NEW YORK (Bloomberg) - President Donald Trump's White House began releasing personal financial information for scores of his staff members Friday (March 31) night, offering the clearest view yet into the financial backgrounds of the wealthiest administration in modern history.
Reports made available via the White House website detailed some of the sprawling real estate holdings of the family of Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and at least US$254 million in assets belonging to Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president who's now Trump's top economic adviser.
Other disclosures shed light on the amounts earned by some political operatives during Trump's campaign, including White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior counsel Kellyanne Conway, and chief strategist Steve Bannon, the leading architect of the president's surprise victory.
With a combined net worth of more than US$12 billion, Trump's senior staff members, including his Cabinet, came to government with a far more expansive range of investments than prior administrations.
Federal ethics officials are reviewing their disclosures and helping to develop plans for how to avoid financial conflicts of interest. In many cases, those plans involve divestiture - and both Cohn and Kushner have previously revealed their plans to sell substantial holdings.
There have always been wealthy individuals in government service, going all the way back to the founders, said Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programmes and strategy at Issue One, a group that seeks to limit the impact of large donors on politicians.
At the federal level, the government's "tentacles spread far and wide, and the potential for conflicts" is real and needs to be addressed, McGehee said.
"What steps will they take to acknowledge that there are legitimate concerns that they will use the levers of government to enrich themselves?" McGehee asked. "That's the question." Trump himself has retained ownership in his real estate and licensing businesses. And while he's handed their management over to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr, he's been criticized by the head of the federal Office of Government Ethics and Democratic lawmakers who say he hasn't gone far enough to distance himself from the businesses.
"The President has brought a lot of people into this administration, and this White House in particular, who have been very blessed and very successful by this country," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday.
The appointees "have given up a lot to come into government by setting aside a lot of assets."
The disclosures show the assets the officials held at the time they began employment in the White House, and may include certain investments that they have since sold to avoid conflicts of interest, a senior White House official said Friday in a briefing with reporters. Asset values on the forms are self-reported, and methodologies for determining the figures aren't included.
Filings for Kushner show he has divested from 58 businesses, but is still connected to his family's real estate empire. The disclosure lists assets, mostly real estate, with a value between US$241 million and US$741 million. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, reported income of as much as US$195 million in the filing, which covers 2016 and part of this year, though much of that amount resulted from divesting assets.
Kushner held personal lines of credit of as much as US$90 million to 10 financial institutions as of his Jan 22 appointment to the White House, the filing shows.
Six of the lines were held jointly with his parents. Among the lenders are Bank of America Corp.; Citigroup Inc., Israel-based IDB Bank Ltd, and Deutsche Bank AG, a German firm that is also Trump's largest lender. Another note payable, up to US$5 million, is also owed to Bank of America.
Jared Kushner's holdings are a fraction of what is owned and owed by his family. Broadly, Kushner Cos. is tied to US$7.7 billion of assets and US$4 billion of debt, according to data firm Real Capital Analytics.
Those loans weren't disclosed in the filing because they're held by the businesses. The family businesses frequently partner with other investors for deals. The partners also were not disclosed.
Cohn's 41-page disclosure showed that he collected income of at least US$48.3 million in 2016 and part of 2017. The report contains various estimates of wealth for Cohn, who worked at Goldman Sachs for more than 25 years, including the last decade as its president.
According to earlier estimates compiled by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, he's worth about US$600 million.
The document released Friday provides a much fuller picture of Cohn's wealth than did a two-page form released by the federal ethics agency on March 17. That filing showed Cohn owned almost 23.4 million shares of Beijing-based Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. The stake, probably acquired in a 2006 investment made by Goldman Sachs and its private-equity funds, was valued at more than US$15 million at the time of the earlier disclosure.
The March 17 filing also showed that Cohn planned to divest more than US$216 million in Goldman Sachs shares, 18 other publicly traded stocks and investments in eight company-managed funds. Cohn's wife, Lisa Pevaroff, owned stakes in three such funds.
Cohn, 56, left Goldman Sachs, where he was considered the heir apparent to Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, in December. He was awarded US$20 million in salary and bonus for 2016, the bank previously said in a securities filing.
Another former Goldman Sachs executive at the White House, Dina Powell, reported US$6.2 million of income from the bank for last year and the first part of 2017. That total included the award of IS$1.9 million in restricted stock units. On March 15, Powell received a certificate of divestiture for sales of 3,543 shares of Goldman Sachs, along with three other assets. She disclosed total assets worth between US$6.2 million and US$19.4 million. Powell was named deputy National Security Adviser earlier this month.
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who became CEO of Trump's campaign in August, reported about US$1.15 million of income in 2016 and part of this year. That total included more than US$125,000 in consulting fees for work on behalf of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that advised Trump's campaign, and US$191,000 while serving as the executive chairman of Breitbart News.
Bannon holds assets worth between US$11.9 million and US$53.9 million, according to his report. Those assets include multiple rental real estate properties and stakes in entertainment companies - but no common stock, mutual funds or bonds, according to the 12-page disclosure, which represents the first comprehensive public look into Bannon's finances.
The report shows that Bannon holds no equity in Breitbart, a politically conservative news outlet that's known both for its vocal support for Trump and incendiary articles about race, religion, sexual orientation and political correctness. Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica both receive funding from conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer.
Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, another key White House adviser, have served as longtime advisers to Mercer. Conway disclosed earning more than US$800,000 last year via her firm The Polling Company/Woman Trend, which she valued at as much as US$5 million, according to the filing. The firm said on Jan 20 that Conway had resigned. Together with her husband, she disclosed assets worth between US$10 million and US$39.3 million.
In all, a senior White House official said filings would be available for roughly 180 staff members as of Friday night - though the website allows for requesting them only one at a time. Public filers include White House employees earning US$161,755 or more and those holding "commissions of appointment" from the president himself, according to federal ethics rules. That includes unpaid officials.
Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, whom the White House announced would become an employee subject to the rules, will both be unpaid.
Ivanka Trump has not yet filed a disclosure form. Kushner's document said that a business trust that holds her branded apparel line has a value of more than $50 million.
Officials are required to enter into ethics agreements with the White House that will spell out how to avoid conflicts of interest - including resigning from corporate positions and divesting certain holdings. Those agreements will not be made public, the White House official said. President Barack Obama's White House had a similar policy.