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“Trump Is Still Making Money Off His Defunct University”: Despite Rampart Fraud, It Appears Business Is Boomin

Donald Trump may be facing three separate lawsuits over his now-defunct university, but he’s still raking in money from the enterprise.

According to his 2016 personal financial disclosure form, filed with the Federal Election Commission, Trump made $13,239 in the last year from the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative LLC, the company formally known as Trump University LLC. In an earlier disclosure which he filed last summer when his presidential campaign was beginning, Trump reported earning $11,819 from the company, which held live seminars about earning money from real estate and online courses providing a path to riches.

It’s unclear why or how Trump made money from a business that has been defunct since 2011 and facing litigation since 2013. Alan Garten, executive vice president and general counsel of the Trump Organization, has not responded to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

Trump is staring down three lawsuits which allege rampant fraud in his educational endeavor. Students claimed that they put money down to learn the tricks of the real estate trade from Donald Trump only to end up with cardboard cutouts of his figure.

One, a class-action suit in San Diego, has been delayed until November 28, which is after the presidential election. There will be a hearing for a second class action suit in San Diego on July 22. Finally a state fraud case, brought down by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, will also likely only go to trial after the election now.

On Tuesday, a four-judge panel in New York agreed to let Trump’s lawyers argue their case with the Court of Appeals, hoping to challenge a ruling that let Schneiderman progress with the case this year. Cases brought to this highest court in New York take a long time to resolve, likely stretching this suit beyond the timeframe of the presidential contest.

Even as Trump managed to dodge bullets—avoiding appearances on the witness stand during a crazy election year—Schneiderman has made it clear that he intends to pursue Trump vigorously.

“I am very pleased the judge has indicated her intention to move as expeditiously as possible to trial, as thousands of Mr. Trump’s alleged victims have been waiting years for relief from his fraud,” Schneiderman said in a previous statement provided to The Daily Beast. “As we will prove in court, Donald Trump and his sham for-profit college defrauded thousands of students out of millions of dollars.”

And it’s still lining Trump’s pockets, apparently.

Overall, Trump said that his revenue grew by $190 million over the past 17 months, and that he had $557 million in earned income. Ironically, the personal financial disclosure indicates that Trump has investments in a number of companies he has publicly railed against at his rallies, including Ford Motor Co. and Apple Inc., which he wanted to boycott.

There are also a series of new LLC’s with names of foreign cities—likely for new international hotel projects—in places like Saudi Arabia, from whom Trump wanted to halt oil purchases. Not to mention that whole suggestion he made that the country was responsible for 9/11.

“Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents,” Trump said in February.

Trump has still not released his tax returns which could address more questions about his personal finances. But as he marches towards the nomination, it appears that business is boomin’.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | 9-11, Donald Trump, Fraud, Trump University | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dawn Of Justice”: What Exxon Mobil Knew About Possible Consequences Of Climate Change And When Did They Know It

I hope Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were paying close attention to the press conference New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held with former Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday:

More government officials are asking what Exxon Mobil knew about climate change.

Attorneys general from Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands announced Tuesday that they would join Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, in his investigation into whether Exxon Mobil lied in decades past to investors and the public about the threat of climate change.

The additional participation was announced during a news conference at Mr. Schneiderman’s offices in Lower Manhattan announcing support from 15 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands for the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Attorneys general from Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut and the Virgin Islands, as well as former Vice President Al Gore, attended the event.

While none of the other officials present, aside from Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Claude Walker of the Virgin Islands, announced inquiries of their own, Mr. Schneiderman said, “not every investigation gets announced at the outset.”

Mr. Schneiderman began his investigation in November. His staff is looking at whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks — some as recently as last year — conflicted with the company’s own scientific research.

Part of that inquiry includes the company’s funding, for at least a decade, of outside groups that worked to dispute climate science, even as its in-house scientists were describing the possible consequences of climate change, along with the areas of uncertainty.

If either Clinton or Sanders becomes the 45th President of the United States, they will face intense pressure from climate activists to nominate an attorney general willing to hold ExxonMobil and other major fossil fuel companies legally accountable for their efforts to deceive the American public and distort the American political process in an effort to thwart federal efforts to combat carbon pollution–and they must respond to this call for justice. As Gore noted at the press conference, what ExxonMobil did in the late-1980s and beyond is indistinguishable from what the tobacco industry did for decades in an effort to protect their profits at the expense of the public.

