Watchdog raises potential Kushner association with $ 700 million rescue loan

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WASHINGTON (AP) – A Congressional monitor for federal pandemic relief raises the possibility of a link between President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a $ 700 million aid loan to a troubled trucking company.

Bharat Ramamurti, a Democratic member of the four-person Congressional Oversight Commission, raised the potential Kushner connection at a hearing Thursday when panel members from both parties challenged the Treasury Department’s decision to extend the loan to YRC Worldwide. The taxpayer-funded loan was granted on the grounds that the company’s operations are vital to maintaining national security.

Panel members questioned the decision to view YRC’s business as critical to national security. It was the first and by far the largest loan under the national security portion of the Treasury Department’s corporate aid program, which has lent billions to airlines, large and small.

YRC received a separate $ 600 million loan last year from Apollo Global Management and several other lenders, arranged by Apollo, a large private equity firm that is the largest creditor to YRC, according to its board of directors. Apollo co-founder Joshua Harris advised the Trump administration on infrastructure policy issues in early 2017 and met with Kushner, an adviser to the president. Later that year, Apollo loaned Kushner’s family real estate company $ 184 million to refinance their mortgage on a Chicago building, according to a New York Times report quoted by Ramamurti.

Ramamurti asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin if he had any contact with Kushner or his staff regarding the YRC loan. Mnuchin said he didn’t. Ramamurti then expanded the question to a request for correspondence with everyone in the White House.

“This warrants further investigation,” said Ramamurti. He called the loan to YRC “an extremely generous fast-track loan that happened to help” Apollo as a creditor of YRC.

There was no immediate comment on the matter from Kushner or his associates to The Associated Press.

“Apollo was not involved in the decision of (YRC) to apply for the funding,” said Apollo spokeswoman Joanna Rose on Thursday. “We are capital providers for thousands of companies. We are one of YRC’s many lenders. This is not a company that owns or controls our funds. “

Congressional observers noted that taxpayers could run the risk of losing money on the $ 700 million investment. YRC has had financial problems and was at risk of bankruptcy for years, long before the pandemic broke out.

Mnuchin defended the loan, saying that YRC met the criteria for businesses deemed essential to national security, as the Treasury Department had worked out with the Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

He acknowledged that if YRC fails and doesn’t pay back, taxpayers could end up losing the money. “That was a risky loan,” said Mnuchin, but added, “We were fortunate that the economy has recovered. … Ultimately, the Ministry of Finance and the taxpayers are compensated very well. “

Mnuchin noted that prior to approving the loan earlier this summer, several lawmakers had asked the Treasury Department to help YRC to save jobs.

French Hill, R-Ark., A member of the panel, a former banker, told Mnuchin, “If I were still in finance, I would not have made this loan.”

YRC, based in Overland Park, Kansas, provides transportation and logistics services such as the delivery of food, electronics, and other relief supplies to military locations across the country. The Department of Defense is a major YRC customer and the premier transportation service provider for the Department of Homeland Security.

The national security portion of the Treasury Department’s financial aid program, with an available pot of up to $ 17 billion, was expected to go to pressured aircraft maker Boeing or General Electric earlier this year. They were able to open up the private credit markets and did not seek government aid.

To qualify for National Security Assistance, companies should operate under defense contracts with the highest national priority or operate under top secret security clearance. The YRC did not appear to meet any of the criteria, but qualified under a “catch-all” provision that required a recommendation and certification from the Secretary of Defense or the Director of National Intelligence.

The four-person oversight commission was appointed by both parties’ congressional leaders to oversee spending of approximately $ 2 trillion in economic aid that Congress enacted last spring and directed by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.

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