Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million civil lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.
Trump, his sons Eric Trump and and Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump Organization executives are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James of engaging in a decade-long scheme in which they used "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" to inflate Trump's net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. The trial comes after the judge in the case ruled in a partial summary judgment that Trump had submitted "fraudulent valuations" for his assets, leaving the trial to determine additional actions and what penalty, if any, the defendants should receive.
The former president has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have argued that Trump's alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.
- Judge to allow testimony from Mar-a-Lago experts
- Judge says he'll 'rigorously' enforce limited gag order
- Deutsche Bank made money from Trump, defense emphasizes
- Trump's disclaimer told bankers to 'beware,' expert says
- Trump distances himself from preparation of statements
- Trump's misrepresentations cost banks $168M, expert testifies
- Trump, after testifying, fined $10,000 for violating gag order
- Trump tax rep acknowledged much lower value for Mar-a-Lago
Judge again denies request to subpoena independent monitor
Judge Engoron again denied a request from the defense to subpoena the Trump Organization's independent monitor for testimony.
Twice this week, Trump's attorneys unsuccessfully sought to call to the stand former judge Barbara Jones, the monitor appointed by Engoron to oversee the Trump Organization's finances after the New York attorney general accused the firm of fraud.
Trump attorney Chris Kise tried for a third time Friday.
"We should be entitled to the benefit of having Judge Jones here to respond to those questions about any ambiguities that might exist in her reports," Kise said.
State attorney Andrew Amer argued against the request, citing Jones' immunity as an agent of the court.
"Your request to subpoena Judge Jones is denied," Engoron said, describing the request as a "dangerous infringement on court immunity."
In her latest report issued to Engoron this week, Jones reported that the Trump Organization was "in compliance" but under "enhanced monitoring."
Court was subsequently adjourned for the day following Engoron's ruling.
Judge to allow testimony from Mar-a-Lago experts
Judge Engoron denied two motions by the New York attorney general that would have precluded testimony from two experts on the value of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property.
In his pretrial ruling, Engoron decided that Trump inflated the value of the oceanfront property by 2,300% by listing its value at least $426 million, despite a tax appraiser determining its value at $27.6 million.
Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly criticized Engoron's finding, arguing that he misunderstood the purpose of a tax appraisal, and they planned to call two experts to support Trump's value of the property: John Shubin to testify about the deed that the state says limits the estate's value because it restricts the use of the property to a club, and Lawrence Moens, one of the top real estate brokers in Palm Beach.
State attorney Kevin Wallace argued that Shubin would offer impermissible legal opinions, and Moens could not offer a traceable process for evaluating the property.
"He is extremely different than a doctor [explaining] how he might conduct a surgery. He is providing evaluation advice," Wallace said about Moens' testimony.
Engoron denied the state's motions, allowing them both to testify -- but said he would enforce objections if they overstep their areas of expertise.
Bank and judge agreed on Trump's net worth, expert points out
Defense expert Robert Unell testified that both Judge Engoron and Deutsche Bank reached similar conclusions about Donald Trump's actual net worth -- but that Deutsche Bank officials weren't bothered by their determination.
In his partial summary judgment ruling before the trial, Engoron found that the New York attorney general provided "conclusive evidence" that Trump inflated his assets between $812 million and $2.2 billion.
"Even in the world of high finance, this Court cannot endorse a proposition that finds a misstatement of at least $812 million dollars to be 'immaterial,'" Engoron wrote.
Similarly, Deutsche Bank's valuation services group undercut Trump's net worth estimate by roughly than $2.4 billion when they evaluated his 2013 statement of financial condition. Despite that, the bank still loaned Trump millions for three of his properties.
"It would not be unusual," Unell said about the discrepancy identified by the bank.
Engoron cut him off before he could answer whether the discrepancy was within the "adjustment within the range that the court determined."
"I can do the math," Engoron said.
Trump easily qualified for private banking loans, expert says
The defense's commercial real estate expert pushed back on the state's contention that Donald Trump used fraudulent means to gain access to favorable loan rates through Deutsche Bank's private wealth management division.
Defense expert Robert Unell testified that Trump "clearly qualified" for commercial loans through the bank's private wealth group.
State attorney Kevin Wallace had argued that Trump "lied to the private wealth group to get these loans," which would support an increased fine in the case.
Unell, however, said, "I have not seen or heard any evidence that President Trump did not qualify for the private wealth management group."
Deutsche Bank managing director Dave Williams, whose testimony Unell reviewed before taking the stand, said earlier that Trump easily met the bank's $100 million net-worth requirement for high-net-worth individuals.
Wallace, however, appeared to argue that Trump would have been disqualified from the private wealth division based on the act of submitting an allegedly false financial statement, rather than an inability to meet a net-worth requirement.
Real estate expert describes NY AG's approach as 'flawed'
The New York attorney general's approach to valuing Donald Trump's properties was "flawed," according to testimony from the defense's real estate expert Steven Laposa.
Laposa said that the attorney general's complaint relied on a market value analysis of Trump's properties, rather than the investment value of the assets, which would consider the asset's value based on an individual's investment requirements instead of market norms.
"In my opinion, it's flawed," Laposa said about the attorney general's findings.
Judge Arthur Engoron appeared attentive during Laposa's testimony, overruling an objection from the state that would have limited the scope of his testimony.
"I want to hear what he says about evaluations," Engoron said.