Trump University: Alleged Fraud, Racketeering, & the “Playbook”

BY TIFFANY KRAFT

Guest Blogger Tiffany Kraft is an activist with Faculty Forward Network.

It’s eye-popping to look at the facts and allegations involved in the open racketeering and fraud cases of Trump University, but it’s crucial to do so given that Donald Trump is running for the Oval Office. “It’s absolutely a con,” said former student Mr. Robert Guillo, who spent $36,000 on classes before fully realizing he’d been scammed by for-profit Trump University. (1)

Christine Beswick reports that Trump has “at least three open class action cases of racketeering and fraud, divided between California and New York, and multiple open cases in other states such as Florida, Idaho, and Texas.” One of those cases is The Cohen (Nationwide) Action,  Cohen v Trump, wherein the complaint states the Nature of the Action as follows: “Defendant ensnared Plaintiff and thousands of other student-victims in a fraudulent scheme nationwide to sell real estate seminars and mentorships (“Live Events”) by trading on the Trump moniker.”

A separate action, The Low (California/Florida/New York) Action, Low (formerly Makaeff) v. Trump Complaint, states the Nature of Action in part as: “In fact, rather than serving its students as a university or college, Defendant Trump University is more like an infomercial, selling non-accredited products, such as sales workshops, luring customers in with the name and reputation of its founder and Chairman, billionaire land mogul Donald J. Trump.”

Additionally, Trump has a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case open and active in the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Those are serious complaints and University of Utah Law Professor Christopher Peterson argues that there is ample evidence to impeach Trump should he be elected.

The release of internal documents called the “2010 Playbook” marked “private and confidential” gained national attention when Trump’s lawyers argued that they should not be released given that they involved trade secrets. However, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel said that the documents are public interest because Trump “became the front-runner in the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race, and has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue.” This is what prompted Trump to say: “The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that’s fine.” Implicit bias? Questionable, for sure.

In the Playbook, there are several bizarre rules to follow, everything from personal attire to a room diagram that details among other things where to place the waste basket and American flag. Additionally, the Playbook lists “Key Questions to Identify Buyers” (not students) and even controls “The Overall Atmosphere.” We’ve seen the notorious “pain funnel” used before, but the Playbook takes pain to a whole new level of intensity.

In 2016, a New York appeals court decided “that a lawsuit brought by the state attorney general claiming that Donald J. Trump’s defunct for-profit school defrauded consumers can go forward.” Thus, Trump’s attempts to dismiss the case were thwarted, and it will proceed.

“The attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, filed the lawsuit in 2013 asserting that Trump University … misrepresented itself and bilked students individually of thousands of dollars and collectively of $40 million.” Trump issued a statement following the decision: “Trump University has a 98% approval rating and an ‘A’ rating from the Better Business Bureau. New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman continues to waste taxpayer money trying to smear me, but the fact is that the overwhelming majority of students had a great experience.”

However, former student Guillo revealed that he “gave a glowing evaluation to his instructor at Trump University because … the teacher pleaded for the best possible score, warning that without it, ‘Mr. Trump might not invite me back to teach again.’” This is a lot of pressure for any student or faculty member to face, and it certainly raises concerns about the tactics prescribed in the Playbook and practiced in person. Indeed, it raises serious concerns about Donald Trump’s viability as a possible president-elect.

(1) “Trump University changed its name to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative on June 2, 2010, after the New York Department of Education insisted that the ‘use of the word “university” by your corporation is misleading and violates New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents.’”

 

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