comscore Trump quickly settles university lawsuits after a long fight | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

Trump quickly settles university lawsuits after a long fight


    President-elect Donald Trump speaks on election night last week in New York.


    In this May 23, 2005, file photo, then-real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump, left, listens as Michael Sexton introduces him at a news conference in New York where he announced the establishment of Trump University. Trump has agreed to pay $25 million to settle three lawsuits involving his now-defunct Trump University.

SAN DIEGO >> For more than six years, Donald Trump fought hard against a lawsuit in which former customers of his now-defunct Trump University accused him of fraud. Less than two weeks after being elected president, he agreed to a $25 million settlement.

“We definitely detected a change of tone and change of approach” after the election, plaintiffs’ attorney Jason Forge said when the agreement was announced Friday.

About 7,000 students would be eligible for refunds if U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel approves the settlement. Under the terms, the Republican president-elect admits no wrongdoing in settling two federal class-action lawsuits in San Diego and a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat.

The agreement came 10 days before jury selection was scheduled to begin in San Diego in the oldest case, which was filed in April 2010. The complaint accused Trump University, which wasn’t an accredited school, of defrauding students who paid up to $35,000 a year to enroll in programs that promised to share Trump’s real estate secrets.

Trump denied the allegations and said during the campaign that he would not settle. He told supporters at a May rally that he would come to San Diego to testify after winning the presidency.

“I could have settled this case numerous times, but I don’t want to settle cases when we’re right. I don’t believe in it. And when you start settling cases, you know what happens? Everybody sues you because you get known as a settler. One thing about me, I am not known as a settler,” Trump said at the time.

Trump said Saturday that he settled the lawsuit “for a small fraction of the potential award” because he needs to focus on the country.

“The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!” Trump said on Twitter.

Two days after the election, Trump’s lead attorney in the San Diego cases, Daniel Petrocelli, said he was “all ears” to settlement talks and accepted an offer to have U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller of San Diego broker negotiations.

Forge said the agreement was reached an hour before a hearing for Curiel to weigh Trump’s latest request to delay the trial until after the Jan. 20 inauguration. The plaintiffs’ attorney said Miller’s role as a mediator was “very critical.”

“We were at each other’s throat for 6½ years and were able to find the common ground with them and do something good there,” Forge told reporters.

The agreement canceled the trial and lifted what would probably have been a major headache for Trump as he works to fill key executive branch positions and get acquainted with foreign leaders. The trial was expected to last several weeks, guaranteeing daily news coverage of a controversy that dogged him during the campaign.

Trump’s political rivals seized on the lawsuits to try to portray him as dishonest and deceitful. Trump brought more attention to them by repeatedly assailing Curiel, who oversaw the San Diego cases. Trump suggested the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican heritage exposed a bias.

The thousands of former students covered by the San Diego lawsuits will be eligible to receive at least half and possibly all their money back, as much as $35,000, Forge said. The plaintiffs’ attorneys waived their fees.

Schneiderman called the agreement a “stunning reversal” for the president-elect, saying 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, that all changes.”

Trump’s attorneys said the settlement allows the president-elect to focus full attention on his transition to the White House.

“He was willing to sacrifice his personal interests, put this behind him, and move forward,” Petrocelli said.

Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s general counsel, said he had “no doubt” Trump would have prevailed at trial.

The lawsuits allege that Trump University gave nationwide seminars that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring people to spend more and, in the end, failing to deliver on its promises. The San Diego trial would have been pinned on whether a jury believed Trump misled customers by calling the business a university and by advertising that he hand-picked instructors.

Court documents unsealed in May revealed strategies for enticing people to enroll even if they couldn’t afford it. The documents outlined how employees should guide people through “the roller coaster of emotions” after they express interest and told employees to be “very aggressive during these conversations to in order to push them out of their comfort zones.”

