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SEC Is Investigating Kushner Cos.' Use of EB-5 Program

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 1/6/2018 Erica Orden

a group of people sitting at a table: Most EB-5 visas go to wealthy Chinese, according to federal data. © Andy Wong/Associated Press Most EB-5 visas go to wealthy Chinese, according to federal data. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the real-estate company run by the family of President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner for its use of a federal investment-for-visa program known as EB-5, according to people familiar with the matter.

In May 2017, Kushner Cos. received a subpoena from the SEC requesting information about its use of the program, one of these people said. As The Wall Street Journal reported last year, that month the company received a separate subpoena from New York federal prosecutors asking for information about development projects financed in part by the EB-5 program.

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.

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Spokesmen for the SEC and the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. 

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.”

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 data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The precise nature of the SEC’s inquiry isn’t clear, nor is whether the subpoena identified particular projects.

The subpoena from federal prosecutors, 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.

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.

Though 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.

Mr. Kushner had been running the family business before last year’s election. After being named White House senior adviser, he resigned from the company and sold his personal stake in some projects and assets to family members and others. But he retains a stake in parts of the business, according to his most recent personal financial disclosure form. An attorney for Mr. Kushner didn’t respond to a request for comment.

News of the SEC probe is the latest in a series of federal inquiries that have emerged in recent months concerning Kushner Cos. 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.

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