Trump University’s $25 million fraud settlement approved by federal judge

Photo by Michael Vadon/Flickr

A 7-year legal battle brought by former Americans who say they were defrauded by President Donald Trump’s for-profit business school has finally come to an end.

A federal judge on Friday approved a $25 million settlement for more than 3,700 Trump University “students” who claimed they were targeted by aggressive sales tactics, lied to, and cheated out of thousands of dollars.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel signed off on the settlement, which was agreed to in November shortly after the presidential election. Curiel is the judge whom Trump repeatedly attacked on the campaign trail for being “Mexican.”

The outcome brings to an end a high-profile lawsuit against the president, whose posture against settling with the defendants shifted abruptly after he won the election. “I don’t settle lawsuits,” he once said. At one point, he promised to reopen the real estate school, which earned a D-minus grade last year from the Better Business Bureau.  

The New York Times reports that Curiel rejected a challenge by one former Trump University student who wished to opt out of the settlement in which the president admits no wrongdoing. Sherri Simpson, a claimant from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, “wanted to see President Trump tried on criminal racketeering charges.”

“For him to go out there and say, well, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ it’s disgusting,” Simpson told the paper. “I want an apology.”

In interviews, Trump University students described the false promises offered by the school’s “mentors,” alleged real-estate experts who applied fear tactics to their own students, while encouraging them to raise their credit card limits and “max out” on Trump’s courses. Many saw their life savings vanish and none of the big returns advertised by the school. 

An attorney for the defendant said the agreement will reimburse at least 90 percent of the losses, an outcome Judge Curiel called “extraordinary.”

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron was a reporter at the Daily Dot who covered security and politics. In 2015, he revealed the existence of an American hacker on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist. He is a co-author of the Sabu Files, an award-nominated investigation into the FBI's use of cyber-informants. He became a staff writer at Gizmodo in 2017.