University fraud lawsuits: Trump defends settlement
DONALD Trump said he would pay US$25 million to settle lawsuits over alleged fraud at Trump University because he is focused on leading the US, dismissing any hint of guilt.
In a sharp about-turn after years of refusing to settle, Mr Trump said the amount was a good deal and insisted he would have won the cases had they gone to trial.
“I settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country,” he tweeted.
“The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!” he added.
A trio of suits brought by former students in New York and California alleged that the Trump training program – which was not an accredited college or university, and operated from 2005 to 2011 – fleeced students by tricking them with aggressive marketing.
Students paid as much as $35,000 to enrol, wrongly believing they would make it big in real estate after being taught by what the Manhattan mogul described as experts he had hand-picked, the suits said.
Mr Trump’s lawyers had countered for years that many students had given the program a thumbsup and those who failed to succeed had only themselves to blame.
But with the president-elect apparently seeking to put the thorny matter to rest as he builds his cabinet, a deal was reached.
“The $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6000 victims of his fraudulent university,” New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
A spokesperson for Mr Schneiderman’s office said the settlement covers all three class-action lawsuits against Trump University: two in California dating to 2010 and one in New York filed in 2013.
Robert Guillo, a 76-year-old New Yorker who spent nearly $40,000 on tuition alongside his son, previously told AFP that the program was an “absolute scam”.
“I learned absolutely nothing,” he said. “He fooled me for $35,000.”
The agreement came just before a hearing in a San Diego court was about to begin deciding on Mr Trump’s request to delay the trial.
Mr Trump agreed to the settlement without admitting any fault or liability, his lawyer said.–