Updated at 4:20 p.m. Nov. 18, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump will pay $25 million to settle a series of class-action lawsuits filed against him and his now-defunct Trump University in San Diego and New York, it was announced Friday.
News of the settlement came about an hour before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel was to hear arguments on a motion by Trump’s attorneys to postpone a trial scheduled for Nov. 28 in San Diego.
Jason Forge, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, told the judge that $21 million of the $25 million settlement will stay in San Diego to reimburse former Trump University students in two cases. The remaining $4 million will go to the New York attorney general to pay back plaintiffs in the case there, Forge said.
“It is really a great result,” Forge said outside court.
Attorneys working on the class-action lawsuits agreed to waive their fees so class members can get more money back and move on with their lives, said plaintiffs’ attorney Patrick Coughlin.
He said most of the 7,000 class members were represented in the San Diego cases, and as a result of the settlement, class members should get more than half if not all of their money back. The lead plaintiff in the San Diego case that was set to go to trial in 10 days, Sonny Low, has $9,000 in credit card debt that he can now pay off, Coughlin said.
Forge was asked about Trump and the constant delays in the 6 1/2-year-old case.
“In the end, he (Trump) did do the right thing,” Forge said.
Lead Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli said Trump put aside his personal feelings to settle the cases.
“President-elect Trump is pleased to put this case behind him,” Petrocelli told reporters. “We think it’s a victory for everybody.”
Trump agreed to the settlement without admitting any fault or liability, Petrocelli said. The attorney said Trump has `laser focus” as he prepares to work on solutions to problems facing the American people.
Rumors of a settlement had been swirling since last week, when Curiel told both sides that it would be “wise” to resolve the case if they could, offering the services of District Judge Jeffrey Miller as a mediator.
During the presidential campaign, Trump criticized Curiel’s rulings and handling of the lawsuit, saying the Indiana-born former prosecutor’s Mexican ancestry made him unfit to try the case because Trump made a promise to curb the flow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico.
Trump’s statements on Curiel were widely condemned, including by some GOP leaders. In the lawsuits, former Trump University students alleged Trump committed fraud when he promised to use “hand-picked” instructors to teach success in real estate through a program that cost up to $35,000. Plaintiffs claimed that Trump misled them by calling Trump University a “university,” when it wasn’t an accredited school.
Attorneys for Trump said many Trump University students gave the program positive ratings and those who failed to succeed have only themselves to blame. Petrocelli said Trump did not run Trump University, and that his involvement in the program was fairly nil.
But Forge said Trump “set the tone” for promotion of the real estate program with his involvement in marketing and promotional ads.
— City News Service
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