Sunday, August 21, 2016

Donald Trump's Maze of Debts and Opaque Ties

Is Trump financially beholden to Putin and/or his henchmen?
Donald Trump boasts about his wealth and claims that he is beholden to no one.  Given the maze of limited liabilities ("LLC") used for so many of his ventures, it is difficult to know who his financial bed partners are or how much debt encumbers projects bearing the Trump name.  For business non-lawyers, depending on where organized, there can be zero information on the identities of members of an LLC, which in turn can be other equally anonymously owned LLC's.  Indeed, in Virginia other than a business address where records will be kept, all that is known is who the name and address of registered agent - i.e., who is designated to receive filings and/or lawsuits (I am registered agent for well over 100 LLC's).  Absent a court order, the registered agent has no obligation to disclose who the principals of the LLC are in fact.  The bottom line is that Trump can have ties to foreign entities and individuals and be beholden to lenders and investors whom remain totally unknown to American voters. Indeed, Trump could be in bed financially with Russian oligarchs or even entities tied to Vladimir Putin and we would never know.  The New York Times looks at Trump's maze of LLC's and the huge amount of debt owed by some of them.  Here are highlights:
On the campaign trail, Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has sold himself as a businessman who has made billions of dollars and is beholden to no one.
But an investigation by The New York Times into the financial maze of Mr. Trump’s real estate holdings in the United States reveals that companies he owns have at least $650 million in debt — twice the amount than can be gleaned from public filings he has made as part of his bid for the White House. The Times’s inquiry also found that Mr. Trump’s fortunes depend deeply on a wide array of financial backers, including one he has cited in attacks during his campaign.
For example, an office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, of which Mr. Trump is part owner, carries a $950 million loan. Among the lenders: the Bank of China, one of the largest banks in a country that Mr. Trump has railed against as an economic foe of the United States, and Goldman Sachs, a financial institution he has said controls Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee . . .
The Times’s examination underscored how much of Mr. Trump’s business remains shrouded in mystery. He has declined to disclose his tax returns or allow an independent valuation of his assets.
Earlier in the campaign, Mr. Trump submitted a 104-page federal financial disclosure form. It said his businesses owed at least $315 million to a relatively small group of lenders and listed ties to more than 500 limited liability companies. Though he answered the questions, the form appears to have been designed for candidates with simpler finances than his, and did not require disclosure of portions of his business activities.
Beyond finding that companies owned by Mr. Trump had debts of at least $650 million, The Times discovered that a substantial portion of his wealth is tied up in three passive partnerships that owe an additional $2 billion to a string of lenders, including those that hold the loan on the Avenue of the Americas building. If those loans were to go into default, Mr. Trump would not be held liable, the Trump Organization said. The value of his investments, however, would certainly sink.
Mr. Trump has said that if he were elected president, his children would be likely to run his company. Many presidents, to avoid any appearance of a conflict, have placed their holdings in blind trusts, which typically involves selling the original asset, and replacing it with different assets unknown to the seller.  Mr. Trump’s children seem unlikely to pursue that option.
The full terms of Mr. Trump’s limited partnerships are not known. The current value of the loans connected to them is roughly $1.95 billion, according to various public documents.
Mr. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, said that neither Mr. Trump nor the company were responsible for the debt associated with the limited partnerships.
Still, as with all of the properties in which Mr. Trump holds an interest, the value of the buildings as well as the terms and magnitude of their debt could have a major impact on his personal fortune.
Tracing the ownership of many of Mr. Trump’s buildings can be a complicated task. Sometimes he owns a building and the land underneath it; sometimes, he holds a partial interest or just the commercial portion of a property.
And in some cases, the identities of his business partners are obscured behind limited liability companies — raising the prospect of a president with unknown business ties.
Mr. Trump’s opaque portfolio of business ties makes him potentially vulnerable to the demands of banks, and to business people in the United States and abroad, said Professor Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer.
“The success of his empire depends on an ability to get credit, to get loans extended to his business entities,” he said. “And we simply don’t know a lot about his financial dealings, here or around the world.”
I for one would like to know who potentially holds power over Trump be that domestic lenders - many of whom have blacklisted Trump due to his numerous bankruptcies - or unsavory foreign thugs and/or dictators.  The fact that, if elected,  Trump's assets would not be placed into a blind trust is especially trobling.

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