According to Trump biographers Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher – authors of the recent publication “Trump Revealed” – Trump has long relied on a unique bargaining tool as leverage with banks: his personal guarantee. Using his name as leverage, he has repeatedly negotiated better terms worth hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to his Trump Organization, a Trump-owned private real estate development company owning and operating several properties, hotels and casino resorts among other businesses Bloomberg reported. This has been especially true of Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank as well as one of the world’s most insolvent banks – largely believed to be on the brink of collapse.
As a result of this unique agreement with one of its highest profile clients, Deutsche Bank, is scrambling to restructure at least part of its roughly $300 million debt to reduce the conflict of interest that has arisen following Trump’s assumption of the presidency. Supplanting the personal guarantee of the now President of the United States could lead to less favorable terms. Concurrently swirling conflicts of interest involve wealthy Russian Deutsche Bank client stock trades, which have been muddied by Trump’s recent moves to improve relations with Russia as well as multi-billion dollar penalties pending against Deutsche Bank due to a mortgage-bonds scandal. While Trump has nominally handed over his businesses to his sons, he continues to own the business. Ethics watchdogs are sounding the alarm over the possibility of a foreign entity holding such sway over the President of the United States.
In a veritable firestorm of conflicts of interest related to Trump’s considerably complex assets, this relationship dwarfs them all. Deutsche Bank has been Trump’s major creditor lending him upwards of billions of dollars over the years, becoming his main backer. The relationship became established after other banks refused to work with him the in wake of several bankruptcies.
Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia law professor and author of “Too Big To Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations”, stated that: ”Deutsche poses the biggest conflict that we know about in terms of dollar amounts and the scale of legal exposures…[the bank] may have tried to do its best to avoid the appearance of impropriety but it may be impossible for them to do so.”
Bloomberg reports that Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush noted that “When you have political appointees making decisions about banks that the president owes a lot of money to, it looks terrible.” He added that “The US Government is dealing with regulatory and criminal issues with big banks all the time, and if he owes them a lot of money, there might be an incentive to favor less regulation and less enforcement for the banks.” For a candidate who ran on his business savvy and negotiating skills, this possibility is not too difficult to manage.
Deutsche Bank has declined to comment on the ongoing restructuring and investigations. In response to burgeoning allegations surrounding the Trump organization, Trump has tried to minimize the relationship stating that the loans are a relatively small portion of the Trump multi-billion dollar empire and that the loans relying on personal guarantee are slated to be restructured as standard debt after the projects are completed. It remains to be seen if this statements will suffice to placate Trump’s critics.
Feature photo | Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt. Michael Probst | AP