The New York Attorney General's office today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with President-elect Donald Trump in a series of lawsuits regarding his eponymous Trump University. According to a statement from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Trump has agreed to pay $25 million to settle allegations of fraud after thousands people across the country were duped into paying for Trump University courses, which more often than not left students "worse off financially than they had been before."
It marks a change of heart for the litigious future president, and means he'll carry one fewer legal headache into office next year.
Given Trump's previous statements on litigation, the settlement came as somewhat of a surprise. Here he is in February, touting his now-defunct real estate baron academy's approval rating among former students:
Trump University has a 98% approval rating. I could have settled but won't out of principle!-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 29, 2016
Those principles must've changed since the election, putting Trump in a more conciliatory mood. Trump will pay the state of New York $1 million "for violating state education laws." The rest of the settlement will ostensibly go to "over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university," some of whom paid up to $35,000 to learn the secrets behind building a Trumpian real estate empire, straight from instructors "hand-picked" by Trump himself. Those instructors never materialized, and Trump U. turned out to be an aggressive sales pitch for increasingly expensive courses.
"In 2013, my office sued Donald Trump for swindling thousands of innocent Americans out of millions of dollars through a scheme known as Trump University," Schneiderman's statement said. "Donald Trump fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university ... 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."
The settlement also staves off a federal class action lawsuit that was set to being in San Diego in less than two weeks. In that case, Trump accused the presiding judge, Indiana-born Gonzalo Curiel, of being biased against him. "I'm building the wall, I'm building the wall," Mr. Trump told the New York Times in June. "I have a Mexican judge. He's of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things."
- Trump Agrees to Settle Trump University Lawsuits (Reuters)
- Donald Trump Sued for Fraud Over 'Trump University' (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
- Fraud Case Against Trump University Moves Forward (FindLaw's Courtside)
- NY Trump University Fraud Case Will Go to Trial in Fall (FindLaw's Decided)