Trump University

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Trump Entrepreneur Initiative
Privately held
Industry Education
Predecessor Trump University (name changed to The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative in June 2010)[1]
Founded 2004 (incorporated)
May 23, 2005; 16 years ago (2005-05-23) (launched)[2]
Founder Donald Trump
Headquarters New York City, United States
(registration required)

Trump University LLC (formerly the Trump Wealth Institute;[3] later named Trump Entrepreneur Initiative LLC) was an American for-profit education company that ran a real estate training program from 2005 until at least 2010. After multiple lawsuits, it is now defunct. It was founded by Donald Trump and his associates Michael Sexton and Jonathan Spitalny in 2004.[4] The company offered courses in real estate, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation, charging fees ranging from $1,500 to $35,000.[5]

The organization was not an accredited university or college and did not confer college credit.[6] In 2011, the company was the subject of an inquiry by the New York Attorney General's office for illegal business practices that culminated in a lawsuit filed in 2013.[5][7][8][9] It is also subject to ongoing class action lawsuits filed in three states. The company and subsequent lawsuits against it have received renewed interest due to Trump's candidacy in the 2016 presidential election.[10]

Formation and subsequent name change

Trump University[11] was incorporated in 2004 by Trump, Sexton, and Spitalny, as a New York limited liability company.[12] Donald Trump owned 93% of the company.[13] On May 23, 2005, Trump University formally launched its education program.[2] The company's original business plan focused on online education but included live, in-person instruction as well.[4]

In 2005, the New York State Department of Education sent Trump, Sexton, and Trump University a letter saying that they were violating state law by using the word "university" when in fact Trump University was not actually chartered as one and by offering live instruction or training without a required license.[12]

A letter sent by the Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education, Joseph Frey, to Trump that was made public in April 2010 stated: "Use of the word 'university' by your corporation is misleading and violates New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents."[14] In June 2010, "Trump University" changed its name to "The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative."[1]

Allegations of impropriety and lawsuits

On August 24, 2013, the State of New York filed a $40 million civil suit against Trump University (which had largely ceased operations in May 2011) alleging illegal business practices and false claims made by the company.[15] Donald Trump denied the allegations, claiming the school had a 98% approval rating and said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was "a political hack looking to get publicity."[16]

External video
Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Is Trump University a fraud?, 5:28, CNN, September 29, 2015
Trump faces lawsuits from former Trump University students, 5:47, CBS This Morning, September 24, 2015
Prosecutor: Trump lawsuit no stunt, 3:55, CNN, August 26, 2013
Trump, Rubio spar over lawsuit against Trump University, 4:53, Fox News Channel, Mar. 03, 2016

Schneiderman described Trump University as a bait-and-switch scheme and pointed to the fact that the organization was not a university.[17] Schneiderman accused Trump of misleading more than 5,000 people to pay up to $35,000 to learn his real estate investment techniques.[18]

In an infomercial, Trump claimed to have "handpicked" Trump University's instructors. He testified in a 2012 deposition, however, that he never selected the instructors for the program.[19] Michael Sexton stated in a 2012 deposition that Trump signed off on the school's advertisements.[20]

In October 2014, a New York judge found Trump personally liable for operating the company without the required business license.[18] In February 2016, Trump suggested the lawsuit had benefited from the Hispanic ethnicity of the presiding judge.[21] Shortly thereafter Schneiderman described Trump's remarks as “racial demagoguery.”[22]

A Trump complaint alleging that the state Attorney General's investigation was accompanied by a campaign donation shakedown was investigated by a New York ethics board and dismissed in August 2015.[23] Trump University also filed a $1 million defamation suit against former Trump University student Tarla Makaeff, who had spent about $37,000 on seminars, after she joined the class-action lawsuit and publicized her classroom experiences on social media.[24] Unable to prove malice, Trump University lost an anti-SLAPP lawsuit (under statutes designed to thwart legal intimidation of class-action participants) and was ordered by a federal judge in April 2015 to pay Makaeff and her lawyers $798,774.24 in legal fees and costs.[25] In 2013 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judgment, noting that "victims of con artists often sing the praises of their victimizers until the moment they realize they have been fleeced."[9] Also, Trump University employees pressured students to offer favorable reviews, instructed them to fill out the forms in order to obtain graduation certificates, and did not undertake procedures often used to ensure that surveys were filled out objectively.[26]

In a separate RICO[27] class-action civil suit, Art Cohen vs. Donald J. Trump, in mid February 2014, a San Diego federal judge, Gonzalo P. Curiel, allowed claimants in California, Florida, and New York to proceed.[28] As of May 2016, trial was scheduled to begin on November 28, 2016.[29]

Despite Trump's claim to have won much of the lawsuit, all three lawsuits are still pending.[30]

The topic was highlighted during the Republican primaries and at the March 3, 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination debate in Detroit, Michigan.[31]

