Laurent Morali, president of the Kushner Cos., said in a statement the company refused "to be extorted" after more than two years of investigation concerning apartments the company owns in Maryland. He also said Attorney General Brian Frosh "clearly cares more about scoring political points" than fighting crime and helping the state's residents.
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the Republican Trump, stepped down as CEO of the family business before joining the White House, but still has an ownership stake in the subsidiary responsible for the apartments, Westminster Properties.
A spokeswoman for Frosh, a Democrat, says she can neither confirm nor deny an investigation. Morali said the company has fully cooperated with the attorney general's office. He said since the company bought what were financially distressed assets in Maryland seven years ago, the company has invested more than $30 million in upgrading the properties.
"Despite the company's efforts to cooperate with the investigation and change in practices, the Attorney General insists on an exorbitant and unprecedented penalty amount," Morali said. "Additionally, the Attorney General contends that Westminster has committed hundreds of violations when in fact there are only 2 outstanding concerns voice by him."
Kushner's family real estate firm owns thousands of apartments and townhomes in the Baltimore area, and some have been criticized for the same kind of disrepair and neglect that the president has accused local leaders of failing to address.
A 2017 Baltimore Sun story found the Kushner Cos. used the courts to arrest tenants late on rent more than any other landlord in the state. A lawsuit seeking class-action status for residents alleges Westminster Management, the Kushner subsidiary that oversees rental properties in Maryland and other states, often charges tenants illegal and excessive fees that keeps them in constant fear of eviction and guessing what they owe. Westminster has said it has broken no laws and denies the charges.
Baltimore County officials issued a release in 2017 showing that the company had violated housing codes more than 200 times in just 10 months and only moved to fix the problems after being threatened with fines.
The company's ownership of garden apartments has drawn scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers. They requested thousands of pages of documents about the apartment complexes, citing news reports describing poor conditions in some buildings and what tenants allege is aggressive debt collection practices.