The developer and owner of two major properties in West Hollywood, a city whose former mayor said she would ban Donald Trump and most of whose city council members showed up for an anti-Trump demonstration in February, is alleged to be closely tied to Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner and benefitting from that relationship.
The allegation comes in a report by WNYC, a New York City public radio station, and was aired today on KPCC. WNYC reporters Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz looked into the dealings of Los Angeles-based CIM Group, reporting that “Over the years, documents show, CIM has done at least seven real estate deals that have benefited Trump and the people around him, including Kushner. Those deals included stabilizing the scandal-plagued Trump SoHo hotel, a key Manhattan holding for Trump and his children Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr.”
CIM, a private equity firm, was founded by Shaul Kuba, Avi Shemesh and Richard Ressler. Kuba and Shemesh are Israelis. Its biggest project in West Hollywood is Sunset La Cienega, a nearly complete development that includes two 10-story towers with 296 hotel rooms and 15,000 square feet of retail space and two eight-story towers with 190 residential units and 55,000 square feet of retail. The project lies on either side of La Cienega with large public plazas facing Sunset.
CIM Group also is owner of The Lot, the historic movie studio property on Santa Monica Boulevard at Formosa, where it is currently adding a six-story office building.
The WNYC story says “the full extent of CIM’s government ties is not known; much of its business is private, though some investments are publicly traded. In public disclosures, CIM said it received annualized rent of $37.7 million from the General Services Administration and other federal agencies.”
WNYC also reported that CIM benefits from the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which allows foreign investors in projects in America to obtain green cards and which has been promoted by Kushner’s sister, Nicole Meyer, as she sought investments in Korea for the family business. And it says “CIM has an infrastructure investment fund which it acknowledges is sensitive to ‘regulation’ and ‘political events.’ If Trump gets an infrastructure bill passed, funds like this could earn many millions from projects like roads and tunnels.”
The West Hollywood City Council in February debated whether to support a proposal by then-Mayor Lauren Meister to re-evaluate its relationship with Wells Fargo bank because of the bank’s investment of $120 million in the controversial Dakota Pipeline and its connections with Trump. Councilmember John Duran opposed Meister’s proposal, noting that Wells Fargo has been a major donor to LGBT charities, including the LA Gay Men’s Chorus, whose board he chairs. The council finally decided to ask city staffers to develop a list of businesses that Trump has a connection with and a policy for not doing business with Trump and his affiliated businesses. It also asked that city staff members develop standards of social consciousness for city vendors and business partners and use them to evaluate WeHo’s banking relationship with Wells Fargo.
Some members of the Los Angeles City Council have taken more aggressive measures. The council voted earlier this month to support the impeachment of Trump. And in March Los Angeles City Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Paul Koretz introduced a measure that directs the city’s Office of Finance to report back with options for divestment from all holdings with Wells Fargo. The City of Los Angeles currently holds over $40 million in securities with Wells Fargo that have a one to four year maturity. Trump’s support for Wells Fargo, which has immersed itself in a crisis after pressing employees to create fake bank accounts for customers, is evident in his administration’s decision to take down a government website where Wells Fargo employees could file their complaints.
According to David Wilson, West Hollywood’s director of finance, the city uses Wells Fargo for routine banking services such as deposits from revenue received, payments to vendors for goods and services and payments to employees for payroll. Wells Fargo is the primary provider for the city’s day-to-day cash and credit transactions. The city also uses a lockbox with US Bank for some of its rent stabilization transactions. The City of West Hollywood does not use Wells Fargo for any investment services. “Typically, the city will maintain approximately $3 million in the Wells Fargo accounts to cover checks issued to vendors,” Wilson said in an email to WEHOville.