Over the last two decades, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has reported on required financial disclosure forms that his family received rental income totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a firm called Ginger, Ltd., Partnership.
Clarence Thomas has for years claimed income from a defunct real estate firm
But that company — a Nebraska real estate firm launched in the 1980s by his wife and her relatives — has not existed since 2006.
That year, the family real estate company was shut down and a separate firm was created, state incorporation records show. The similarly named firm assumed control of the shuttered company’s land leasing business, according to property records.
Since that time, however, Thomas has continued to report income from the defunct company — between $50,000 and $100,000 annually in recent years — and there is no mention of the newer firm, Ginger Holdings, LLC, on the forms.
The previously unreported misstatement might be dismissed as a paperwork error. But it is among a series of errors and omissions that Thomas has made on required annual financial disclosure forms over the past several decades, a review of those records shows. Together, they have raised questions about how seriously Thomas views his responsibility to accurately report details about his finances to the public.
Thomas’s disclosure history is in the spotlight after ProPublica revealed this month that a Texas billionaire took him on lavish vacations and also bought from Thomas and his relatives a Georgia home where his mother lives, a transaction that was not disclosed on the forms. Thomas said in a statement that colleagues he did not name told him he did not have to report the vacations and that he has always tried to comply with disclosure guidelines. He has not publicly addressed the property transaction.
In 2011, after the watchdog group Common Cause raised red flags, Thomas updated years of his financial disclosure reports to include employment details for his wife, conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas. The justice said at the time that he had not understood the filing instructions. In 2020, he was forced to revise his disclosure forms after a different watchdog group found he had failed to report reimbursements for trips to speak at two law schools.
A judicial ethics expert said the pattern was troubling.
“Any presumption in favor of Thomas’s integrity and commitment to comply with the law is gone. His assurances and promises cannot be trusted. Is there more? What’s the whole story? The nation needs to know,” said Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics expert at New York University.
Gillers said all three branches of government should investigate Thomas’s compliance or noncompliance with federal ethics law. “The Supreme Court has been the glue that has held the republic together since 1790 with the Civil War the only interruption. We need the public to respect it even when it disagrees with it and to understand why it is important. Generally, the public has,” he said. “But that respect is now in serious jeopardy, and others must do something to stop the free fall.”
Thomas did not respond to emailed questions sent through a court spokeswoman. His wife also did not respond to requests for comment.
Thomas’s income from the firm he describes as “Ginger, Ltd., Partnership” on the financial disclosure forms has grown substantially over the last decade, though the precise amounts are unknown because the forms require only that ranges be reported. In total, he has reported receiving between $270,000 to $750,000 from the firm since 2006, describing it as “rent.” Thomas’s salary as a justice this year is $285,000.
The company’s roots trace back to two lakeside neighborhoods developed decades ago by Ginni Thomas’s late parents in a community in Douglas County, just outside of Omaha.
Ginger Limited Partnership was created in 1982 to sell and lease real estate, state incorporation records show, and its partners were Ginni Thomas, her parents and her three siblings. The firm owned and leased out residential lots in two developments, Ginger Woods and Ginger Cove, collecting rent annually from each occupied plot of land, according to copies of lease agreements on file with the county.
When he was nominated to a federal appeals court in 1990, Thomas listed the firm in a financial statement as one of his wife’s assets — worth $15,000 at the time.
The firm was dissolved in March 2006. Around the same time, Ginger Holdings, LLC was created in Nebraska, according to state records, which list the same business address as the shuttered company and name Joanne K. Elliott, the sister of Ginni Thomas, as manager.
The same month, the leases for more than 200 residential lots in Ginger Woods and Ginger Cove were transferred from Ginger Limited Partnership to Ginger Holdings, LLC, property records in Douglas County show.
Reached by phone, Elliott referred questions about the two companies to Ginni Thomas.
“You could call her and she could answer anything that she wants you to know,” Elliott said before hanging up.
Ginni Thomas is not named in state incorporation records related to Ginger Holdings, LLC.
In his most recent disclosure, in 2021, Thomas estimated that his family’s interest in Ginger Limited Partnership, the defunct firm, was worth between $250,000 and $500,000. He reported receiving an income from it between $50,000 and $100,000 that year.
