An investigation by The Guardian reveals conflicts of interest.
23 Apr, 2018FORTUNE.COM
Fox News anchor Sean Hannity had a bad week.
Last Monday, a lawyer representing Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said that Hannity was one of Cohen’s three clients. Cohen is under investigation in relation to a payment he reportedly made to adult film star Stormy Daniels on behalf of then-candidate Trump. Hannity denied (kind of) that he’d retained Cohen’s services, but that hasn’t stopped people from taking a closer look at his financial dealings, which have proven to be more extensive and complicated than previously known. Here’s what we know so far.
According to documents reviewed by The Guardian, Hannity bought real estate through more than 20 shell companies registered in Georgia. A shell company is a vehicle used to hold assets and can help beneficiaries remain anonymous. They are not in themselves illegal, though they are sometimes used to conduct illegal activities such as tax evasion. There is no indication that Hannity is engaged in any illegal practices, but he is the hidden owner behind at least some of the 20 companies through which he has bought property. In his case, it appears the shell companies were used to limit his liabilities in the real estate deals in question. In the last 10 years, the companies have spent $90 million on 870 homes in seven U.S. states.
Despite his criticism of President Obama over the U.S. foreclosure rate, Hannity was an apparent beneficiary of the high number of foreclosures that accompanied and followed the great recession. In 2013 he purchased homes at a discount after their previous owners lost them to foreclosure. The Guardian reports he bought dozens of homes this way.
Hannity used mortgages funded through the Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to buy two of the most valuable properties in his portfolio. The $17.9 million in loans was first guaranteed under the Obama administration. Ben Carson’s HUD recently increased the loans by $5 million. Hannity failed to disclose his dealings with HUD when he had Ben Carson on his show last year. During that appearance, Hannity told Carson he’d “done a good job.”
Hannity’s shell companies are registered at Henssler Financial. A principal at the firm, Bill Lako, has appeared on Hannity’s radio show and has written for the show’s website. Though the fact that the two men do business together was disclosed on air, a recent op-ed penned by Lako and published on the Hannity show’s website had no such disclaimer.