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Bisnow Reached Out To 46 CRE Firms Following Roe v. Wade Decision. Most Remain Silent

Commercial real estate’s biggest players are largely silent on the subject of Roe v. Wade’s reversal, days after the historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that pinched one of the most sensitive nerves in American society.

In a ruling stating that the Constitution doesn’t ensure the right to an abortion, the Supreme Court gave the power to legalize or ban the procedure back to states. Fifteen states have laws active now or within the next 30 days that will ban or severely restrict abortions, with four more states expected to ban most or all abortions in the near future, The Washington Post reported.

Bisnow reached out to about four dozen of the top names in commercial real estate development, investment, financing and brokerage to gauge their reactions and determine if and how they intend to alter employee benefits following the decision.

Protesters gather outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

Only a handful offered comments, while the majority remained mum. 

“While we are still assessing the impact of the Supreme Court decision and are aware that some states may enact new legislation regarding reproductive rights, we will continue to provide benefits that support our colleagues’ family planning choices wherever we are legally permitted to do so,” a representative for Citigroup told Bisnow in an email. 

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that Citigroup had begun to cover travel expenses for employees needing abortions. The move was “in response to changes in reproductive healthcare laws in certain states in the U.S.," the bank said in a March public filing. 

Wells Fargo told its U.S. employees in a memo distributed this morning and shared with Bisnow that, effective July 1, it would expand its existing travel coverage benefit to include reimbursements for transportation and lodging expenses for “legal abortion-related services” for the employees and their dependents who are signed up for health insurance with the company. 

Bank of America told Bisnow that for U.S. employees and their dependents who are enrolled in healthcare plans through the company, it has “expanded the list of medical treatments that are eligible for travel expense reimbursement” to include reproductive healthcare, including abortion.

In general, commercial real estate companies and organizations seemingly want to stay out of the fray, including the industry association Commercial Real Estate Women.

“CREW Network’s mission is to advance women in commercial real estate—via business networking, leadership skills development, research and career outreach. We remain mission focused and apolitical, not taking an organizational stance on social or political issues. As a non-lobbying, nonprofit membership organization, we adhere to that focus, and we respect the diverse opinions and perspectives of our members," CREW said in an emailed statement attributed to CEO Wendy Mann.

There are a couple of exceptions.

Cushman & Wakefield said Wednesday, after this article’s publication, that is offering employees $2K in travel reimbursement for medical care, including abortions, not offered within 100 miles of their homes. It is thus far the only major brokerage to say it is adjusting employee benefits in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s reversal.

“As a company centered around its people, Cushman & Wakefield has an unwavering commitment to supporting the health and well-being of our employees and their families,” the company said in a statement to Bisnow. “Believing that all our employees should have equal access to safe and consistent healthcare, regardless of where they live, the firm is expanding healthcare benefits to reimburse up to $2,000 of travel-related expenses for U.S. medical care, including reproductive healthcare, that is not available within 100 miles of an employee’s home.”

While JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group did not respond to inquiries from Bisnow, MarketWatch reported that both companies are offering travel benefits or reimbursements for abortions for those who live in states without access to the procedure.

WeWork Global Head of Public Affairs and ESG Vice President Christina Ferzli said in a post on LinkedIn that the coworking provider would reimburse up to $4K in travel expenses for its employees who live in states where abortion access is restricted to travel to the nearest location where the procedure is legally available.

Los Angeles-based developer Oak View Group tweeted over the weekend that it supports "equal access for all women to obtain the proper care that they deem appropriate for their bodies," adding that it would cover travel costs for employees seeking abortion care outside of their state.

And according to The Real Deal, leadership at Douglas Elliman, a residential real estate giant with a commercial arm, sent a memo to staff noting that the company “stands firmly behind women and their reproductive rights.” 

The memo went on to explain that Douglas Elliman would expand out-of-state coverage for employees directly affected by the decision.

Offering to pay for travel and abortion-related costs is a popular response among companies of all types, but their ability to provide these benefits is not guaranteed going forward. Companies were careful to note in their statements that they would continue this policy as long as they were legally allowed to do so.

Legal experts have already called into question if businesses enacting these practices could expose themselves to lawsuits and other legal battles by paying for a person to travel to get an abortion if that procedure is outlawed in the state where they live. 

The situation is particularly complex in Texas, where a recent law allows people to be sued for “aiding and abetting” abortion.

"If you can sue me as a person for carrying your daughter across state lines, you can sue Amazon for paying for it," University of Illinois Law professor Robin Fretwell Wilson told Reuters.

The repercussions of the decision will continue to unfold as new laws go into effect and enforcement takes shape, but the reverberations are likely to be far-reaching based on the sheer number of states that have or are expected to ban or all but ban abortions. 

UPDATE, JUNE 27, 10:12 P.M. ETThe story has been updated to include information about Oak View Group's Twitter statement and policy.

UPDATE, JUNE 29, 2:30 P.M. ET: The story has been updated to reflect that Cushman & Wakefield announced a travel reimbursement policy on Wednesday.