Holding ExxonMobil legally accountable for its amoral actions in the late-1980s and beyond would seem to be a no-brainer. That’s why it’s so odd to see the acclaimed science blogger David Appell lashing out against the calls to bring ExxonMobil to justice, using a variation of the “Leonardo DiCaprio flies private jets, so he’s a hypocrite!” argument you often hear from the anti-science right. Appell seems to think that climate activists just want revenge on ExxonMobil. Future generations will want revenge, of course, but today’s activists just want accountability.

Appell is wrong. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey noted that “…her office had a moral obligation to act” on ExxonMobil’s extremism. The next US Attorney General will have a moral obligation to act as well. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, take note–and take heed.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 3, 2016

April 4, 2016 Posted by | Big Oil, Climate Change, Exxon Mobil, U. S. Attorney General | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Marco Rubio Is Right: Donald Trump Is A Con Man”: The Key To The Donald’s Success Has Always Been A Gullible Public

Even now, as Republicans mount a last, desperate attempt to stop Donald Trump, they have to do it on his terms, not theirs.

They tried saying he wasn’t conservative enough, because, they thought, isn’t that what we’ve been arguing about for the last few years? Who’s a real conservative and who isn’t? But it turned out that while ideology matters a great deal to the elite, it’s less important to the rank and file, and it doesn’t matter at all to the plurality of Republican voters supporting Trump. Then they figured he might just implode on his own, so nobody bothered to dig up the dirt that would arm them against him. Despite the fact that there surely is plenty there.

It was the South Carolina primary that finally made Republicans realize that everything they had been doing when it came to Trump was wrong. It wasn’t just that he won, it was that he won after a debate in which he actually—brace yourself—criticized George W. Bush for not stopping September 11. Jaws hung slack as one of the most critical conservative taboos was violated, and someone calling himself a Republican mocked the idea that Bush “kept us safe.” Then Trump won South Carolina anyway, and won Nevada to boot.

After that, Marco Rubio obviously decided that the only way to beat Trump was to be Trump, or at least a somewhat less compelling version of him. So the guy who had touted himself as knowledgeable, smart, and serious went out and started tossing personal insults at Trump, with all the cleverness of your average fifth grader. “Donald Trump likes to sue people,” Rubio said. “He should sue whoever did that to his face.” Zing! Trump replied that Rubio isn’t smart enough to get into the University of Pennsylvania, where he went to school. Zap!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln would be so proud.

But in the back-and-forth, Rubio may have come upon an attack that might lead some people to reconsider their support of Trump: that he’s a con man.

At the moment, Rubio is making the case through the story of Trump University, which does indeed appear to have been a con. People desperate to change their financial circumstances were roped into seminars on the belief they’d be learning Trump’s real-estate secrets, when in fact, “The contents and materials presented by Trump University were developed in large part by a third-party company that creates and develops materials for an array of motivational speakers and seminar and time-share rental companies,” according to a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Once they had you there, they’d tell you that to learn the real secrets you’d have to pay for a higher-level (and of course even more expensive) seminar. And the instructors “urged students to call their credit card companies during a break in the sessions, requesting increases to their credit limits.”

While Trump University may be the clearest example of a con game Trump has established, is it really that far from Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, or the Trump presidential campaign? Trump’s business these days is less about real estate than it is about monetizing his brand. Here’s the model: Take a crappy third-rate product, slap the name “Trump” on it, and hope that rubes who are blinded by the big plane and the gold-plated furnishings will think they’re buying success.

But the idea that Trump is a con man isn’t potent simply because it’s true. Like the most successful campaign messages, it not only tells you something about who the candidate is, it tells you something about who you are if you vote for him.

The best presidential campaigns have always done this. If you voted for Richard Nixon in 1968, you were part of the Silent Majority, the ones who were sick and tired of hippies and protesters and the degradation of their society. If you voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, you were optimistic and confident, ready to march into an American future that would be just like the past, only even better. And if you voted for Barack Obama in 2008, you were young, hip, creative, multicultural, open-minded, and future-oriented.

