Despite frequent and explicit claims that he would never settle three lawsuits filed against his Trump University wealth seminars, Donald Trump on Friday agreed to pay $25 million to the former students who accused him of ripping them off.
New York’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman announced the settlement in a statement Friday afternoon. The settlement does not require Trump to admit any wrongdoing, according to the Associated Press.
Trump had faced two class-action lawsuits in California from former students who had paid up to $35,000 to learn the secrets behind his real estate success from instructors said to be “hand-picked” by the mogul. Schneiderman also brought a case against Trump in 2013.
In his statement announcing the settlement, Schniederman said Trump would pay “up to $1 million” in penalties to the State of New York for violating state education laws.
In a March campaign video, Trump addressed the cases against him saying, “It’s something I could have settled numerous times, I just don’t believe in settling, especially when you’re right.”
“You know what, the United States should fight back also, we shouldn’t just be settlers, we should fight back,” he said later in the video. “It would have been easier for me to settle, it would have been less complicated for me to settle, but I’ll easily win this case when it comes to court, I look forward to it. Once you settle, everybody sues you. I don’t get sued very often, because I’m not a settler.”
In fact, this settlement adds to a long list of cases which Trump has settled out of court.
A trial in one of the California cases had been scheduled to begin on Nov. 28 in U.S. District Court in San Diego, prompting lawyers representing Trump to request that Judge Gonzalo Curiel move it to 2017. Curiel refused.
Last week, attorneys for Trump said that they were “all ears” about reaching a settlement, which Curiel had urged all sides to consider.
A spokesman for Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, said Friday that Schneiderman ”has always been open to a settlement that fairly compensates the many victims of Trump University who have been waiting years for a resolution,” according to the New York Daily News, who first reported rumors of a settlement Friday morning.
According to a brief filed by lawyers representing former students in one of the class-action lawsuits, Trump admitted in a videotaped deposition that the seminars didn’t present any new information that could not be gained from reading his real-estate books. He also admitted, according to the brief, that he had not in fact chosen the instructors himself. Michael Sexton, who co-founded Trump University, admitted as much in a deposition in 2012.
“Playbooks” given to Trump University instructors also encouraged them to “upsell” students into more and more expensive classes.
Then-candidate Trump previously kicked up a firestorm by telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that Curiel shouldn’t preside over the class-action suits because “he’s a Mexican” and would therefore be biased against him because of his plans to build a border wall. Curiel was born in Indiana, and his parents are U.S. citizens who immigrated from Mexico.