Trump has repeatedly attacked Curiel in campaign speeches, calling the judge a "hater" and describing him as "Spanish" or "Mexican". (Curiel was born in the United States to Mexican parents.[32]) Trump has said that Curiel should recuse himself from the case.[33][34][35]

In popular culture

Trump University was the subject of a week-long series of Doonesbury.[36]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Trump University: No Longer a University?". The Huffington Post. April 19, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hindo, Brian (May 23, 2005). "Trump University: You're Wired! – The Donald Launches His Own Online 'Self-Directed Learning' Courses – And They Differ Mightily from the Usual Fare". BusinessWeek . Retrieved April 18, 2012.
  3. Gitell, Seth (March 8, 2016). "I Survived Trump University". Politico. Retrieved March 18, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cohan, William D. "Big Hair on Campus: Did Donald Trump Defraud Thousands of Real-Estate Students?". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2016-03-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 (registration required) Barbaro, Michael (May 19, 2011). "New York Attorney General Is Investigating Trump's For-Profit School". The New York Times.
  6. Levine, Greg (May 23, 2005). "Trump University Founded For Student 'Customers'". Forbes. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
  7. Donald Trump University Lawsuit Is Lesson For All For-Profit Colleges Forbes August 2013
  8. New York judge finds Donald Trump liable for unlicensed school Reuters August 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 Trump faces two-front legal fight over 'university' USA Today
  10. Bump, Philip (February 25, 2016). "Marco Rubio came out swinging at Trump, and one punch really landed: Trump University". The Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Kurt Orzeck, 'Trump University' Students Win Class Cert. In RICO Suit, Law360 (October 28, 2014).
  12. 12.0 12.1 David Halperin, NY Court Refuses to Dismiss Trump University Case, Describes Fraud Allegations, Huffington Post (March 3, 2016).
  13. Barbaro, Michael; Eder, Steve (May 31, 2016). "Former Trump University Workers Call the School a 'Lie' and a 'Scheme' in Testimony". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Douglas Feiden, State educrats give failing grade to Donald Trump's 'misleading' Trump University, Daily News (New York) (April 15, 2010).
  15. "Trump University Made False Claims, Lawsuit Says". The New York Times. Retrieved August 24, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Gormley, Michael. "Trump Calls NY Attorney General a 'Political Hack'". ABC News. Archived from the original on November 10, 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Prosecutor: Trump lawsuit no stunt", CNN (August 26, 2013).
  18. 18.0 18.1 Curran, Eddie (October 16, 2014). "New York judge finds Donald Trump liable for unlicensed school". Reuters. Retrieved February 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Karen Freifeld (February 1, 2016). "Trump University swindled me, says Iowa retiree". American Media Institute. Retrieved February 1, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Hamburger, Tom; Helderman, Rosalind S. (May 31, 2016). "Trump involved in crafting controversial Trump University ads, executive testified". Washington Post. Retrieved June 1, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. King, Robert (February 27, 2016). "Trump blames legal woes on 'Spanish' judge". Fox News. Retrieved February 27, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "New York Attorney General Schneiderman Fires Back At Trump For Hispanic Judge Remark". CBS New York. February 27, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Virtanen, Michael (August 31, 2015). "NY ethics board drops Trump's complaint about attorney general during university investigation". Associated Press. Retrieved August 31, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Barbaro, Michael (May 12, 2011). "Buying a Trump Property, or So They Thought". The New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Kearn, Rebekah (April 30, 2015). "$798,000 Award Against Trump University". Courthouse News Services. Retrieved August 31, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Michael Barbaro & Steve Edermarch, At Trump University, Students Recall Pressure to Give Positive Reviews, New York Times (March 11, 2016).
  27. Warmerdam, Elizabeth (October 29, 2014). "Trump Must Answer Students in Fed Court". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved May 31, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Fire Ant. "Donald Trump to Face Fraud, Racketeering Claims in California Class Actions. New York Fraud Case Continues". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Retrieved June 16, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Gerstein, Josh (May 6, 2016). "Judge delays Trump University trial". Politico.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Ye Hee Lee, Michelle (February 27, 2016). "Donald Trump's misleading claim that he's 'won most of' lawsuits over Trump University". Washington Post. Retrieved February 27, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Lawsuits against Trump University claim students paid thousands for nothing". Retrieved 2016-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Weiner, Tim. "New Web of Trust Topples a Mighty Mexican Cartel". New York Times. Retrieved 06/01/2016. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "Trial date set in Trump University lawsuit". CBS News. May 6, 2016. Retrieved 28 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. East, Kristen (May 28, 2016). "Trump attacks 'Mexican' judge in Trump U lawsuit". Politico. Retrieved 28 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Finnegan, Michael (May 27, 2016). "Trumps trashes judge overseeing Trump University case, says it's fine that he's Mexican". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 29, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Eisenstat, Adam (February 10, 2016). "I was a Donald Trump ghostwriter. Here's what I learned about the Donald — and his fans". Vox.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

See also

External links