Kushner Deal With Japan-owned Firm Raises Conflict of Interest Concerns

An ownership stake in 175 Pearl Street was sold for $103 million in March 2017 to a company effectively owned by the Japanese government

Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, left, and Ivanka Trump, assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump, pose for photographers as they arrive for a dinner in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017
Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via Bloomberg

The Kushner Companies made a real estate deal last year with a company whose largest shareholder is the government of Japan, raising more concerns that White House senior advisor Jared Kushner may have a conflict of interest between his foreign policy work and his family business.

An ownership stake in 175 Pearl Street was sold for $103 million in March 2017 to a company operating for a subsidiary of Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp., which according to Japanese law must have at least one-third of its shares — effectively a controlling stake — owned by the Japanese government.

Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner's wife and first daughter, made headlines in December of 2016 for finalizing a business deal with a Japanese company while she sat in on Donald Trump's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The New York Times reported at the same time Ivanka attended the Abe meeting - which was unprecedented in and of itself, another meeting was going on in Tokyo as her clothing company worked to reach a licensing agreement with Sanei International, which is largely owned by the Japanese government.

NTT, which paid a 60% premium per square foot over what the Kushner Companies paid four years earlier, denied that it was seeking any political gain in its business dealings. The building is still vacant more than a year later.

Yoshinori Ogawa, a senior strategist at Okasan Securities in Tokyo, told Bloomberg, which first reported the deal on Tuesday that it was unlikely that the Japanese government influenced NTT’s investments.

But Kushner’s decision last year not to sell all his holdings in the family real estate business opened him up to concerns about conflicts of interest — especially since he was tasked by the White House at the time of the sale with overseeing trade policy, which could have affected imports, exports and tariffs related to Japan.

U.S. intelligence officials believe that multiple foreign governments, including Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates, have held internal discussions since Trump’s election about how to take advantage of Kushner’s global business dealings and political inexperience in order to shape U.S. policy towards their countries, The Washington Post reported last month.