Transcripts of about 10 hours of Trump depositions provided additional material to rivals, though Curiel denied a request to release video of Trump’s testimony that would have likely been used in campaign attack ads. Trump acknowledged in the depositions that he played on people’s fantasies, and he could not recall names of his employees despite his advertising pitch that he hand-picked them.

Trump has repeatedly claimed a 98 percent customer satisfaction rate on internal surveys. Plaintiffs countered that students were asked to rate the product when they believed they still had more instruction to come and were reluctant to openly criticize their teachers on surveys that were not anonymous.

The settlement came a day after watchdog groups and ethics experts who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter to Trump urging him to make a clean break from his business to avoid “embroiling the presidency in litigation.”

One of the authors, Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer at the White House under Republican President George W. Bush, said the Trump University settlement might backfire if lawyers think Trump is eager to settle to avoid court cases while president.

“The plaintiffs’ lawyers,” he said, “are going to smell blood in the water.”

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature
Comments (77)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

        • He s a fuc–ng crook and you know it. He is an embarassment to our country and all the other su-k as-es that hang around him like flies on shi-

        • IRT keaukaha: losing your cool? you got only yourself to blame because you choose to have discussions with Trump supporters who are either not wanting to or are incapable of having a normal discussion.

  • Two things:

    1) >>> to be paid by Trump or one of his business entities

    Uh, maybe Trump Foundation? It’s amazing how this guy protects his own money.

    2) $25 million divided by 6,000 students means an average payout of about $4,000. Sounds like Trump got off pretty easy.

  • For a successful billionaire business man, no matter how the libs try to spin it, smart move to settle.

    After Jan. 20 2017 per President Trumps wishes, will accept $1.00 for his yearly pay.


    • lol, don’t disagree that it is a smart mover to settle but this does show that the Donald is nothing more than a liar. So besides being a groper in chief, look forward to the grand liar of all time.

        • No, but my therapy will be to point out to you phony conservatives and republicans what a fool you were to go with the town butcher for brain surgery. Landslide defeat? only a phony republican/conservative would call this a landslide, losing by over a million votes in the popular vote. Well, enjoy your victory, it will be short lived. Say are you going to say anything about the email problem Pence is having? No all of a sudden, emails are not important. I understand. 🙂

        • Trump WON…you guys LOST.
          Popular don’t count. You believed hiLIARy was a SHOE-IN…lol.
          Short lived..make that 8 years baby!
          Jesse Jackson asking O to give hiLIARy a FULL PARDON…for what?

        • JohnRice, we all lose with your attitude. Trump needs everyone’s support to succeed, and your words do nothing to help his cause.

        • Boots, Trump was playing by their rules. Get over it with the popular vote. He beat the Democrats at their own game. You are sounding more and more like a crybaby. Go down to the beach and bury your head in the sand.

      • baghdad boots: don’t forget your democrat dan inouye who liked to pet the kitty whenever he got a haircut trying for a happy ending. and what about his right arm, the one that wore the stolen wedding ring off a dead woman. your views and statements would make inouye nothing more than a groper and thief.

        • Are you saying that Trump is like Inouye or Inouye like Trump, or are you saying that Trump is not guilty of anything? I just never know the point of some comments nowadays.

        • std: wow, that’s pretty low, but then anyone who sees redeeming value in trump … well.

          i’m not a democrat either, but it’s difficult to fall in line with a president elect who has so many personal and business “issues” like one donald trump.

          hopefully, the gop props up someone else four years from now.

        • Your comment is certainly indicative of how many who voted for a groper (third degree criminal offense)and racist and misogynist all rolled into one. It is really sad when such behavior is accepted. I think the lying crown can be worn by your man, Trump. Of course, Fox News will sweep this strategic admittance to having ripped off and conned hundreds of American students. There will be no admittance of wrong doing. Just a hush payment so that the truth will not come out in the open as much. And by the way this lawsuit unfurled at the bottom of the news instead of the headlines it will continue to be passed that a racist and misogynist president will continue his ways as the desensitized who voted for him and appalled Americans who did not will watch as a Tabloid President will rule like a spoiled 8th grader.

