Donald Trump introduces Trump University at a press conference in Trump Tower, New York, May 2005.
Photo by Dan Herrick/KPA/ZUMA

The Trump University fraud case comes to a close

Updated
It took a long time and a broken campaign promise, but Donald Trump is no longer facing fraud allegations stemming from his so-called “university.”
A federal judge on Friday approved a lawsuit settlement requiring President Trump to pay $25 million to former students of his now-defunct Trump University, bringing to a close a years-long legal saga that marred his run for president.

“The court finds that the amount offered in settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable, and accordingly concludes that this factor weighs in favor of final approval,” U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel wrote in his ruling.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the $25 million settlement was first agreed to last month, but one of the plaintiffs wanted to opt out to pursue a case against Trump on her own. Judge Curiel, whom Trump once condemned as “a total disgrace” as part of a racist tirade, today brought the matter to a close, dismissing the final objection.

It’s an outcome that wasn’t supposed to happen at all. A year ago, Trump boasted during a debate, “This is a case I could have settled very easily, but I don’t settle cases very easily when I’m right.” After boasting that the Better Business Bureau gave Trump University an “A” rating – a claim that turned out to be a brazen lie – Trump added, “Again, I don’t settle cases. I don’t do it because that’s why I don’t get sued very often, because I don’t settle, unlike a lot of other people.” (The assertion that he doesn’t “get sued very often” also turned out to be a demonstrable falsehood.)

After the election Trump settled the case he said he’d never settle, shortly before he was supposed to take the stand in his own fraud case.

Circling back to our previous coverage, I’ve long believed the “Trump U” controversy has been under-appreciated. The Washington Post reported in 2015 about students sometimes “max[ing] out their credit cards to pay tens of thousands of dollars for insider knowledge they believed could make them wealthy.”
Never licensed as a school, Trump University was in reality a series of real estate workshops in hotel ballrooms around the country, not unlike many other for-profit self-help or motivational seminars. Though short-lived, it remains a thorn in Trump’s side nearly five years after its operations ceased: In three pending lawsuits, including one in which the New York attorney general is seeking $40 million in restitution, former students allege that the enterprise bilked them out of their money with misleading advertisements.

Instead of a fast route to easy money, these Trump University students say they found generic seminars led by salesmen who pressured them to invest more cash in additional courses. The students say they didn’t learn Trump’s secrets and never received the one-on-one guidance they expected.
“He’s earned more in a day than most people do in a lifetime,” a 2009 ad, featuring Trump’s photograph, said. “He’s living a life many men and women only dream about. And now he’s ready to share – with Americans like you – the Trump process for investing in today’s once-in-a-lifetime real estate market.”

As regular readers may recall, Trump’s attorneys insisted that aspiring investors learned valuable lessons with which most students were satisfied. But the Post’s article also highlighted a Texas man, Louie Liu, who said he paid “$1,495 for a three-day seminar, then felt lured into paying $24,995 for more classes, an online training program and a three-day in-person mentorship.”

He now believes that the Trump University program was a “scam.”

Another man, Bob Guillo, paid nearly $35,000 for the “Trump Gold Elite package,” which amounted to very little. “I really felt stupid that I was scammed by Trump,” Guillo said.

Indeed, the campaign parallels are hard to miss: a group of Americans, looking for easy solutions and wowed by a celebrity making too-good-to-be-true promises, put their faith in an accused scam artist, only to learn that Donald Trump had no intention of delivering on outlandish pledges that never really made any sense.

Rank-and-file voters, however, do not have the option of filing a class-action lawsuit.

Donald Trump and Scandals

The Trump University fraud case comes to a close

Updated