Until this weekend, when the suit was announced, most of us were probably unaware that there was such an institution.
But for more than 5,000 Americans, it was a very real organisation that NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says collectively cost them $US40 million.
We went back through the full complaint, and it basically sounds like an episode of “Seinfeld” (specifically, the one where Kramer recreates “The Merv Griffin Show” in his apartment using a set he found in the dumpster) crossed with a pyramid scheme.
Here are the best and most cringeworthy allegations from the suit:
- Instead of Trump actually attending any of the seminars, attendees were often offered the opportunity to instead take a photo next to a life-size cutout.
- In addition to that, the theme song from Trump’s show “The Apprentice” was played at the beginning and end of each seminar.
- A special database of lenders the “University” purportedly had insider access to was actually just “a list photocopied from an issue of Scotsman Guide, a commercially available magazine,” the suit says.
- Attendees were told there was a toll-free “hotline” featuring instructors taking questions about real estate investing. The complaint says no such line existed, and instructors only made themselves available to individuals who’d signed up for the “elite” version of the seminar — “and often, not even then.”
- But, students were asked to call their credit card companies during breaks in the seminar to ask that their credit limits be raised.
- The instructors repeated the business’ ad claims that they’d been hand-picked by Trump himself, when in fact none of them were. And some of the instructors came to the organisation after their own failed real estate investments bankrupted them.
- The organisation comes pretty close to sounding like a pyramid scheme: The “students” would first attend a free seminar enticing them into paying $US1,495 for a subsequent three-day seminar where they’d learn “everything they needed to know to start investing.” Instructors at the three-day seminar would instead warn they would need to purchase additional programs — ideally the $US35,000 “elite” program — or they would not succeed.
- Trump pocketed more than $US5 million despite insinuating he would not profit directly from the organisation.
For more than five years, the group allegedly ignored the warnings of the New York State Education Department to correct its business practices and change its name (of note: state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli just issued a scathing report of that agency).
And Trump U. has still never applied for a licence to operate as an educational institution.
Here’s the full complaint: