Friday, October 30, 2020

Deutsche Bank opens investigation into Kushner, Trump’s personal banker over real estate deal


Deutsche Bank has opened an internal investigation into the longtime personal banker of President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over a 2013 real estate transaction between the banker and a company part-owned by Mr. Kushner.

In June 2013, the banker, Rosemary Vrablic, and two of her Deutsche Bank colleagues purchased a Park Avenue apartment for about $1.5 million from a company called Bergel 715 Associates, according to New York property records.

Mr. Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, disclosed in an annual personal financial report late Friday that he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, had received $1 million to $5 million last year from Bergel 715. A person familiar with Mr. Kushner’s finances, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said he held an ownership stake in the entity at the time of the transaction with Ms. Vrablic.

When Ms. Vrablic and her colleagues bought the apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner were her clients at Deutsche Bank. They had received roughly $190 million in loans from the bank and would seek hundreds of millions of dollars more.

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Typically banks restrict employees from doing personal business with clients because of the potential for conflicts between the employees’ interests and those of the bank.

Deutsche Bank said it had not been aware that Ms. Vrablic and her colleagues had done business with a company part-owned by Mr. Kushner until being contacted by The New York Times.

“The bank will closely examine the information that came to light on Friday and the fact pattern from 2013,” said Daniel Hunter, a bank spokesman.

A lawyer for Ms. Vrablic, a senior private banker and managing director at Deutsche Bank, declined to comment.

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The White House referred questions to the Kushner family’s real estate company. Christopher Smith, the general counsel at Kushner Companies, said: “Kushner is not the managing partner of that entity and has no involvement with the sales of the apartments.”

The size of Mr. Kushner’s stake in Bergel 715 is unclear. The company has sold dozens of condo units in the Park Avenue building since the 1980s, according to public records. At least one apartment was sold to the Kushner family’s real estate company.

Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump had not previously disclosed their stake in Bergel 715. (They did list the entity used to make the investment in Bergel 715.) The income they reported in 2019 wasn’t related to the transaction with Ms. Vrablic.

Bergel 715’s main owners include George Gellert, a close friend of the Kushner family and an investor in numerous deals with Kushner Companies.

There is no indication that the three Deutsche Bank employees bought the apartment — described on Zillow as a 908-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath unit with a balcony overlooking Park Avenue — at a below-market price.

In 2014, the deed for the apartment, Unit 12A, was transferred to a limited liability company registered to Ms. Vrablic’s home address, according to property records. The next year, the apartment was sold for $1.85 million — a not-unheard-of 22 percent increase from the 2013 purchase price.

Ms. Vrablic has worked in the Deutsche Bank private-banking division since 2006. She has a reputation as one of New York’s leading private bankers, generating tens of millions of dollars of annual revenue for the bank.

The Kushner family has been a client of Ms. Vrablic’s since before she joined Deutsche Bank. In 2011, Mr. Kushner brought Ms. Vrablic to meet his father-in-law. At the time, most mainstream banks refused to do business with Mr. Trump because of his history of defaults and bankruptcies.

“I introduced him to this woman Rosemary,” Mr. Kushner said in closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in 2017. “She is one of the biggest private wealth bankers, probably in the world. Amazing banker, amazing woman. Very smart banker. And she banked my family for a long time.”

Ms. Vrablic and her superiors soon agreed to take Mr. Trump on as a client, even though he had defaulted on a loan from the bank three years earlier. In 2012, Deutsche Bank lent Mr. Trump a total of about $175 million for his newly acquired Doral golf resort outside Miami and for his Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

Mr. Trump soon came back for more. In 2014 he sought a $1 billion commitment from Ms. Vrablic to buy the Buffalo Bills football team. (Mr. Trump’s bid was rejected, making the loan unnecessary.) The bank agreed to lend Mr. Trump’s company $170 million for its transformation of the Old Post Office building into the Trump International Hotel in Washington. And Mr. Kushner and his mother received a $15 million personal line of credit from Ms. Vrablic’s division, the largest credit line to which Mr. Kushner or his parents had access, according to financial records reviewed by The Times.

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Ms. Vrablic was thrust into the spotlight when Mr. Trump boasted to The Times in 2016 about his strong relationship with Deutsche Bank — and inflated Ms. Vrablic’s role at the bank. “Why don’t you call the head of Deutsche Bank? Her name is Rosemary Vrablic,” he said in the interview. “She is the boss.”


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