In 2004, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump launched a traveling seminar and workshop series called Trump University that claimed to educate students in the secrets of real estate and guide them into becoming Trump-like moguls. The “school” mostly ceased operations in 2011, but continues to be, as the Washington Post’s Emma Brown puts it, “a thorn in Trump’s side” thanks to the handful of Trump U alumni who have accused the school of fraud.
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.
Trump University was structured thusly: Those curious about the workshops would attend a free seminar during which they were urged to fork over $1,495 for a three-day workshop. During the workshop, students were allegedly advised to, according to Brown, “call their credit card companies and request increased borrowing limits, ostensibly so they’d have more capital to invest in real estate.”
Those suing Trump, however, claim that the increased borrowing limit was actually encouraged so that those interested in continuing their studies at Trump University could use their credit cards to pay $35,000 for the full course, which—according to plaintiffs—was not as helpful as advertised.
According to the Washington Post, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, (who has filed a $40 million lawsuit against Trump) “alleged that the program’s instructors had no particular expertise in real estate and that the seminars didn’t offer any special Trump strategies; he found that the curriculum was largely written by a third-party company that creates materials for motivational speakers and salesmen.”
Trump Organization’s general counsel Alan Garten scoffs at the charges, claiming that Trump delivered everything that was promised and that those who enrolled in the school—which was forced to change its name to The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative after the New York State Department of Education accused the “Trump University” branding of being misleading—should have known that the weren’t investing in a real college experience. “People who say, ‘I thought it was a university with a football team and a bookstore,’ it’s laughable,” Garten says.
Regardless of whether or not the plaintiffs (who are based around the country) are successful in suing Trump University for restitution, the accusations of fraud are unlikely to hinder Trump in his bid for the White House:
“He says what he means, not like politicians, not like Obama,” said Louie Liu of Hurst, Tex. Liu, a motel owner, said in a sworn affidavit that 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. A few days later, he called to ask for a refund, but his request was rejected. Trump University, he concluded, was a “scam.”
Hope springs eternal, I guess.
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