Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube

Kushner Companies Decides to Fight Tenants in State Court Rather Than Reveal Its Investors’ Identities

The move follows a federal judge’s ruling in favor of disclosure.

Jared Kushner’s family real estate company has backtracked on its effort to have a lawsuit filed against it by tenants of its Baltimore-area apartment complexes moved to federal court, after a judge ruled that this transfer would require it to reveal the identities of its investment partners.

The tenants’ class-action lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in September, four months after a ProPublica article co-published with the New York Times Magazine described the highly aggressive tactics used by Kushner Companies to pursue tenants and former tenants over allegedly unpaid rent or broken leases. The lawsuit alleged that Kushner Companies, which owns 15 large apartment complexes in the Baltimore area, was improperly piling late fees and court fees onto tenants’ bills, often in excess of state limits, and using the threat of immediate eviction to force payment.

In early November, the various Kushner affiliates named in the lawsuit filed a request to have the case moved from the state court, where it would be heard by a Baltimore City jury, to the federal courts, where it would be heard by a jury drawn from a broader geographic swath of Maryland. To get approval for this request, Kushner Companies had to show that none of the investors it has brought in as partners on the complexes are based in Maryland.

The Kushner affiliates also filed a motion in federal court seeking to have the list of the investment partners shielded from public view, citing the high degree of media interest in Jared Kushner, who as Kushner Companies CEO presided over the purchase of the complexes before moving into the White House to serve as senior advisor to President Donald Trump, his father-in-law. “Given the tenor of the media’s reporting of this case, including politically-motivated innuendo no doubt intended to disparage the First Family, there is foreseeable risk of prejudice to the privacy rights and reputations of innocent private investors,” the Kushner lawyers wrote.

ProPublica and four other news organizations challenged the motion to keep the list of partners secret. And on Jan. 26, U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar ruled against the Kushner request for shielding the partners’ identities.

In that ruling, Bredar set a Feb. 9 deadline for the Kushner affiliates to submit the partners’ names to the court. But instead of doing so, the affiliates filed a short motion in federal court today asking to have the case moved back to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The aborted transfer has effectively resulted in a three-month delay in the tenants’ claims being heard.

Kushner Companies’ reluctance to disclose its partners in the complexes, which were purchased in 2012 and the years following, comes amidst new revelations about the company’s international investment ties. The New York Times reported last month that Kushner Companies last spring secured a $30 million equity investment in the Baltimore complexes and others of its holdings from Menora Mivtachim, a large Israeli insurer, just as Jared Kushner was about to make his first official trip to Israel as Trump’s designated broker of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Also last month, a New Yorker article described the Kushner Companies’ aggressive pursuit of Chinese investors in its real estate ventures. There has also been widespread scrutiny of a meeting in December 2016 between Jared Kushner and the head of a Russian state-owned bank, which may or may not have involved the matter of Russian investment in the Kushner Companies’ debt-strapped trophy building in New York, 666 Fifth Avenue.

Asked to elaborate on the decision this afternoon, Kushner Companies spokeswoman Christine Taylor said simply, “Our counsel on this matter has determined that the case should be remanded to state court.”

Filed under:

Protect Independent Journalism

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that produces nonpartisan, evidence-based journalism to expose injustice, corruption and wrongdoing. We were founded ten years ago to fill a growing hole in journalism: newsrooms were (and still are) shrinking, and legacy funding models failing. Deep-dive reporting like ours is slow and expensive, and investigative journalism is a luxury in many newsrooms today — but it remains as critical as ever to democracy and our civic life. A decade (and five Pulitzer Prizes) later, ProPublica has built the largest investigative newsroom in the country. Our work has spurred reform through legislation, at the voting booth, and inside our nation’s most important institutions.

This story you’ve just finished was funded by our readers and we hope it inspires you to make a gift to ProPublica so that we can publish more investigations like this one that holds people in power to account and produces real change.

Your donation will help us ensure that we can continue this critical work. From the Trump Administration, criminal justice, health care, immigration and so much more, we are busier than ever covering stories you won’t see anywhere else. Make your gift of any amount today and join the tens of thousands of ProPublicans across the country, standing up for the power of independent journalism to produce real, lasting change. Thank you.

Donate Now

Portrait of Alec MacGillis

Alec MacGillis

Alec MacGillis covers politics and government for ProPublica.

Latest Stories from ProPublica

Current site Current page