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The civil decision for fraud against Donald Trump, annotated

The civil decision for fraud against Donald Trump, annotated

 


Former President Donald J. Trump was fined $355 million, plus millions more in interest, and banned for three years from holding senior positions in a New York company, including his own, in a decision handed down Friday by Judge Arthur F. Engoron. The decision comes after state Attorney General Letitia James sued Mr. Trump, his family members and his business in 2022.

The decision expands on Judge Engoron's decision last fall, which found that Mr. Trump's financial statements were filled with fraudulent statements. Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty and likely appeal other restrictions; he has already appealed last fall's decision.

The New York Times annotated the document.

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New York Times analysis

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This decision by Judge Arthur F. Engoron is the result of a 2022 lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James against Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization; his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump; Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer of the company, and Jeffrey McConney, former controller; and several of their related entities. Mr. Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, was also initially accused until an appeals court dismissed the case against her.

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The statute under which Ms James brought the action, known by its abbreviation 63(12), requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant's conduct was misleading. If this standard is met, a judge can impose severe penalties, including forfeiture of money obtained through the fraud. Ms. James also used this law against the oil company ExxonMobil, the tobacco brand Juul and the pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli.

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Judge Engoron now sets out the context of this case. The decision comes after three years of investigation by the attorney general's office and the conclusion of a trial that ended last month. But this likely won't be Mr. Trump's last word on the matter: He will appeal the financial sanction and will likely appeal other restrictions, as he has previously appealed other decisions.

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In late 2022, Judge Engoron appointed a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, to oversee the Trump Organization and tasked her with keeping tabs on the company and its lending dealings. Last month, it released a report finding inconsistencies in its financial reporting, which may reflect a lack of adequate internal controls.

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Here, Judge Engoron sets out the laws he considered in his decision beyond 63(12). The Attorney General's lawsuit included allegations of violations of falsifying business records, publishing false financial statements, insurance fraud and related conspiracy crimes.

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Over more than 50 pages, Judge Engoron sets out his conclusions on the testimonies of all the witnesses who spoke during the trial.

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Judge Engoron discusses Mr. McConney's significant role in preparing Mr. Trump's financial statements. The judge points out that Mr. McConney prepared all valuations on the statements in consultation with Mr. Weisselberg.

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In his analysis of Mr. Weisselberg, Judge Engoron characterizes his trial testimony as intentionally evasive. Judge Engoron then discusses Mr. Weisselberg's separation agreement from the Trump Organization, which prohibited him from voluntarily cooperating with any entity hostile to the organization. Judge Engoron says this makes Mr. Weisselberg's testimony very unreliable.

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When Donald Trump Jr. testified in court, he denied any responsibility for his father's financial statements, although he served as a trustee of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust while his father was president. But Judge Engoron specifically cites here that Donald Trump Jr. certified that he was responsible for the financial statements and said that he intended the banks to rely on them and that the statements were materially accurate.

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During his testimony, Eric Trump, the de facto CEO of Trump Organizations, initially denied having any knowledge of his father's financial statements until this affair. As Judge Engoron points out here, Eric Trump finally admitted to having knowledge of it as early as 2013. As a result, Judge Engoron characterizes Eric Trump's credibility as seriously damaged.

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Judge Engoron points to Mr. Trump's testimony when he took the witness stand in November, when Mr. Trump admitted that he helped prepare his annual financial statements. Mr. Trump said he would see them and sometimes have suggestions.

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After four pages of describing Mr. Trump's testimony, Judge Engoron says that Mr. Trump rarely answered questions and frequently made lengthy, irrelevant speeches, which seriously compromised his credibility.

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Over more than a dozen pages, Judge Engoron provides an overview of the specific assets Mr. Trump included in his annual financial statements.

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The judge said Ms. James had to prove her claims by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning she had to show that it was more likely than not that Mr. Trump and the co-defendants would be held liable. This is a lower standard than a criminal trial, which requires evidence to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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During the trial, Mr. Trump and his legal team attempted to shift the blame for any inaccuracies in his financial statements to his outside accountants. But Judge Engoron criticizes this argument here.

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During the months-long trial, Mr. Trump, his legal team and several witnesses emphasized that real estate appraisals are an art, not a science. But here it is clear that Judge Engoron, while agreeing with this sentiment, also believes it is misleading when different assessments are based on different assumptions.

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Judge Engoron now reviews the defendants one by one and lays out the evidence that demonstrates each of their intent to defraud, which is required by the law against falsification of business records. Notably, its first paragraph describing the former president's intent provides examples including Mr. Trump's awareness that his triplex apartment was not 30,000 square feet and his valuation of Mar-a-Lago as a single-family residence although it was considered a social club. .

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Among the defendants, Judge Engoron finds only Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney responsible for insurance fraud. Here, he does not provide an explanation for why the other defendants, including Mr. Trump and his adult sons, were not found responsible, and he asserts that Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. McConney did false statements to insurance companies about Mr. Trump's finances. declarations.

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Although Mr. Trump and his adult sons were not found liable for insurance fraud, Judge Engoron here finds them liable for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, explaining that they all aided and encouraged conspiracy to commit insurance fraud by falsifying business records.

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Judge Engoron here adopts the approximations of Michiel McCarty, the attorney general's expert witness. Judge Engoron says Mr. McCarty testified reliably and convincingly and concludes that the defendants' fraud saved them more than $168 million in interest.

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In finding that the defendants were able to purchase the former post office in Washington, D.C., through their use of fraudulent financial statements, Judge Engoron rules that the defendants derived the proceeds from the sale of the post office in 2022 as ill-gotten gains. . It penalizes Donald Trump and his companies more than $126 million, as well as Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump $4 million each, for this property alone.

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Judge Engoron criticizes the defendants for not recognizing that they were wrong in their assessments, adding that their total lack of contrition and remorse borders on the pathological. He says this inability to admit their mistake makes him believe they will continue their fraudulent activities unless stopped by the law.

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Judge Engoron says Judge Barbara Jones, who has served as an independent observer to the Trump Organization since 2022, will continue in that role for at least three years. It specifies that in the future, its role will be strengthened and that it will review the financial information of the Trump Organization before it is submitted to a third party, to ensure that there are no significant anomalies.

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In addition to extending the observers' mandate and strengthening their powers, Judge Engoron also took the unusual step of ordering that an independent chief compliance officer be installed within the Trump Organization, and that he report directly to the observer.

William K. Rashbaum

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Judge Engoron outlines his bans against the defendants, ruling that Mr. Trump, Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. McConney cannot serve as officers or directors of any corporation or legal entity in New York for the next three years , and banned his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump for two years from the same. It also prohibits Mr. Trump from seeking any loan from a New York bank for the next three years. The ruling goes further in the cases of Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. McConney, permanently barring them from exercising the financial control function of any New York company.

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Judge Engoron also ordered that Mr. Trump and his sons pay interest, bringing the fine to $450 million, according to Ms. James.

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