Judge approves US$25 million settlement of Trump University lawsuit

Rachel Jensen (centre) who represented the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Trump University, after a hearing in San Diego, March 30, 2017.
Rachel Jensen (centre) who represented the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Trump University, after a hearing in San Diego, March 30, 2017.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

(REUTERS) - A US judge on Friday (March 31) granted final approval of a US$25 million (S$34.9 million) settlement to resolve a class action lawsuit that claimed fraud against President Donald Trump and his Trump University real estate seminars.

The ruling from US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego concluded a lengthy and contentious lawsuit that played a prominent role in the presidential campaign last year.  The Trump University students, who paid as much as $35,000 for the seminars, claimed they were lured by false promises that they would learn Trump’s investing “secrets” from his“hand-picked” instructors. 

One Trump University student objected to the deal, in particular a provision blocking students from opting out of it. She said in court papers she would like to seek full recovery from Trump, plus punitive damages and other relief. 

An attorney for that student could not immediately be reached for comment. 

During the campaign, Trump vowed to continue fighting the fraud claims but agreed to the settlement soon after he was elected. He has admitted he did not personally select the instructors, but his lawyers have described the claim as sales“puffery.” Last year, Trump accused Judge Curiel of bias based on the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican ancestry. 

In his ruling on Friday, Curiel called the $25 million settlement “extraordinary” in that it represented an estimated 80 per cent recovery for the students. “The amount offered in settlement provides significant and immediate recovery,” Curiel wrote.