Trump set­tles Trump U. fraud law­suits for $25M

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By Ros­alind S. Helderman As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, who has re­peat­edly bragged he never set­tles law­suits de­spite a long his­tory of do­ing so, has agreed to a $25 mil­lion set­tle­ment to end the fraud cases pend­ing against his de­funct real es­tate sem­i­nar pro­gram, Trump Univer­sity, ac­cord­ing to New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Sch­nei­der­man.

Sch­nei­der­man said in a Fri­day state­ment that the set­tle­ment in­cludes a $1 mil­lion penalty paid to New York state for vi­o­lat­ing the state’s laws by call­ing the pro­gram a “univer­sity” de­spite of­fer­ing no de­grees or tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion.

Sch­nei­der­man said his of­fice had sued Trump for “swin­dling thou­sands of in­no­cent Americans out of mil­lions of dol­lars” and that the set­tle­ment had come de­spite re­sis­tance from Trump.

“To­day, that all changes. To­day’s $25 mil­lion set­tle­ment agree­ment is a stun­ning re­ver­sal by Don­ald Trump and a ma­jor vic­tory for the over 6,000 vic­tims of his fraud­u­lent univer­sity,” he said.

Trump’s lawyers say the set­tle­ment will al­low him to de­vote full at­ten­tion to the chal­lenges fac­ing the na­tion. The lawyers said they have no doubt Trump Univer­sity would have won the cases if they had gone to trial. The deal doesn’t re­quire Trump to ac­knowl­edge wrong­do­ing.

The set­tle­ment elim­i­nates the pos­si­bil­ity that Trump will be called to tes­tify in court in Don­ald Trump’s lawyers say they have no doubt they would have won the cases if they had gone to trial. the midst of his pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion. The deal ends three law­suits against him, in­clud­ing a Cal­i­for­nia class-ac­tion case that was sched­uled to go to trial Nov. 28, as well as a sec­ond law­suit in that state and the New York state ac­tion.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions over the Trump Univer­sity deal were han­dled in part by lawyers for Sch­nei­der­man, a Demo­crat, who had filed suit against Trump Univer­sity in 2013. Sch­nei­der­man has called the real es­tate pro­gram “a fraud from be­gin­ning to end.”

The fates of the New York case and the two Cal­i­for­nia suits are linked be­cause they were all brought on be­half of an over­lap­ping pool of for­mer Trump Univer­sity cus­tomers, said the per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Trumpis known for ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing his busi­ness in­ter­ests in court. Still, he has set­tled law­suits many times, de­spite ar­gu­ing that do­ing so only in­vites fur­ther lit­i­ga­tion.

The Trump Univer­sity case emerged as a po­lit­i­cal is­sue dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

As he rose in the polls, won pri­maries and emerged as the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, Trump at times seemed en­grossed in the lit­i­ga­tion and re­peat­edly de­fended the busi­ness from the stump.

At a rally in San Diego in May, Trump dis­sected the mat­ter at length, in­sist­ing that most cus­tomers who had spent money on the real es­tate pro­gram had been pleased.

Trump’s San Diego state­ments in­cluded an at­tack on Fed­eral District Court Judge Gon­zalo Curiel, who was over­see­ing the Cal­i­for­nia cases.

In sub­se­quent in­ter­views in June, Trump con­tin­ued to press com­plaints against Curiel, al­leg­ing that the In­di­ana-born judge was bi­ased be­cause of his Mex­i­can her­itage.

Curiel had urged a set­tle­ment in the cases pend­ing in his court­room, where Trump’s lawyers had re­cently asked for a de­lay, cit­ing the bur­dens of the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion.

Curiel said the agree­ment — $21 mil­lion for two San Diego cases and $4 mil­lion for a New York case — is sub­ject to his ap­proval.

Plain­tiffs’ at­tor­ney Ja­son Forge, who con­firmed the deal, said par­tic­i­pants in the class-ac­tion lit­i­ga­tion will get at least half of their money back and some will get it all.

GRE­GORY BULL/AP

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