The story Trump tells is that his voters are fed up with losing, angry at the idiots in Washington, and ready for a strong leader who can kick the stuffing out of all the immigrants and foreigners keeping us down. But there’s another story you can tell about them: They’re marks. They’re losers. They’re suckers.

Every con man needs suckers, after all—the people who are gullible and dumb enough to turn over their money (or in this case their votes) to the one doing the conning. But a sucker is the last thing anyone wants to be.

The trouble is that America is full of suckers. We’re a nation of people who pay money to have motivational speakers tell us to reach for our dreams, who buy books describing three-year-olds who got to heaven and meet Jesus on his “rainbow horse,” who also bought millions and millions of copies of The Secret, which told you that if you wanted something, like a new Hermes handbag, you just needed to imagine yourself having it and it would actualize its way to you. We’re a nation of the Puritan ethic but also of the get-rich-quick scheme, and Donald Trump’s presidential run is the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme. Just vote for Trump, and before you know it “We will have so much winning … you will get bored with winning.”

Well if you believe that, you are indeed a sucker. The problem for Marco Rubio and the rest of the GOP is that it may just be too late to make the case. Super Tuesday is this week, and Trump may deliver a crushing blow to his opponents as all those suckers come out to vote for him, ready to make America great again. How long can he keep this con going? We’re all going to find out.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“21 Questions For Donald Trump”: Voters Would Learn A Lot About Trump If They Asked For Answers To These Questions

I have covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years — including breaking the story that in 1990, when he claimed to be worth $3 billion but could not pay interest on loans coming due, his bankers put his net worth at minus $295 million. And so I have closely watched what Trump does and what government documents reveal about his conduct.

Reporters, competing Republican candidates, and voters would learn a lot about Trump if they asked for complete answers to these 21 questions.

So, Mr. Trump…

1. You call yourself an “ardent philanthropist,” but have not donated a dollar to The Donald J. Trump Foundation since 2006. You’re not even the biggest donor to the foundation, having given about $3.7 million in the previous two decades while businesses associated with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment gave the Trump Foundation $5 million. All the money since 2006 has come from those doing business with you.

How does giving away other people’s money, in what could be seen as a kickback scheme, make you a philanthropist?

2. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman successfully sued you, alleging your Trump University was an “illegal educational institution” that charged up to $35,000 for “Trump Elite” mentorships promising personal advice from you, but you never showed up and your “special” list of lenders was photocopied from Scotsman Guide, a magazine found at any bookstore.

Why did you not show up?

3. You claimed The Learning Annex paid you a $1 million speaking fee, but on Larry King Live, you acknowledged the fee was $400,000 and the rest was the promotional value.

Since you have testified under oath that your public statements inflate the value of your assets, can voters use this as a guide, so whenever you say $1, in reality it is only 40 cents? 

4. The one-page financial statement handed out at Trump Tower when you announced your candidacy says you’ve given away $102 million worth of land.

Will you supply a list of each of these gifts, with the values you assigned to them?

5. The biggest gift you have talked about appears to be an easement at the Palos Verdes, California, golf course bearing your name on land you wanted to build houses on, but that land is subject to landslides and is now the golf course driving range.

Did you or one of your businesses take a tax deduction for this land that you could not build on and do you think anyone should get a $25 million tax deduction for a similar self-serving gift?

6. Trump Tower is not a steel girder high rise, but 58 stories of concrete.

Why did you use concrete instead of traditional steel girders?

7. Trump Tower was built by S&A Concrete, whose owners were “Fat” Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, head of the Gambinos, another well-known crime family.

If you did not know of their ownership, what does that tell voters about your management skills?

8. You later used S&A Concrete on other Manhattan buildings bearing your name.

Why?

9. In demolishing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, you had no labor troubles, even though only about 15 unionists worked at the site alongside 150 Polish men, most of whom entered the country illegally, lacked hard hats, and slept on the site.

How did you manage to avoid labor troubles, like picketing and strikes, and job safety inspections while using mostly non-union labor at a union worksite — without hard hats for the Polish workers?

10. A federal judge later found you conspired to cheat both the Polish workers, who were paid less than $5 an hour cash with no benefits, and the union health and welfare fund. You testified that you did not notice the Polish workers, whom the judge noted were easy to spot because they were the only ones on the work site without hard hats.

