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Trump’s $355 Million Civil Fraud Verdict. Snitz explains.

Listen, I know I'm usually lampooning politicans and making fun of our system of government. But for once I'd like to take a moment a be serious. I know you don't expect this type of candor from me...but for once lets act like grown ups.

Donald Trump barbecues young children in the back of his smokehouse, deep in the South Carolina woods. He covers them with Open Pit Hickory sauce while their terrified parents scour the countryside looking for them. We both know they're prayers won't be answered.

Someone needs to stop this cheap immitation of Gollum before he accends to the throne and declares himself a benevolent dictator who's anything but.

Trump’s $355 Million Civil Fraud Verdict

The judge found he inflated his assets, but this penalty is unreal.

By The Editorial Board

Feb. 16, 2024 6:51 pm ET

Donald Trump and his business were found liable Friday of inflating asset values in paperwork to lenders, but given that nobody lost money, this punishment smacks of political overkill. In a 92-page ruling, New York Judge Arthur Engoron ordered him to pay $355 million, while also banning him from being an officer for any New York corporation for three years.

The judge had previously found that Mr. Trump fudged numbers submitted on Statements of Financial Condition (SFCs), most egregiously by claiming that his 11,000-square-foot triplex in Trump Tower was actually 30,000 square feet. Friday’s ruling, putting a price tag on that conduct, includes pages of summarized testimony from business partners.

Donald Bender, an accountant at Mazars who helped draw up the documents, said he discovered later, after being interviewed by investigators, “that the Trump Organization had withheld records, such as appraisals, that Mazars had requested,” in the judge’s telling. “Bender made clear that Mazars would not have issued the SFCs if it had known.”

Nicholas Haigh, formerly a managing director of Deutsche Bank’s Private Wealth Management Division, signed off on loans to the Trump Organization. “Haigh relied on Donald Trump’s 2011 SFC and assumed that the representations of value of the assets and liabilities were ‘broadly accurate,’” the judge says.

Mr. Haigh affirmed that Mr. Trump’s “personal guarantee” was “the reason for favorable pricing on the loan.” Deutsche loans included covenants requiring Mr. Trump “to maintain a minimum net worth of $2.5 billion, excluding any value related to his brand.”

Perhaps this explains some of the obsession by the mogul-turned-President with puffing up his valuations over the decades. It’s true that Mr. Trump was interacting with sophisticated financial counterparties. But not for the first time, Mr. Trump’s casual relationship to the truth has come back to bite him.

Yet this remedy is like using a Hellfire missile to annihilate a shoplifter. Deutsche Bank made money on the loans, and its valuation teams gave a “haircut” to the numbers provided by Mr. Trump. There was no real financial victim.

More troubling is that this case was brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who campaigned for office promising to find Mr. Trump guilty of something. This is choosing a target and then hunting for something to charge him with, which is an abuse of the law. Mr. Trump isn’t guaranteed a jury trial here, the judge says, because of the kind of case it is. But that’s another reason voters are unlikely to hold this judgment against Mr. Trump as he campaigns for the White House.

Mr. Trump denounced the verdict and says he’ll appeal. Meantime, this example of targeted civil prosecution ought to worry fair-minded people regardless of political bent. CEOs might wonder about doing business in a jurisdiction where elected politicians use the law to smash companies this way.

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