A New York appeals court has ruled in favor of former President Donald Trump, allowing him and his family to retain their New York properties and business certificates, at least temporarily.
The legal battle stems from a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The lawsuit alleges that Trump, along with his two adult sons, two employees, and the Trump Organization, engaged in fraudulent activities. Specifically, they are accused of overvaluing at least 23 commercial properties for over a decade.
The case is currently being heard in a bench trial, with Judge Arthur Engoron presiding. Engoron will be the one to make the final decision on the matter. The stakes are high for Trump and his co-defendants, as they could potentially be held liable for fraud and be required to pay significant damages.
Interestingly, before Trump's attorneys could even present their defense, Engoron had already concluded that James had successfully proven her case. This led to a rare summary judgment where Trump and his co-defendants were found liable for fraud.
Following this judgment, Engoron took the step of revoking Trump's license to do business in New York. This was based on the determination that Trump had committed "repeated and persistent fraud" in his financial statements. Such a move would have had significant implications for Trump's businesses in the state.
However, the recent decision by the New York appeals court has temporarily halted Engoron's order. This means that Trump can continue to control his businesses while the trial is ongoing. If the judgment were to be upheld in the future, a court-appointed receiver would take over Trump's businesses in New York, selling them to the highest bidder.
Among the properties at risk are iconic ones like Trump Tower. Engoron's judgment indicated that Trump and his organization had overvalued Trump Tower by a staggering amount, ranging from $114 million to $207 million.
Such a discrepancy in valuation, especially by a seasoned real-estate developer like Trump, was deemed by Engoron as nothing short of fraud. If the judgment stands, Trump could lose control of several other properties in New York, including Trump Park Avenue, Trump National Golf Club Hudson Valley, and Westchester, among others.
John Moscow, a former financial crimes prosecutor in Manhattan, commented on the situation. He mentioned that the purpose of stripping Trump's New York business license was essentially to keep him out of New York, Breitbart reported.
The lawsuit's value stands at $250 million, which James claims is equivalent to the gains Trump made by overvaluing his properties. However, the potential losses for Trump could be even greater if he is ordered to disgorge profits from real estate transactions.
One peculiar aspect of this lawsuit is that the prosecutors aren't claiming any direct financial harm caused by Trump's overvaluations. The victims, in this case, are not individuals but banks and insurance companies. These institutions might have undercharged Trump for loans and insurance policies based on the inflated property values he provided.
Typically, the government doesn't sue on behalf of large businesses. However, James is leveraging New York law, which allows the attorney general to seek damages caused by fraudulent business behavior as a form of consumer protection.
Trump's attorney, Christopher Kise, defended the former president, arguing that the reported property values weren't intentionally fraudulent. He stated that different parties can have different views on property values, and neither is necessarily wrong.
The civil fraud trial is expected to last for three months. Trump has expressed his intention to testify in the case, which will undoubtedly draw significant media attention.
As the trial progresses, it will be interesting to see how the legal arguments unfold and what the final verdict will be. For now, Trump and his family can breathe a sigh of relief, but the future remains uncertain.