What should voters make of your failure or inability to notice 150 men demolishing a multi-story building without hard hats?

11. You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the “investment banker” for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.

Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?

12. You later paid a Scarfo associate twice the value of a lot, officials determined.

Since you boast that you always negotiate the best prices, why did you pay double the value of this real estate?

13. You were the first person recommended for a casino license by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, which opposed all other applicants or was neutral. Later it came out in official proceedings that you had persuaded the state to limit its investigation of your background.

Why did you ask that the investigation into your background be limited?

14. You were the target of a 1979 bribery investigation. No charges were filed, but New Jersey law mandates denial of a license to anyone omitting any salient fact from their casino application.

Why did you omit the 1979 bribery investigation?

15. The prevailing legal case on license denials involved a woman, seeking a blackjack dealer license, who failed to disclose that as a retail store clerk she had given unauthorized discounts to friends.

In light of the standard set for low-level license holders like blackjack dealers, how did you manage to keep your casino license?

16. In 1986 you wrote a letter seeking lenient sentencing for Joseph Weichselbaum, a convicted marijuana and cocaine trafficker who lived in Trump Tower and in a case that came before your older sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry of U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, who recused herself because Weichselbaum was the Trump casinos and Trump family helicopter consultant and pilot.

Why did you do business with Weichselbaum, both before and after his conviction?

17. Your first major deal was converting the decrepit Commodore Hotel next to Grand Central Station into a Grand Hyatt. Mayor Abe Beame, a close ally of your father Fred, gave you the first-ever property tax abatement on a New York City hotel, worth at least $400 million over 40 years.

Since you boast that you are a self-made billionaire, how do you rationalize soliciting and accepting $400 million of welfare from the taxpayers?

18. You say that your experience as a manager will allow you to run the federal government much better than President Obama or Hilary Clinton. On Fortune Magazine’s 1999 list of the 496 most admired companies, your casino company ranked at the bottom – worst or almost worst in management, use of assets, employee talent, long-term investment value, and social responsibility. Your casino company later went bankrupt.

Why should voters believe your claims that you are a competent manager?

19. Your Trump Plaza casino was fined $200,000 for discriminating against women and minority blackjack dealers to curry favor with gambler Robert Libutti, who lost $12 million, and who insisted he never asked that blacks and women be replaced.

Why should we believe you “love” what you call “the blacks” and the enterprise you seek to lead would not discriminate again in the future if doing so appeared to be lucrative?

20. Public records (cited in my book Temples of Chance) show that as your career took off, you legally reported a negative income and paid no income taxes as summarized below:

1975
Income: $76,210
Tax Paid: $18,714

1976
Income: $24,594
Tax Paid: $10,832

1977
Income: $118,530
Tax Paid: $42,386

1978
Income: ($406,379)
Tax Paid: $0

1979
Income: ($3,443,560)
Tax Paid: $0

Will you release your tax returns? And if not, why not?

21. In your first bestselling book, The Art of the Deal, you told how you had not gotten much work done on your first casino, so you had crews dig and fill holes to create a show. You said one director of your partner, Holiday Inns, asked what was going on. “This was difficult for me to answer, but fortunately this board member was more curious than he was skeptical,” you wrote.

Given your admission that you used deception to hide your failure to accomplish the work, why should we believe you now?

 

By: David Cay Johnson, The National Memo, July 10, 2015

 

July 11, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Nickel And Dimed”: The Very Real Scourge Of Wage Theft

Last week, the owner of a chain of Papa John’s was ordered to pay $800,000 in back pay to workers he’d shortchanged by rounding down to the nearest hour on their time cards and failing to pay overtime properly. “I didn’t realize if you work 10 hours per day, you are supposed to pay overtime for two hours,” the owner, Emmanuel Onuaguluchi, told the New York Post.

A couple hours of overtime there may not seem like a lot of money, but those amounts could mean everything to workers struggling to get by on minimum wage and, as the judgment shows, it all adds up over the years. This latest judgment is part of a big push by New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, who has also sued local McDonald’s and Domino’s franchises.

Cases of wage theft—or, at least, the cases officials are pursuing—have been up in California and across the country, too, according to The New York Times. Business interests told the Times that politicians like Schneider are just pursuing these cases to curry favor with unions, but the unions aren’t really behind the legal actions.

