Senators seek investigation of how committee examines real estate deals by foreign investors

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate how the Committee on Foreign Investment examines U.S. real estate transactions involving foreign investors.

The senators’ request follows a significant increase in foreign investment in U.S. commercial properties, and two recent, and ultimately unsuccessful, high-profile real estate transactions involving Chinese conglomerate Anbang that raised national security concerns.

“Foreign investors are pouring more and more money into the U.S. real estate market, and yet the trail behind these transactions is often shrouded in secrecy,” Wyden said.  “It is critical that we have a better understanding of how U.S. agencies identify and address national security threats that may arise in connection with foreign real estate investments.”

In their letter to the GAO, the senators also note that additional national security considerations may be introduced by the fact that several senior administration officials, including the President, retain ownership of significant real estate holdings and maintain multiple residences that could be the subject of foreign acquisitions in the future.

“We know that real estate deals are one of the favored ways to launder illicit finances,” Brown said. “But we don’t know if our oversight agencies have the resources and tools they need to vet Russian, Chinese, and other foreign investments in U.S. real estate for potential threats to our nation’s security.”