Donald Trump agrees to pay $25M to settle looming Trump U. lawsuits

"Today's $25 million settlement is a stunning reversal ... and a major victory for the 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Friday.
By Doug G. Ware   |   Updated Nov. 18, 2016 at 6:02 PM
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SAN DIEGO, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- President-elect Donald Trump on Friday finally chose to settle out of court three fraud lawsuits against his defunct real estate training seminar, Trump University, which plaintiffs said bilked them out of millions.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel announced the settlement of two class-action cases in San Diego court Friday, which includes $21 million for plaintiffs. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the settlement of the similar New York suit.

"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 New York for violating state education laws," he said in a statement Friday. "The victims of Trump University have waited years for today's result, and I am pleased that their patience -- and persistence -- will be rewarded."

As part of the settlement, Trump was not required to admit to any wrongdoing.

Trump's attorneys had previously vowed to fight the lawsuits, but perhaps felt a settlement was a more appropriate action as the president-elect works to prepare for his administration.

The settlements still need to be approved, but are expected to receive a green light.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits said they were defrauded by the Trump University operation, which pledged to school students in the real estate industry. Students claimed that after they paid tuition -- up to $35,000 in some cases -- they were then prodded to spend thousands more to continue receiving tutorship.

Trump and his lawyers countered by pointing to thousands of "report cards," which they said showed the students were pleased with what they received from the experience.

Friday's agreements clear away legal trouble that's followed Trump for years, but also come as somewhat of an embarrassment for the billionaire -- who in the past has derided legal settlements and criticized businessmen who pay for them.

During his campaign, Trump pledged to fight the allegations and even suggested that he may reopen Trump University at some point in the future.

"I could settle it right now for very little money, but I don't want to do it out of principle," he said during a GOP debate in February.

The final straw for Trump may have been the looming Nov. 28 court date for one of the California cases, which his lawyers wanted postponed until after his inauguration so the president-elect could work on his White House transition and submit new videotaped testimony. Plaintiffs, however, rejected that plan -- saying they wanted the trial to start on-time, even if it meant doing so without Trump's new testimony.

"Trump fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals," Schneiderman added. "Today's $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university."

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