If restaurants and other companies in the service industry—where workers are paid by the hour, have hours that change from week-to-week, and are especially vulnerable to wage theft—are complaining that the wage theft cases are coming from people who, in general, want to be paid more, they’re right. The fight for higher minimum wages across the country has highlighted the problems low-wage workers face in their workplaces, and wage theft is one of the most common ways they’re denied even the measly current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Wage theft is old, but before now workers might have been too scared to complain or go to an attorney on their own. “I think one reason why it’s coming up more now is that it’s tied to a real organizing campaign where fast food workers are demanding and protesting,” says Tsedeye Gebreselassie, a senior staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project, which is not directly involved in any of these cases.

By law, companies have to pay their employees minimum wage, and overtime pay should kick in once an employee works past an eight-hour shift in a day. Five years ago, in a survey funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and conducted by researchers from the National Employment Law Project, UCLA, Cornell University, and the University of Illinois, Chicago, a quarter of low-wage employees reported they hadn’t been paid the minimum wage in the prior week, and three-quarters said they were denied overtime.

As someone who has spent the past three years reporting from low-income communities across the country and grew up in working-class family in a poor part of Arkansas, I hear stories of wage theft all the time. Onuaguluchi’s view about overtime is common—I’ve known people who have worked in fast-food restaurants and routinely pulled several double shifts in a week, but as long as their hours did not total more than 80 in a two-week pay period their bosses did not pay overtime.

I’ve also heard of bosses who don’t pay correctly, and paychecks come with hours missing. Those mistakes are harder for workers to figure out than you would think because they need to keep records on exactly when they worked and how many hours it was, and compare it to what their paychecks say when they arrive a week or two later. But at the end of the day, these cases are relatively easy to prove because records of time sheets will show how many hours each employee worked and whether they were paid properly. Rounding down, as Onuaguluchi did, would be evident.

Many stories about wage theft, though, offer more insidious examples that are harder to fight. I know of people who’ve had to run errands on behalf of their workplaces before they even show up for work, and are expected to arrive every morning with said errand completed. I know people who’ve had to clock out for breaks they can’t take. Sometimes, workers are expected to have a certain amount of work done before they clock in at the official start of their shifts, or are asked to or expected to finish a task once they’re already gone, according to their time sheets. It would be harder to tackle cases like that in court because these practices might not be codified or routine, but the basic idea is that bosses at companies like this don’t rank their employees’ time as valuable.

In fairness, the direct bosses like Onuaguluchi are often squeezed themselves. While three-quarters of these kinds of stores are owned by franchisees who own multiple units and are often making quite a profit, their profits rely on running their operations as cheaply as possible. The small-business man or woman who owns one or two might struggle to pay their employees properly, although I have little sympathy for those who break the law. That’s because franchise fees are expensive: even a franchise fee considered relatively affordable, like 7/11, takes $31,000 to start up. McDonald’s requires $45,000 and that the owners have $300,000 in cash or other funds available to them.

Companies like these also require other licensing fees to be paid, and sometimes franchisees even pay rent because the parent company owns the physical location of the store.

So, people like Schneiderman have promised to go after Papa John’s, and other big companies that franchise stores as well. What Papa John’s and their ilk say is that they’re not responsible for the ways their franchisees pay people. Yet they intensely manage their brands, which often includes monitoring time sheets that franchisees send in, quality control tests that could influence hiring and firing decisions, and other fine-grained aspects of their operations. Even more directly, attorneys could argue that these companies charge their franchisees so much in fees that they know, or should know, that the only way for them to make a profit is to shortchange their employees.

In July, the National Labor Relations Board ruled McDonald’s was a joint employer in a similar case, and that pay complaints could be made against them. If suits against the parent companies succeed, it might actually start to end the practice of robbing low-income workers of the little money they have. “At the end of the day, you want to recover the unpaid wages, but you also want to correct the behavior,” Gebreselassie says. “One of the best ways to do that is to reach to the corporate parent.”

 

By: Monica Potts, The Daily Beast, February 15, 2015

February 16, 2015 Posted by | Corporations, Economic Inequality, Wage Theft | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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