Donald Trump will use no charitable funds to pay off a $25 million settlement of fraud lawsuits against his defunct real estate seminar program, Trump University, an attorney for his business said Monday.
Trump agreed Friday to pay the money to former customers of the program, settling two California lawsuits and one filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
On Monday, Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, offered the assurance in writing in a letter to Schneiderman’s office, promising that “no part of the funding of my clients’ settlement of the New York Attorney General Action or the California Actions will come from any charitable foundation or other charitable entity.”
In a statement, Schneiderman spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said the attorney general’s office had demanded the written assurance, “given Mr. Trump’s reported history of using his charity’s money to fund his and his businesses’ legal settlements.”
The Washington Post reported in September that Trump used $258,000 from the Trump Foundation, his personal charity, to help settle two lawsuits involving his businesses. In one instance, Trump Foundation money paid $100,000 to a veterans charity to settle a lawsuit with the town of Palm Beach over a flag at his Mar-a-Lago estate that was so large it violated town ordinances. In another instance, court papers indicated that one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was then made by the Trump Foundation, tax records show.
It is against the law to use charitable funds to personally benefit officers of a charity or their businesses, and the New York Attorney General’s Office has confirmed it is investigating the Trump Foundation’s practices. Tax records show Trump has made no donations to his foundation since 2009, instead filling its coffers with money from other people.
Former Trump University participants had claimed they were defrauded by advertisements for the real estate seminars in which Trump promised they would learn his personal tricks for succeeding in real estate from instructors he had hand-picked. He acknowledged in depositions that he did not, in fact, choose course instructors.
Trump admitted no fault in the settlement, which allowed the president-elect to avoid a trial over the matter that was scheduled to open in San Diego this month. He insisted on Twitter over the weekend that he would have won the case had it proceeded but had chosen to settle “for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country.”
As a result of the settlement, former customers, some of whom paid more than $30,000 to participate in the program, will be eligible to apply for awards that could potentially include full refunds.