Who could have imagined that a state Attorney General who once solicited contributions from the rich and powerful Donald Trump could turn around and launch an investigation into his affairs? Who could have dreamed that one of the most successful businessmen in the Big Apple might be questioned about the success of one of his operations? Who might have guessed that the State of New York would sue “Trump University” for essentially running a phony educational enterprise?
Wait a minute… Trump has a university?
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s attorney general sued Donald Trump for $40 million Saturday, saying the real estate mogul helped run a phony “Trump University” that promised to make students rich but instead steered them into expensive and mostly useless seminars, and even failed to deliver promised apprenticeships.
“Trump University engaged in deception at every stage of consumers’ advancement through costly programs and caused real financial harm,” Schneiderman said. “Trump University, with Donald Trump’s knowledge and participation, relied on Trump’s name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand.”
I’ll confess, I was unaware that The Donald was running a university for aspiring real estate and investment moguls. For a bargain basement price ranging from around $1,500 up to $35,000 you could be entered into a series of seminars and workshops which should lead to profitable business ventures and / or professional positions setting your feet on the ladder of success. Unfortunately, according to the complaint, many students didn’t even get to meet Trump, but rather wound having their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of “The Apprentice” TV star.
Further, they claim that Trump had been the subject of scrutiny for a few years already for even calling the enterprise a “university.”
State Education Department officials had told Trump to change the name of his enterprise years ago, saying it lacked a license and didn’t meet the legal definitions of a university. In 2011 it was renamed the Trump Entrepreneur Institute, but it has been dogged since by complaints from consumers and a few isolated civil lawsuits claiming it didn’t fulfill its advertised claims.
If the state of New York succeeds in getting the $40M out of Trump, the stated purpose is to reimburse the students who paid for these services. (Of course, being New York, we should wait to believe that until the checks actually clear in people’s accounts.) But can you sue a school over the fact that students didn’t land a particular job or kick off a real estate deal upon completion? It seems as if there would be some sort of built in caveat emptor when enrolling in this sort of professional advancement course. Offering somebody the tools for success does not, after all, assure that they will succeed. Then again… welcome to New York. Anything is possible, particularly if it comes to suing somebody.