“The New York Times continues to create dots that just don’t connect”, says Karen Zabarsky, a dot-connector by trade, who also happens be a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies.
If you ask Karen, it is “completely made up and totally false” that Jared Kushner or his family’s companies were ever involved in any money laundering.
That may be true, but you’ll forgive the Times for raising the issue in a high-profile piece published Sunday, considering the fact that five current and former Deutsche Bank employees claim a series of transactions involving entities controlled by Donald Trump and Kushner “set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity.”
Apparently, employees of the bank who reviewed the transactions set about writing reports documenting the “suspicious activity”, which included money (presumably large sums, although the Times doesn’t say that specifically) leaping “back and forth” between foreign “entities and individuals”.
Trump and Kushner being in the real estate business means they may well have had legitimate reasons for hopscotching cash with foreigners, but at least some anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche thought the transactions should be referred to federal investigators. The bank demurred, according to the sources, one of whom is named.
Specifically, the bank’s computers flagged transactions tied to Kushner’s real estate company in 2016. Some of those transactions were reviewed by one Tammy McFadden, a former Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialist, who was fired in 2018, ostensibly (and ironically) because she didn’t process enough transactions.
McFadden told the Times that the transactions in question involved money flowing from Kushner’s companies to Russians. (Imagine that.) Ultimately, she decided the transactions should be reported to the government. As the Times dryly notes, McFadden came to the conclusion that the government should be notified “in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions.”
In other words, McFadden, a Deutsche Bank employee, thought Deutsche Bank should report suspicious transactions involving Russians to the government “in part” because the government had recently asked Deutsche Bank employees to be more careful when it comes to suspicious transactions with Russians. Makes sense.
Or maybe not. Because according to McFadden, the suspicious activity report she prepared was handled by managers at Deutsche’s private bank in New York. That, as opposed to what she and a pair of former DB managers said was standard practice, whereby such reports “would be reviewed by a team of anti-money laundering experts who are independent of the business line in which the transactions originated.”
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the private bank – which had a relationship with Kushner – did not share McFadden’s concerns about the transactions, or if they did, didn’t believe they warranted referral to the government. According to three former employees, multiple transactions involving Trump and his companies were later put under the microscope by the bank’s Jacksonville-based “Special Investigations Unit”, which in turn produced their own suspicious activity reports. “Deutsche Bank ultimately chose not to file those suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department, either”, the Times says.
Late last month, Trump, Ivanka, Eric and Don Jr. sued Deutsche and Capital One in an effort to block them from complying with congressional record requests. “This case involves congressional subpoenas that have no legitimate or lawful purpose”, the suit reads. “The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage. No grounds exist to establish any purpose other than a political one.”
It sounds like at least a handful of former Deutsche Bank employees beg to differ, at least if you consider suspicious transactions something Congress has a legitimate interest in knowing about.
Sunday’s revelations are the latest in a string of stories that together paint a picture of a troubled financial institution juggling a live, human hand grenade in Trump. For instance, Deutsche reportedly turned down then-candidate Trump for a loan in 2016 out of concern for the bank’s “reputation”. Subsequent reports suggested Deutsche once contemplated extending the repayment dates on at least three loans until after Trump’s theoretical second term would end, fearing he might default, leaving the bank in the decidedly unenviable position of having to decide between taking a loss and seizing the property of a sitting US president. Eric Trump insisted those reports were false.
House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters’s House Financial Services Committee have together embarked on an aggressive campaign to lift the veil on Trump’s relationship with Deutsche. In April, Schiff issued what he described as “friendly” subpoenas to several financial institutions including Deutsche Bank, seeking records related to the president and his businesses.
In the Sunday exposé, the Times goes on to detail what sources called “deeply troubled” operations at Deutsche’s Jacksonville offices, where anti-money laundering workers were allegedly “pressured to quickly sift through transactions to assess whether they were suspicious”, prompting employees to “err on the side of not flagging transactions.” Two former employees said they personally flagged issues related to transactions tied to “prominent Russians” only to have their concerns downplayed.
For their part, Deutsche suggested McFadden’s claims are spurious. “At no time was an investigator prevented from escalating activity identified as potentially suspicious,” a spokeswoman said, without mentioning McFadden by name. “The suggestion that anyone was reassigned or fired in an effort to quash concerns relating to any client is categorically false.”
McFadden, who sued Bank of America for racial discrimination after departing the bank in 2005, has filed complaints with the SEC about Deutsche’s anti-money-laundering enforcement practices. The article in the Times features prominent pictures of multiple performance awards she garnered during her tenure at Deutsche.