Wells Fargo. JPMorgan Chase. Fidelity Investments. Prudential PLC. Vanguard Group. These are among the major financial institutions that own business debt held by Donald Trump, according to an investigation just published by the Wall Street Journal.
While the president-elect’s finances remain murky, due largely to his refusal to release his tax returns, the newspaper reports that he owes at least hundreds of millions of dollars, that the debt is held by more than 150 institutions, and that some of it is backed by his personal guarantee. “As a result, a broader array of financial institutions now are in a potentially powerful position over the incoming president,” it states. “If the Trump businesses were to default on their debts, the giant financial institutions that serve as so-called special servicers of these loan pools would have the power to foreclose on some of Mr. Trump’s marquee properties or seek the tens of millions of dollars that Mr. Trump personally guaranteed on the loans.”
One wonders whether to be more worried about Big Finance using its leverage to influence the president or the president abusing his power in order to thwart his creditors.
Either way, Trump’s decision to hold on to his opaque business empire while president, rather than liquidating his interests to focus on the good of the country, has created unprecedented conflicts of interest that even a saint would have difficulty navigating in office. In a prior column, I noted a New York Times investigation into a portion of Trump’s business dealings in foreign countries, arguing that in India, China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, and other countries besides, there will be countless occasions where the interests of the United States and the interests of the Trump organization diverge.