Deutsche Bank has begun an investigation into the longtime personal banker of Donald Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner for her purchase of a New York condo from a company partly owned by Kushner, according to two news reports.
Banker Rosemary Vrablic and two colleagues purchased an apartment on Park Avenue in Manhattan for about $1.5 million in 2013 from Bergel 715 Associates, The New York Times first reported Sunday. It was sold two years later for $1.85 million.
The first daughter and Kushner received $1 million to $5 million from Bergel 715 in 2019, according to the couple’s required financial disclosures, which they filed Friday. It was the first time Bergel had appeared in their filings.
A source familiar with the business arrangement told The Times that Kushner owns a stake in Bergel, and did so when Vrablic purchased the condo. But the income reported from Bergel was not linked to the banker’s purchase, according to the source.
The Deutsche Bank investigation will determine if Vrablic acted improperly by purchasing the condo, according to The Hill. It’s typically against policy at banks for employees to do business — other than banking — with clients to avoid conflicts of interest, the Times noted.
“The bank will closely examine the information that came to light on Friday and the [facts] from 2013,” bank spokesman Daniel Hunter said in a statement after learning of the Kushner connection to the condo.
Kushner and Donald Trump were clients of Vrablic when the banker bought the condo. Kushner introduced his father-in-law to her in 2011 when Trump was having a hard time finding a bank that would loan him money after his repeated bankruptcies and loan defaults, including one to Deutsche Bank, the Times noted.
By 2013, the men had received about $190 million in Deutsche Bank loans with Vrablic’s help — and hundreds of millions after that, according to the Times.
Trump borrowed $175 million for his Trump National Doral golf resort in Florida, and for the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago in 2012. The bank later financed the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Times reported.
Deutsche Bank is Trump’s biggest creditor. It has loaned the Trump Organization some $2 billion since 1998, and there are currently an estimated $350 million in loans outstanding, according to the Times. The loans are reportedly backed by a personal guarantee from Trump himself.
Christopher Smith, the general counsel for Kushner’s family firm Kushner Companies, told The Hill in a statement that “Kushner is not the managing partner of that entity and has no involvement with the sales of the apartments.”
It’s not clear how large a stake Kushner holds in the company.
Vrablic could not be reached for comment.
Deutsche Bank was fined a total of $630 million in 2017 in the U.S. and Britain over a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme. It was recently hit with a $150 million penalty for the bank’s lack of oversight in dealings with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The U.S. Department of Justice last year launched another probe into bank compliance with regulations to prevent money laundering. The investigation included a review of suspicious activity, including some linked to Kushner, sources told the Times. Amid the probe the president’s Trump Organization was reportedly pressing to postpone its bank loan payments.
The sticky situation underscored the unique power of Trump as president to maneuver a deal for his business, particularly with a bank under investigation by his own administration.
David Enrich, a Times business reporter who recently wrote a book on Deutsche Bank, “Dark Towers,” told NPR that the bank has been “worried” about a situation like this.
Bank officials are now “forced to choose between doing what seems like it’s financially right for the bank and for its regulators, versus doing what’s right to protect the relationship with someone who has the ability to inflict enormous damage on the institution if he is so inclined,” Enrich explained.
The scenario is the “absolute nightmare that someone (ahem) warned about” when Trump took office, Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under both Barack Obama and Trump, tweeted.
Trump did not divest from his businesses when he moved into the White House as other presidents have done to avoid conflicts of interest.