Debt 'overdisclosed', says candidate's finance chief

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivers remarks at a campaign rally in Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA, on August 20.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivers remarks at a campaign rally in Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA, on August 20.PHOTO: EPA

NEW YORK • To gain a better understanding of Mr Donald Trump's holdings and debt, The New York Times engaged RedVision Systems, a national property information firm, to search publicly available data on more than 30 properties in the United States.

That Mr Trump seems to have so much less debt on his disclosure form than what NYT found is not his fault, but rather a function of what the form asks candidates to list and how.

The form, released by the Federal Election Commission, asks that candidates list assets and debts not in precise numbers, but in ranges that top out at US$50 million (S$67 million) - appropriate for most candidates, but not for Mr Trump. Through its examination, NYT was able to discern the amount of debt taken out on each property and its ownership structure.

At 40 Wall Street in New York, a limited liability company controlled by Mr Trump holds the lease for the land on which the building stands. Last year, he borrowed US$160 million from Ladder Capital using that long-term lease as collateral. On his financial disclosure form, that debt is listed as valued at more than US$50 million.

Mr Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer of the Trump Organisation, said Mr Trump could have left the liability section on the form blank because federal law requires that presidential candidates disclose personal liabilities, not corporate debt. Mr Trump, he said, has no personal debt.

"We overdisclosed," Mr Weisselberg said, explaining that when a Trump company owned 100 per cent of a property, all of the associated debt was disclosed, something that he said went beyond what the law required. For properties where a Trump company owned less than 100 per cent of a building, he said, those debts were not disclosed.

Mr Trump, for example, has a 50 per cent stake in the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. In 2010, the company that owns the hotel refinanced a US$190 million loan, according to Real Capital Analytics, a commercial real estate data and analytics firm.

Mr Weisselberg said a Trump entity was responsible for half the debt, and all but US$6.4 million of the loan had been paid off.

NYT found three other instances in which Mr Trump had an ownership interest in a building but did not disclose the debt associated with it. In all three cases, he had passive investments in limited liability companies that had borrowed significant amounts of money.

One of these investments involves an office tower at 1290 Avenue of Americas. In a typically complex deal, loan documents show that four lenders agreed in November 2012 to lend US$950 million to the three companies that own the building. Those companies are owned by three other companies in which Mr Trump has stakes. Ultimately, through his investments, Mr Trump is a 30 per cent owner of the building, records show.

He also has a 4 per cent partnership interest in a company that has an interest in a large Brooklyn housing complex and owes roughly US$410 million to Wells Fargo, according to Bloomberg data.

The full terms of his limited partnerships are not known. Mr Weisselberg said that neither Mr Trump nor the company was responsible for the debt associated with the limited partnerships. Mr Trump, he added, was liable for a "small percentage of the corporate debt" listed on the federal filing, but he would not elaborate.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Debt 'overdisclosed', says candidate's finance chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe