Donald Trump agrees to settle Trump University lawsuits

Donald Trump (second right) meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second left) on Nov 18, 2016, in New York.
Donald Trump (second right) meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second left) on Nov 18, 2016, in New York.PHOTO: AFP

SAN DIEGO (REUTERS) - US President-elect Donald Trump has agreed to settle fraud lawsuits relating to his Trump University series of real estate seminars for US$25 million (S$35 million), New York’s attorney-general said on Friday Nov 18).

A settlement would end a dispute that dogged Trump throughout his presidential election campaign and led to one of the more controversial moments of his run when he claimed the judge overseeing two of the cases was biased because he was of Mexican ancestry.

Lawyers for the president-elect have been arguing against students who claim they were they were lured by false promises into paying up to US$35,000 to learn Trump’s real estate investing “secrets” from his “hand-picked” instructors.

There are three lawsuits relating to Trump University: two class actions suits in California and a case brought by New York Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman. All of the cases would be covered in the settlement.

“Today’s US$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,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

Attorneys for Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Class action lawyers for the students were not planning to seek attorneys fees, but reimbursement for costs, a source familiar with the situation said.

US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the two California cases, had urged both sides to settle.

Trump said during his election campaign that Curiel, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents, could not be impartial because of Trump’s campaign pledge to build a wall on the US-Mexico border to control illegal immigration.

A trial in one of the cases was scheduled to begin on Nov 28 in US District Court in San Diego.

Trump has said he did not “hand pick” Trump University instructors, but that marketing language used was not to be taken literally. He has said most students gave the classes high ratings.

A court hearing in the case was set for Friday afternoon in San Diego.