Late last month, David C. Williams dropped a red-hot audit on Tom Samra, who runs the real estate arm of the US Postal Service in Washington, DC. As the inspector general of the Postal Service, William’s mission is to “prevent and detect fraud, waste, and misconduct” inside the $65 billion agency. The April 22 audit report bluntly charges Samra and his staff with mishandling the Postal Service’s contract with CBRE of Santa Monica, which is the world’s biggest commercial real estate firm and is one of the nation’s most politically influential. Based on findings that the CBRE has violated its financial obligations to the Postal Service, Williams is demanding that Samra “terminate and recompete the current CBRE real estate management services contract.”
According to the audit, Williams has assigned his law enforcement division to review specific CBRE deals. CBRE spokesperson Robert McGrath said, “We have been informed by the OIG [Office of Inspector General] that no criminal investigation is underway.” When asked if McGrath’s statement is true, the inspector general’s spokesperson, Agapi Doulaveris, replied, “The Office of Inspector General conducts investigations that are administrative and criminal in nature. We do not confirm, deny, or speak about any ongoing investigation.”
CBRE is largely owned and controlled by Richard C. Blum, the husband of US Senator Dianne Feinstein. In 2011, the Postal Service awarded Blum’s firm an exclusive contract to service its $85 billion real estate portfolio. According to the audit, CBRE has made tens of millions of dollars on deals that have damaged the financial interests of the Postal Service. The inspector general says that CBRE employees may have coerced commissions from landlords during leasing negotiations. He has also marshaled evidence revealing conflicts of interest in CBRE’s dealings with buyers of postal properties. Williams is concerned that CBRE “could manipulate transaction prices to favor its clients or business partners when managing the appraisal and negotiation processes for properties the Postal Service has sold or leased.”
The inspector general’s seventeen-month investigation commenced a few weeks after Express published an excerpt from my investigative ebook, Going Postal: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Husband Sells Post Offices to His Friends, Cheap.