    • The first point is that he started this scam school with the sole purpose of separating the undereducated from their money. What don’t you understand about that? Any college educated person knows you’re not supposed to rent a building, put “University” on the front of it, and charge people $30k+ for useless information.

      The second point is that you elected a con artist to a very important position. YOU did.

      • wkama..what has O accomplished that benefited Americans in his 8 years in office?
        or what has hiLIARy accomplished that benefited Americans in her 30 years?

    • Trump is a loser. Will settle and pay off the sex accusituons. Quietly too. Will not put Hillary on jail,will not build wall,will strengthen Wall St.and buddies,will not change Obamacare. The dumb minions will cry.

      • You saw 60 Minutes last week…you know that left wing show?
        PresElect DJT said that to the World!
        (Get informed otherwise your credibility rating will remain lower than the GDP).

        • You are correct sir but I also remember him saying some other things that appear to Channing in one form or another. Don’t worry I already know and agree with what you are going to say, Clinton lied and Obama lied too.

    • He settled quick because he would have to testify under oath. With his history of being a pathological liar he made the smart choice. Think that just because he is the president elect he is off the hook,believe me the stove is still on low heat.He has always taken the cowards way out by running away from controversial issues. Well now he is on the worlds stage and there is no place for the chicken to hide. Him settling this issue so quickly after years of ducking and hiding from his lies only caught up with him when he got elected. He is the ultimate cockroach and now there is no dark corner for him to hide.

      • He has been hiding i the dark corner that’s why it never caught up to him until now because now he has a darker corner to hide in. Cockroaches run away from danger to safety, he is in a safer place now.

        • Are you for real. Never heard of a more stupid comment. However in a very realistic way you are a reflection of your hero the Chump. In other words dumb and more dumber.

        • Too much for you to comprehend, try reading it slower and sound out each letter. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

    • Successful business man?? What BS!!! Six bankruptcies, screwing his creditors. He won’t release his tax returns because he is not nearly as rich as he claims to be. He’s a phony who lies to get what he wants. Our country is in deep trouble. Only the WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). All minorities look the same from Trump Tower.

  • “Trump has strongly denied the allegations and said during the campaign that he wouldn’t settle. He told supporters at a May rally that he would come to San Diego to testify after winning the presidency.”

    The lies begin in ernest. liar liar pants on fire. Enjoy the model of republican honesty Trump supporters.

    • You feel better now with your little “gotcha..?” Did this lie cost YOU $25 million..? Would you rather he spent his time on this lawsuit, or preparing for office..? This lie, as you call it, is about like calling an ugly bride beautiful. It’s something you do with lawyers. “We will litigate vigorously…!!!” Yeah, sure.

      • Why is Trump in a situation where he has to pay off a $25 million settlement or fulfill his promise to testify when he’s supposed to be getting ready to be POTUS? Because he ran a scam business (no doubt about that, even his followers won’t deny it was completely BS).

        Why did YOU elect a scam artist to the White House?

        • In between your rantings do you ever wonder why YOU nominated the only possible candidate that Trump could beat?

        • IRT hawaiikone: You are correct sir. It is people like MillionMonkeys that forced people like you to vote for Trump. It appears that you sound upset that Democrats didn’t bring a better candidate for you to vote for other than Clinton. Are you saying that you would have voted for someone else other than Trump if he was going against someone other than Clinton?

        • MillionMonkeys…..Don’t know for sure, but the Trump University format was pretty similar to Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad scam. Trump cannot be proud of what happened there. I wouldn’t be. Thank you for crediting me with the election results, however. It wasn’t easy tipping the scales from the BLUE state of Hawaii. Hillary didn’t make it, but I doubt Goldman Sachs or Saudi Arabia will be asking for their money back.

