Trump settles Trump U. fraud lawsuits for $25M
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.