, EB-5 visas are awarded disproportionately to immigrants from China. A recent report from the Economics and Statistics Administration under the Commerce Department found that in 2012 and 2013, the program attracted $5.8 billion in capital from over 11,000 immigrant investors, generating 174,000 American jobs.

Kushner had been running Kushner Cos. before taking a job with his father-in-law at the White House. He has sold his personal stake in some projects but has maintained them in others.

This isn’t the first time Kushner has found himself in hot water in recent months over his business or political activities. Federal prosecutors are reportedly examining a $285 million loan Deutsche Bank made to Kushner Cos. a month before the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller also reportedly has Kushner in his sights; the 36-year-old has, on numerous occasions, forgotten to disclose important items to Congress.

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