        • juris, first I appreciate the tone of your comment. We all are too quick to generalize each other’s positions based on limited responses, and also too quick to throw useless jabs back and forth. I’m as guilty as anyone.
          I supported and voted for Johnson, primarily because I knew electing either of two bad choices would generate exactly the type of continued division we’re seeing right now. Both candidates would elicit justifiable criticisms based both on their intentions and their histories.
          Johnson isn’t as polished in foreign affairs as Clinton, nor as rabble rousing as Trump, but he offered some invaluable benefits. He is a successful businessman, an experienced politician, and an individual of unquestioned integrity. Most importantly, his policies offered a middle ground both extremes could have approached with less suspicion of partisan resistance. Offering an arbitrator type “timeout” the nation could all rallied behind and respected. His “Aleppo” issues could have been mitigated with a few briefings, and his Libertarian philosophy would have been held in check by congress.
          At the minimum his presidency would have provided four years for both majors to find candidates that we could live with.
          All that said, he lost. Now we’re stuck with Donald. The sooner we get on board, and trust our legislators and our courts to keep him somewhat in line, the better we’ll all be for the immediate future.

        • Please log into the TRUMP SCAM ME list. We the uneducated ones who voted for trump.
          2.sarge 22
          Please sign in. I need a list of dummies for 17,18,19,20.

        • Sheesh hawaiikone you are so hard up for attention that you need to lower yourself to the level of mr.minimum IQ jusris. What a joke. Try ask jusris if he knows where Allepo is. It would be a devastating blow to your ego if he does.

        • IRT Nanakuli and keaukaha: I see your resemblance, maybe too much homestead inbreeding going on for you two. Was hawaiikone response too civil for you, was it the lack of picking a side that got you or was it the lack of over dramitization that you are accustomed to here. In your quest to dethrone Trump you have failed to realize that you are no different in your ranting.

        • keau, I’ve given a few and taken a few “devastating blows” in my life, but none delivered by a keyboard toughie like you.

      • Yes I do, thank you very much. I am just doing what you far right wackos have done with both Clintons and Obama. This is just the first of many “gotchas” that I plan on pointing out.

        • So I’m a “wacko.” Okay. In the future, which of the following names would you prefer to be called:
          Pinko Commie
          Baby Killer
          Addicted Loser
          _______________fill in the blank….??

    • boots, don’t waste your breath. his supports will reference hrc after each of his faults is exposed. Don’t you know hrc is the cause of all conservative flaws? rule 1 in sales: tell the customer why your product is so great. Don’t explain to the customer why your competitor’s product is awful. Why is Trump so great? apparently because hrc is so awful.

  • Time to trim Government…….it’s way to big…….so if those gov employees lose their jobs… our economy slide into the toilet………what do we do?…….Government is to big to fail

    • Add to that potential the timely announcement by Yellen that the Fed will just have to raise the rate, and then we’ll get to see how hollow this market actually is.

  • Well, just another flip-flop, just another example of how hollow Trump’s assertions are. How anyone can put any degree of credence in anything the dude says is utterly beyond me.

    • Well, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, he’s the boss, and barring congressional or legal objection, what he says goes. It will truly be an illuminating four years.

      • So upsetting is your response. You know you are supposed to clearly atate which team you are on, Clinton or Trump. These people need to know if you are with them or against them. Rookie mistake, you probably want America to fail. #MAGA

  • What a waste. I wonder how long we’ll have to listen to derogatory comments about Trump. Obama should call and end to the violent protests. In the last 8 years Dems went from a majority House and Senate, to now where they’ve lost in record numbers Congress, the Senate, Governors, State Legislatures (all in record numbers), and now they’ve lost the Presidency. When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

  • Yes, it’s true what he says. He’ll never settle. This isn’t settling; it’s proving that he isn’t guilty. It’s just another one of the many sacrifices he has made for this country.

Scroll Up