Donald Trump donated money to the political campaigns of two state attorneys general and their offices dropped investigations into Trump University.
Trump launched online Trump University courses in 2005. By 2007, negative reports began surfacing about the sales technique for the three-day course. Nevertheless, in 2007 the Bush Administration gave Trump University an indirect endorsement when the Small Business Administration jointly developed an online course, “How to Start a Business on a Shoestring Budget,” with Trump.
By 2010, news organizations began reporting complaints about the three-day course. The Better Business Bureau
Trump University is currently the defendant in three lawsuits, two class-action lawsuits in California and one brought by the state of New York under then-attorney general Eric Schneiderman.
Associated Press mentioned the dropped Florida and Texas lawsuits in a high level overview of the Trump University sales and marketing materials that were unsealed in California this week by court order.
Last year, Trump told the Wall Street Journal:
As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.
Florida AG Pam Bondi
On September 13, 2013, the Orlando Sentinel ran this story: N.Y.’s Trump U suit draws Florida officials’ attention.
When asked about the lawsuit, the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said that they were
reviewing the New York lawsuit’s allegations, to determine whether Florida should join the multi-state case…
One month later, the Orlando Sentinel reported that on Sept. 17 the Trump Foundation contributed $25,000 to “And Justice for All”, an
electioneering communication organization, which can accept unlimited donations.
Bondi’s office never took action. Columnist Scott Maxwell writes:
Floridians are still stuck with a serious issue — a top cop who took money from a potential target.
Texas AG Greg Abbott
In Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported that in Texas, the AG’s office conducted a seven-month investigation which included having agents go undercover.
Ultimately, records show, they determined in May 2010 that the program had illegally engaged in false advertising, and they asked their bosses to sue unless the business agreed to pay the state $5.4 million.
The state consumer protection investigation
According to internal documents provided to The News about the state’s investigation into Trump University, the consumer protection division filed a formal request May 6, 2010, to sue both Trump and his namesake real estate program. Five days later, it set out settlement options to help Texas taxpayers get back the more than $2.6 million they spent on seminars and materials, plus another $2.8 million in penalties and fees.
There was certainly cause, according to the Dallas Morning News report:
“Defendants falsely assert at these ‘free workshops’ that classes are approved continuing education credit for Realtors,” the document states. “But Trump University courses were not approved by the Texas Real Estate Commission, nor was Trump University an accredited institution with the legal credentials to call itself a “university.”
Three years later, Trump personally donated $35,000 to Abbot’s successful run for governor. This is his only donation to any Texas politician to be found in the online Texas database.
New York AG Eric Schneiderman
Trump University was a registered New York corporation. In stark contrast to Florida and Texas, New York took concerted action.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a $40 million lawsuit in 2013 alleging that Trump had defrauded more than 5,000 individuals through Trump University, which was never licensed as an educational institution.
In the news release announcing the state’s lawsuit, Schneiderman said that Trump used his celebrity status and personally appeared in commercials making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford for lessons they never got.
Trump University also committed violations of federal consumer protection law. Federal law provides a three business-day right of cancellation for the type of purchases at issue here, but Trump University repeatedly failed to honor consumers’ timely requests to cancel.
In case you have ever wondered about Trump’s fractured syntax, it was on display in his 2013 deposition:
They say go to Harvard, great school, blah, blah, blah, and I think this is — except I think we have a higher approval rating than Harvard if you want to know the truth.
He also accused President Obama of being involved in the lawsuit.
They meet on Thursday evening. I get sued by this AG Schneiderman, I get sued on Saturday at 1 o’clock. Think of it. What government agency in the history of this country has ever brought a suit on a Saturday?
California national class action lawsuits
In 2010, Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck, LLP and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, LLP, filed a national class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
A second class action lawsuit covers claimants in California, Florida and New York.
The April 2010 lawsuit was brought by fashion designer Tarla Makaeff. Trump immediately counter-sued.
These two cases are moving forward:
The Cohen (Nationwide) Action alleges that the above fraudulent scheme violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) and each member of the Class is entitled to triple the amount of their purchase price of Trump University Live Events.
The Low (California/Florida/New York) Action alleges that the above false statements constitute a violation of the unfair trade and competition and false advertising laws of California, Florida, and New York, as well as laws of California and Florida specifically protecting senior citizens from financial abuse.
By 2012, Better Business Bureaus had complaints of deceptive practices from New York to Hawaii.
Trump University introductory seminars
In June 2008, the Tampa Bay Times provided an “inside” view of the Trump University one-day real estate seminar, which was designed to sell the three-day course.
Another contemporary description of the pitch seminar, from Seth Gitell, a lawyer and journalist in the northeast.
Trump not only lends his name to these functions, which amount to little more than a live infomercial, he also appears before the group in a brief video, like a capitalist version of Chairman Mao in a Communist China reeducation camp. “You’re going to learn the Trump way to get cash back when you buy a property,” Trump bellowed on the video. “You’re going to learn the Trump way to build your real estate empire property by property.”
And one from Texas.
Remember, in 2008, the economy was collapsing around just about everyone in America.
In 2009, Trump University settled a service mark claim. The online course had used Common Ground Seminars service mark “Negotiate to Win” in its title.
In the settlement, Trump University agreed to pay Common Ground Seminars half of its profits from the infringing online courses. It also agreed to stop using “Negotiate to Win” in its online course materials.
The online classes launched in May 2005. Unlike many business enterprises that licensed Trump’s name, Trump himself was the principal (solely funded) in Trump University.
The first California lawsuit filed in 2010
Known for gnawing at complex questions like a terrier with a bone. Digital evangelist, writer, teacher. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill, wiredpen.com