On Friday, congressional Democrats with oversight of federal courts cited Thomas’s “apparent pattern of noncompliance with disclosure requirements” in calling on the Judicial Conference — the policymaking body for the federal courts — to refer him to the attorney general for an investigation into whether he violated federal ethics laws.
In addition to the recent revelations about Thomas’s financial relationship with Harlan Crow, the Texas billionaire, they cited a period in the 2000s in which Thomas failed to disclose his wife’s employment as required by law until the omission was reported by the watchdog group Common Cause.
Ginni Thomas earned more than $686,000 from the conservative Heritage Foundation from 2003 until 2007, according to the nonprofit’s tax forms. Clarence Thomas checked a box labeled “none” for his wife’s income during that period. He had done the same in 2008 and 2009 when she worked for conservative Hillsdale College.
Thomas acknowledged the error when he amended those filings in 2011. He wrote that the information had been “inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions.”
In some years before those omissions, however, Thomas had correctly reported his wife’s employment.
Thomas failed to report the sale of the three Georgia properties to Crow in 2014, and he also continued to report that he owned a share of those properties as late as 2015, his disclosure forms show. In addition, beginning in 2010, his disclosures described the properties as being located in Liberty County, Ga., even though they were actually located in Chatham County.
Thomas also did not report reimbursement for transportation, meals and lodging while teaching at the universities of Kansas and Georgia in 2018. After the omission was flagged by the nonprofit Fix the Court, Thomas amended his filing for that year. He also amended his 2017 filing, on which he had left off similar reimbursements while teaching at Creighton Law School, his wife’s alma mater.
Jonathan O’Connell and Alice Crites contributed to this report.
The shortage of houses is hitting some people and areas harder than others – CNBC
Even in a housing market that has slowed significantly due to rising mortgage rates, the supply of homes for sale is about half of what it was in 2019.
The shortage is hitting some buyers more than others.
The popular 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered in the high-6% range in May. At that level, buyers with an annual income of $100,000, slightly above the national median, could afford a house with a maximum price of about $341,000. But just 39% of the homes for sale were listed at or below that price point in May, according to a new report Thursday from Realtor.com with the National Association of Realtors.
In a balanced market of supply and demand, 64% of homes should be affordable to buyers who make $100,000 a year, given the size of that population. As a result, the market currently lacks about 285,000 of those listings.
Just five years ago, those same earners could afford two-thirds of homes for sale. Home prices and mortgage rates were significantly lower.
The lack of affordable homes heated up competition in the market this spring, which reversed the cooldown in home prices that started last summer.
“It’s almost a tale of two cities where we have houses under $500,000, they’re absolutely selling incredibly fast. Under $350,000 and $400,000, there’s multiple offers,” said Noah Herrera, a real estate agent in Las Vegas, during an open house in mid-May. “Over $500,000, it slows down a little bit.”
At the higher price ranges, too many homes are for sale for the number of Americans who can afford them. In fact, for every home listing above $680,000, the market is lacking twice as many homes under $341,000.
“Ongoing high housing costs and the scarcity of available homes continues to present budget challenges for many prospective buyers, and it’s likely keeping some buyers in the rental market or on the sidelines and delaying their purchase until conditions improve,” said Realtor.com’s chief economist Danielle Hale.
The pricy existing home market is pushing more buyers to new construction, which, ironically, used to come at a price premium. Homebuilders have been offering incentives such as upgrades or temporary mortgage rate buydowns. Those, however, are decreasing as builders see more demand and gain more pricing power.
As with all else in real estate, location is everything. The areas that have the biggest deficit of affordable homes are El Paso, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Spokane, Washington; several Florida markets; and of course, Riverside and Los Angeles, California, which are some of the priciest housing markets in the nation.
Areas in the Midwest continue to have the highest number of affordable homes. The four cities with the largest supply of affordable homes are all in Ohio. They are followed by Syracuse, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and St. Louis, Missouri.
The supply situation does not appear to be improving. New listings of homes for sale in the first week of June fell 25% year over year to their lowest level of any early June on record, according to Redfin.
That lack of new listings has pushed the total number of homes on the market down 5% from the same period a year ago.
Treasury Secretary Yellen warns of commercial real estate 'issues' that could strain banks – MarketWatch
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in her first interview since the U.S. debt-ceiling was lifted last week by Congress, warned on Wednesday about the potential for banks to feel strain from their exposure to weakening commercial real estate valuations.
