NY State Judge Finds Trump Organizations Repeatedly Provided Fraudulent Valuations To Lenders and Insurers
Orders “certificates” enabling numerous Trump entities to operate in NY State cancelled – not clear what this means in terms of survival of Trump organization as a whole.
In a civil lawsuit brought by NY Attorney General Letitia James, a state court judge has found that various Trump entities engaged in repeated fraud as to business and property valuations in order to obtain loans. A copy of the full Order is at the bottom of this post.
The court found that a trial was not needed on that issue, as the contemporaneous documents showed that for numerous properties Trump obtained his own valuations that varied dramatically from what he represented to the banks. Under the NY law at issue, intent do defraud was not necessary, only that false statements and representations were made. The court rejected Trump’s defense that the independent valuations he obtained were irrelevant, since Trump purchasing a property made it more valuable. The court also rejected the notion that never missing a payment to a lender or failing to pay off a loan vindicated the valuations, finding that the fraud took place when the valuations were given, and what happened afterwards with regard to payment was legally irrelevant.
The court rejected Trump’s numerous legal defenses, finding many of them frivolous and abusive since the defenses already were rejected by an appeals court, yet repeated like “Groundhog Day” in the trial court again. The court sanctioned Trump’s lawyers for that conduct.
Here are some key excerpts from the Order:
This action arises out of a years-long investigation that plaintiff, the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York (“OAG”), conducted into certain business practices that defendants engaged in from 2011 through 2021. OAG alleges that the individual and entity defendants committed repeated and persistent fraud by preparing, certifying, and submitting to lenders and insurers false and misleading financial statements, thus violating New York Executive Law § 63(12)….
On November 3, 2022, this Court found preliminarily that defendants had a propensity to engage in persistent fraud by submitting false and misleading Statements of Financial Condition (“SFCs”) on behalf of defendant Donald J. Trump (“Donald Trump”). NYSCEF Doc. No. 183. Accordingly, the Court granted a preliminary injunction against any further fraud and appointed
the Hon. Barbara S. Jones (ret.) as an independent monitor to oversee defendants’ financial statements and significant asset transfers. NYSCEF Doc. Nos. 193 and 194….
OAG now moves for partial summary judgment on its first cause of action, for fraud under Executive Law§ 63(12). NYSCEF Doc. No. 765. Separately, plaintiff now moves, pursuant to 22 NYCRR 130-1.1 , to sanction defendants for frivolous motion practice. NYSCEF Doc. No. 1263. Defendants also move for summary judgment, seeking to dismiss the complaint in its entirety. NYSCEF Doc. No. 834.
Defendants’ arguments that OAG has neither capacity nor standing to sue under Executive Law § 63( 12), and that the disclaimers of non-party accountants Mazars insulate defendants, invoke the time-loop in the film “Groundhog Day.” This Court emphatically rejected these arguments in its preliminary injunction decision and in its dismissal decision, and the First Department affirmed both. Defendants’ contention that a different procedural posture mandates a reconsideration, or a fortiori, a reversal, is pure sophistry1….
In response to both OAG’s request for a preliminary injunction and to defendants’ motions to dismiss, this Court rejected every one of the aforementioned arguments. In rejecting such arguments for the second time, this Court cautioned that “sophisticated counsel should have known better.” 5 NYSCEF Doc. No. 453 at 5. However, the Court declined to impose sanctions, believing it had “made its point.” Id.
Apparently, the point was not received.
One would not know from reading defendants’ papers that this Court has already twice ruled against these arguments, called them frivolous, and twice been affirmed by the First Department…..
This Court emphatically rejected these arguments, as did the First Department. Defendants’ repetition of them here is indefensible.
As OAG’s first cause of action, the only one upon which it moves for summary judgment, alleges a standalone violation of Executive Law § 63(12), OAG need only prove: (1) the SFCs were false and misleading; and (2) the defendants repeatedly or persistently used the SFCs to transact business.
This instant action is essentially a “documents case.” As detailed infra, the documents here clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business, satisfying OAG’s burden to establish liability as a matter of law against defendants. Defendants’ respond that: the documents do not say what they say; that there is no such thing as “objective” value; and that, essentially, the Court should not believe its own eyes.9
The defenses Donald Trump attempts to articulate in his sworn deposition are wholly without basis in law or fact. He claims that if the values of the property have gone up in the years since the SFCs were submitted, then the numbers were not inflated at that time (i .e.; “But you take the 2014 statement, if something is much more valuable now – or, I guess, we’ll have to pick a date which was a little short of now. But if something is much more valuable now, then the number that I have down here is a low number”). NYSCEF Doc. No. 1363 at 69-75). He also seems to imply that the numbers cannot be inflated because he could find a “buyer from Saudi Arabia” to pay any price he suggests. 10 Id. at 30-33, 60-62, 79-80.
40 Wall Street
The Trump Organization, through defendant 40 Wall Street LLC, owns a ground lease at 40 Wall Street and pays ground rent to the landowner.
In 2010, Cushman & Wakefield appraised the Trump Organization’s interest in 40 Wall Street at $200 million. NYSCEF Doc. Nos. 878-79. Cushman & Wakefield appraised again in 2011 and 2012, reaching valuations of between $200 and $220 million. NYSCEF Doc. Nos. 881-82. The Trump Organization possessed and was familiar with these appraisals. NYSCEF Doc. Nos. 817 at 135-138; 883.
Despite these appraisals, the 2011 and 2012 SFCs valued the Trump Organization’s interest in the property at $524. 7 million and $527 .2 million, respectively, an overvaluation of more than $300 million each year.17 NYSCEF Doc. Nos. 769, 770.
In 2015, Cushman & Wakefield once again appraised the property, and valued it at $540 million. 18 NYSCEF Doc. No. 887. Notwithstanding this appraised value, the 2015 SFC listed the value of 40 Wall Street at $735.4 million. 19 NYSCEF Doc. No. 773.
Having prevailed on liability on a standalone Executive Law § 63(12) cause of action, the Attorney General is entitled to the first two prayers for relief sought in her complaint: (1) canceling any certificate filed under and by virtue of the provisions of New York General Business Law § 130 for all the entity defendants found liable, as well as any other entity controlled or beneficially owned by the individual defendants found liable herein, which and who participated in or benefitted from the foregoing fraudulent schemes; and (2) appointing an independent monitor to oversee compliance, financial reporting, valuations, and disclosures to lenders, insurers, and tax authorities at the Trump Organization. NYSCEF Doc. No. 1 at 213.
What is unclear is what this means for the numerous entities that make up what we popularly refer to as “the Trump organization.” I haven’t been able to sort if out myself, and have seen mostly the type of gloating and hyperbole we saw during the Russia collusion investigation about the end being near. The NY Times seems to have a fairly reasoned explanation:
While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.
The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.
Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid.
If I find better analysis of what this all means, I’ll add it.
Today, I lost all faith in the New York legal system. Never before have I seen such hatred toward one person by a judge – a coordinated effort with the Attorney General to destroy a man’s life, company and accomplishments. We have run an exceptional company – never missing a loan…
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) September 26, 2023
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