Big Companies Try To Distance Themselves From Trump—While Still Paying Him Millions In Rent

Published 3 years ago
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After Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, Bank of America sent a memo to employees who had donated to the company’s political action committee. The note made it clear there would be financial consequences for legislators who had voted against certifying the 2020 election results. “For upcoming elections,” the message said, “We will take into account the appalling events of January 6 before making any PAC decisions regarding those members.”  

But what about consequences for the president? Bank of America, after all, has significant financial ties to Trump, serving as the biggest tenant inside 555 California Street, a San Francisco skyscraper in which the president holds a 30% stake worth an estimated $442 million. The bank’s annual rent amounts to an estimated $22 million, and Trump’s 30% share of that is roughly $6.5 million. When asked whether the bank planned to continue providing that money to the president, a spokesman didn’t have an answer. “Regarding 555 California, I would have to get back to you,” he said. “We don’t generally disclose rent payments.”

Bank of America isn’t the only company caught in an awkward position—pledging financial consequences for Trump’s acolytes while continuing to pay the president rent. Many of Trump’s tenants are locked into longstanding lease agreements, which makes severing those ties more challenging than simply pledging to withhold future political donations. Further complicating things: the president’s blue-chip tenants are largely inside 555 California Street and New York City’s 1290 Avenue of the Americas, two buildings in which he holds minority interests alongside publicly traded Vornado Realty Trust, which manages the buildings on a day-to-day basis.


The amount of money flowing through those leases, however, is far greater than the standard political donation. Plus, the funds ultimately go to Trump personally, rather than to a campaign for his political allies. Cutting off the rental payments, in other words, would send a more significant, personal message to Trump.

But that’s not where companies are focused right now. Take Goldman Sachs. “We put a pause on all PAC activity last Thursday and are reviewing our political contributions going forward, in light of the efforts to block the results of the election,” a representative for the financial giant said in a statement. Goldman remains one of the president’s tenants at 555 California Street, paying an estimated $5.8 million of annual rent. Trump’s 30% share amounts to $1.7 million. Questioned about plans for the lease agreement, a spokesman did not have an answer. “I’ll ask,” he said.

It’s a similar story at Microsoft, which decided on Friday that it would freeze political giving through its PAC. “The PAC regularly pauses its donations in the first quarter of a new Congress, but it will take additional steps this year to consider these recent events and consult with employees,” a spokesperson said in a statement. The technology firm also did not answer whether it will be seeking to change its lease inside 555 California, where it pays an estimated $3.2 million a year—$900,000 of which is attributable to the president.

Ditto for JPMorgan Chase, which has space on the ground floor of 1290 Avenue of the Americas. “The terrible events from the last week have prompted us to pause all contributions from our political action committee and to reevaluate our PAC giving strategies,” a bank representative said in a statement. No word, however, on the rent flowing into the president’s property: “Checking on the lease,” the spokesperson said.


Morgan Stanley, which is also reportedly halting its donations to lawmakers who did not vote to certify the election tally, rents space inside 555 California Street and pays an estimated $10 million annually ($3.1 million of which counts toward Trump’s rent roll). But the firm did not respond to requests for comment about its lease.

Blue Cross Blue Shield’s national organization said it would suspend its donations to legislators who “voted to undermine our democracy,” explaining in a statement, “While a contrast of ideas, ideological differences and partisanship are all part of our politics, weakening our political system and eroding public confidence in it must never be.” The group did not say whether the foundation of one of its companies, Blue Shield of California, would try to change its lease agreement in San Francisco. That space, inside the 555 California Street complex, comes with an estimated $2.1 million price tag per year. Trump’s share of the rent: roughly $600,000.

With additional reporting by Jemima McEvoy and Andrew Solender.

By Dan Alexander, Forbes Staff