Yellen was asked by CNBC “Squawk Box” host Andrew Ross Sorkin about if she’s worried about the state of estimated $20.7 trillion commercial real-estate market, particularly the office, and if weakness in the sector could potentially spark more bank failures.
“Well, I do think that there will be issues with respect to commercial real estate,” Yellen said. “Certainly, the demand for office space since we’ve seen such a big change in attitudes and behavior toward remote work has changed and especially in an environment of higher interest rates.”
Major landlords from Blackstone Inc.
to Brookfield Corp.
have been bracing for a significant drop in office property values, as the Federal Reserve’s inflation fight puts an end to an era of abundant and cheap debt.
While the final word on wobbling property prices won’t be known for some time, PGIM Fixed Income, a key investor in commercial property debt, recently said they expect office values to fall 20%-50% from peak levels, while multifamily values could drop as much as 22.5%, in part because financing has become more expensive and scarce.
See: Commercial real estate’s debt machine is broken down
Office property woes and the ‘doom loop’
Researchers at the NYU Stern School of Business and Columbia Business School recently estimated there has been a $506.3 billion decline in office values from 2019 to 2022 nationally in the wake of the pandemic which could feed a “doom loop” in some big cities.
They estimate banks own 61% of U.S. commercial property debt. They also see potential for the value of New York City’s office stock to drop 44% from 2019 to 2029 due to stress in the sector from flexible work arrangements.
“I think banks are broadly preparing for some restructuring and difficulties going ahead,” Yellen said, adding that the overall level of liquidity at banks looks strong and that stress tests of the largest banks show they have adequate capital to withstand fallout from the commercial property market.
She also said banking supervisors will continue to closely monitor “a range of banks to make sure that they are adequately prepared to deal with it.”
Yellen also said that, “while there will be some pain associated with this, that banks should be able to handle the strain.”
Related: Blackstone wrote down its stake in this Chicago office building to $0. Now it’s talking with lenders on the debt coming due.
South Okanagan residential real estate market sales picking up speed – Penticton News – Castanet.net
Buyer activity and real estate listing activity are gaining momentum again in the South Okanagan, as residents have adjusted to the current late spring market.
“The market is doing really well,” Association of Interior Realtors Past President Lyndi Cruickshank said.
“I think a lot of people felt really shell shocked when the interest rates started to rise, understandably so, as we often feel that resistance when there’s a dramatic change in our lives. And is often the case, people settle into what our new reality is, and our interest rates are certainly significantly higher than they were. But people are finding ways to manage.”
There has been a bit of a decline in the average home price, which is helping buyers. And as more homes come on the market, it ultimately helps the consumers looking to purchase.
“I talked to so many people last year that really wanted to be able to sell their home, but there was such a fear as to where they were going to go. So now that we have seen the inventory start to open up quite a bit. It’s allowing them more choice.”
Home inventory has increased by 38 per cent in active listings.
In the South Okanagan, the benchmark price for a single-family dwelling dipped 6.6 per cent, to $772,200. Townhouses ($558,100) and condominiums ($427,700) also dropped in May compared to this same time period last year.
“We’re certainly more into a buyer’s market than we have been over the last year. Previously, we were very predominantly held by a sellers market. And we’re seeing a lot more strength on the buying side now,” Cruickshank said.
She added that this is typically the time of year that people start to look for homes and that people really traditionally look to put their homes on the market.
“That plays a big role, obviously, in that increase in activity that we’re experiencing right now.”
The more balanced market will give buyers more of an opportunity to do their due diligence before purchasing.
“We’ve got a long way to go. We came from such an extreme market this time last year. And then we had that real hit with interest rates and things really slowed down very dramatically. So it’s really nice to see things starting to just move forward in a more normalized way again.
Still, finding homes in the South Okanagan remains to be a challenge as vacancy rates remain low, even as developments continue to grow.
“It’s going to take years, years before we’re ever at a place where our inventory is going to meet demand unless we see something really dramatic. And that’s right across the country when we look at what the demand is, and the current supply. So I don’t see that changing.”
Advice for first-time home buyers remains the same: finding a realtor and figuring out what time to buy is best for you.
The shortage of houses is hitting some people and areas harder than others – CNBC
Rob Carrick: What the Bank of Canada rate hike means for investors and savers who want to park money safely – The Globe and Mail
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