New York State attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman filed a civil suit against Donald Trump’s Trump University Saturday seeking at least $40 million in restitution and claiming that it was “an elaborate bait-and-switch” operating as an unlicensed educational institution from 2005 to 2011.
In a statement that’s not yet posted on the AG’s website, Schneiderman gets personal, saying Trump himself “appeared in advertisements for the school making ‘false promises’ to persuade more than 5,000 people around the country -- including 600 New Yorkers -- ‘to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford for lessons they never got,’” Alan Feuer reports in the New York Times.
Evidently, a free 90-minute workshop promoted a three-day seminar costing $1,495. It, in turn, was “an upsell” for “personal mentorship” packages costing as much as $35,000, Schneiderman says.
Schneiderman “says Trump University ran ads across the country with Trump’s photo and signature offering the free workshops,” reports the New York Daily News’ Kenneth Lovett. “But the workshops instead misled consumers by promising instructors hand-picked by Trump who, in reality, were not, Schneiderman alleges.”
George Sorial, one of Trump’s attorneys, tells Feuer that the suit is “politically motivated,” claiming “Schneiderman had asked Mr. Trump and his family for campaign contributions and grew angry when denied.”
Another Trump attorney, Michael D. Cohen, also accused Schneiderman of “trying to extort campaign contributions … through his investigation,” reports the Associated Press’ Michael Gormley, saying that the “lawsuit was filled with falsehoods” and that “Trump and his university never defrauded anyone.”
According to Cohen, “Trump University provided nearly 11,000 testimonials to Schneiderman from students praising the program,” Gormley writes. And 98% of students rated the program “excellent” in a survey.
Trump himself traces a plot against him all the way to the top, as MSNBC’s Gabriela Resto-Montero posts. He tweeted from @realDonaldTrump yesterday afternoon: “Wow, l just found out that A.G. Schneiderman met with President Obama in Syracuse on Thursday --- and sued me on Saturday! Same as IRS etc.”
But this not the first institution of this ilk that the New York AG has gone after. Last Monday, Schneiderman announced a $10.25 million settlement with Career Education Corporation (CEC), a Schaumberg, Ill.-based company that operates seven schools in New York.
“The state charged that CEC inflated its job placement rates from at least 2009 through spring 2011 and used the inflated placement data to lure prospective students to attend their schools,” writes “Consumer Affairs” blog editor James R. Hood.
CEC did not admit or deny the state's findings, according to Reuters’ Jonathan Stempel, but Schneiderman said the company “fired several high-level managers involved in inflating placement rates and took steps to modify its practices.”
A Schneiderman spokesman confirmed at the time the AG’s office had “open investigations of practices at other for-profit schools.”
Referring to Trump as “the very anti-gay, birther conspiracist, perennial presidential candidate, and all around arrogant egomaniac …,” “The New Civil Rights Movement” blogger David Badash reveals some titles of Trump University’s courses pulled from a 2005 web archive. Here are two:
One thing you can say about Trump’s wealth-building forte is that his business practices have certainly been a boom to the attorney industry, as the hed on a CBS/AP story in May suggests: “The Donald, Sued Again.” The story details Trump’s testimony in a Chicago civil trial where he was “accused of wooing investors into buying condos at his namesake Chicago skyscraper by promising profit sharing, then reneging on that promise after the sales.”
But guess what? A jury sided with Trump and against Jacqueline Goldberg, an 87-year-old financial planner who had brought the suit.
“Minutes after the verdict, a victorious Trump said in a telephone interview that Goldberg lost because her attorney brought no evidence. “I'm rich and I'm from New York -- that's all they had,” writes Annie Sweeney in the Chicago Tribune.
Trump recently has been on the plaintiff side, too, suing comedian Bill Maher “for failing to live up to an ‘unconditional offer’ made on NBC's ‘Tonight Show’ to donate $5 million to charity if Trump provided a copy of his birth certificate proving that he’s not ‘spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan,’” as Eriq Gardner reported in the Hollywood Reporter in February. Trump later dropped the suit, garnering more attention.
The Donald is still rich and he’s still from New York and he’s still in the headlines. What could trump that?