December 19,2023

Finance Committee Invites Justice Thomas to Clarify Remarks Regarding $267,000 Luxury Motor Coach Loan From Wealthy Businessman

Documents Provided By Businessman Indicate Loan Was Forgiven With No Principal Paid; Following Ambiguous Denial by Justice Thomas’s Attorney, Finance Committee Sends Detailed Request For Information About the Loan

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today invited an attorney for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to clarify his remarks regarding a $267,000 loan the justice received from a wealthy businessman. Both the businessman and documents reviewed by Finance Committee Staff indicated Justice Thomas did not repay the loan in full, raising questions about tax and ethics compliance. 

“The details of this loan arrangement are critical to a proper understanding of the tax and ethics implications the loan has for Justice Thomas,” Wyden wrote to Elliot Berke, an attorney for Justice Thomas. “We write to offer an opportunity to provide any details or documentation Justice Thomas may have that could supplement the information obtained by the Finance Committee. The requested information will help us understand the terms of the arrangement and clarify whether the loan terms were fully satisfied and if the loan and interest were paid in full.”

In October, the Finance Committee released a memo with new information about Justice Thomas’s $267,000 loan agreement with businessman Anthony Welters, including the original loan agreement and documents indicating Justice Thomas did not repay a substantial portion of the loan. As the New York Times first reported in August 2023, Thomas used the loan to purchase a luxury Prevost Marathon motor coach. 

If Welters forgave the loan, the amount forgiven would be treated as income by the IRS, leaving Justice Thomas responsible for paying taxes on that amount. 

Following the release of that memo, Berke issued a statement to the media, claiming “[t]he loan was never forgiven. Any suggestion to the contrary is false,” and that “[t]he Thomases made all payments to Mr. Welters on a regular basis until the terms of the agreement were satisfied in full.” 

Notably, the statement did not state whether Justice Thomas actually repaid the full amount of the loan, including the principal, or explain why Welters’ records indicate that the principal was not repaid. 

To resolve those questions, the Finance Committee asked Berke to answer the following questions by January 19, 2024:

  1. Please describe the terms of the private loan Justice Thomas entered with Anthony Welters in 1999, including:
    1. The total dollar amount loaned;
    2. The interest rate charged on the loan;
    3. The loan tenure;
    4. The terms of repayment, including any agreed upon amortization schedules.
  1. Please provide a copy of any written loan agreements with Justice Thomas signed in 1999. Please also describe the process by which the loan was originated.
  1. At any point, did the terms of this loan agreement with Justice Thomas change? If so, please describe when those changes to the terms of the loan were made and what those changes were.
  1. Was there a regular payment schedule under the loan agreement? If so, were payments due by Justice Thomas on a monthly, annual or other basis? Please describe in detail Justice Thomas’s repayment obligations under the terms of the loan agreement, including any requirements to make regular principal and interest payments and the amounts owed.
  1. Did Justice Thomas ever miss any scheduled loan payments? If so, how often were payments missed and what steps were taken to repay the amounts owed.
  1. According to your statement, Justice Thomas’s debt was “satisfied” in 2008. Please clarify what “satisfied” is intended to convey in this context, including whether this is intended to mean that the loan was repaid in full by Justice Thomas or a portion of the debt was forgiven or discharged.
  1. What was the total amount in principal and interest on the loan repaid by Justice Thomas? When was the last payment made?
  1. Were any payments of principal and interest made by other individuals? If so, please clarify how much was repaid by Justice Thomas and how much was repaid by any third parties (and who those third parties were).
  1. Justice Thomas has previously reported that he has received gifts related to his motor home including deep-cycle batteries and new tires.  Has Justice Thomas received any other gifts related to the motor home, such as gasoline, maintenance, or parking and storage accommodations?   

Read the full letter to Berke here.