Donald Trump agreed on Friday to pay $25 million to settle fraud lawsuits over his Trump University real estate seminars, in what New York's attorney general called a "stunning reversal" for the United States president-elect.
If approved by a judge, the deal announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would settle allegations that Trump University defrauded students who paid up to $35,000 each to enroll in classes that promised to share Trump's industry secrets. The settlement was negotiated by president-elect's lawyers with Schneiderman, in NY, and law firms that brought two separate class action lawsuits concerning Trump University in California.
Plaintiff attorney Jason Forge speaks after a hearing for a lawsuit against President-elect Donald Trump and the now-defunct Trump University Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, in San Diego.
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. "It's time to move on", Petrocelli told reporters on Friday.
"I could have settled this case numerous times, but I don't want to settle cases when we're right".
US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, presiding over the two California cases, had urged both sides to settle.
"I don't settle cases".
"This man fights for what he believes in and I respect that", Forge said, referring to Trump. "I don't get sued because I don't settle cases". "Today, that all changes". Trump tweeted this morning that he settled "for a small fraction of the potential award" because he must now devote his attention to being the next president of the United States. Find us on Facebook too!
"I am pleased that under the terms of this settlement, every victim will receive restitution and that Donald Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the State of NY for violating state education laws", Schneiderman said in a statement.
Trump's lawyers had countered for years that many students had given the program a thumbs-up and those who failed to succeed had only themselves to blame.
However, Trump will not admit any wrongdoing under the agreement.
Since the proposed settlement is on behalf of former Trump University students who aren't individually represented in the case, Curiel will have to make sure it's fair to them and negotiated in good faith.
The settlement eliminates the possibility that Trump will be called to testify in court in the midst of his presidential transition.
A Trump Organization spokesman insisted that had the case gone to trial, Trump would have won.
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 plaintiffs' lawyers are going to smell blood in the water", he said. He accused the California judge of having unfair judgment because of his Mexican heritage.
Information for this article was contributed by Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post and by David Klepper, Elliot Spagat and Bernard Condon of The Associated Press.