U.S. President-elect Donald Trump agrees to pay $25 million dollars to settle fraud lawsuits over Trump University.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (NOVEMBER 18, 2016) (REUTERS) – Donald Trump agreed on Friday (November 18) to pay $25 million to settle fraud lawsuits over his Trump University real estate seminars, in what New York’s attorney general called a “stunning reversal” for the U.S. president-elect.
The lawsuits had dogged Trump, who denied any wrongdoing, throughout his campaign. They led to one of the more controversial moments of his run when he claimed the judge overseeing two of the cases was biased because he was of Mexican ancestry.
The settlement was announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who said it followed repeated refusals by Trump “to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university.”
Lawyers for Trump had argued against students, who claimed they were lured by false promises into paying up to $35,000 to learn Trump’s real estate investing “secrets” from his “hand-picked” instructors.
Three lawsuits relating to Trump University will be covered by the deal: two class actions suits in California and a New York case brought by Schneiderman. The agreement must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego.
Trump will not admit any wrongdoing under the agreement. His attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, acknowledged Trump had previously vowed to fight the case.
“President-elect Trump, he’s a fighter, as we all know, and that’s why so many people have been drawn to him and so many people voted him, voted him into office. And he had very strong feelings about this case but he was willing to put his personal interests and his personal beliefs aside and focus on the issues that are facing the country and devote his talents, his energy, his enthusiasm, and his willingness to fight, fight for all Americans, fight for the country and no small part of that was (to) put aside this issue and get it behind him and move forward,” Petrocelli told reporters in San Diego.
Attorneys for the students praised the deal.
“We’re very hopeful that they’ll be pleased with what will be for many of them thousands and thousands of dollars that they’ll be receiving,” said Attorney Jason Forge.
At the court hearing on Friday in San Diego, Forge said that out of the $25 million proposed settlement, $4 million will be earmarked for students represented by Schneiderman who were not part of the California class actions, as well as administrative costs.
Class action lawyers for the students will not seek attorneys fees, said Rachel Jensen, another lawyer representing the students.
“What is so extraordinary about this recovery is that oftentimes in class actions you just pennies on the dollar. Here we are providing over 50 percent, up to a full recovery for each of the class members which was really enabled by the fact that the plaintiff’s counsel here have decided to do this all pro bono,” said Jensen.
Curiel, who is presiding over the two California cases, had urged both sides to settle. Trump said during his election campaign that Curiel, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents, could not be impartial because of Trump’s campaign pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to control illegal immigration.
In court on Friday, Trump lawyer Petrocelli praised Curiel for his hard work on the case.
Curiel said he hoped the settlement could be part of a healing process after the U.S. election “that this country very sorely needs.”