Trail to examine if Trump’s business prowess is actually financial fraud began Monday

October 3, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Former President Donald Trump was in court on Monday for the opening of a civil fraud trial that could put his business empire and future at risk. The New York Attorney General’s office is seeking a $250 million fine against Trump for fraudulent financial practices, a case that also implicates two of his adult children.

New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Trump of inflating his net worth to cheat the system and unjustly enrich himself. Prosecutors say Trump inflated financial statements between $812 million and $2.2 billion to obtain favorable loan terms he was not entitled to.
Trump attempted to blame former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg but was deemed by the prosecution to be lying.

The trial scrutinizes the very foundation of Trump’s self-crafted image as a successful business magnate, an image he rode to the presidency. Should he lose, he and his organization could face a $250 million fine and could be barred from doing business in New York. The Attorney General’s Office aims to show that the rule of law applies to everyone, regardless of their power or wealth.

If convicted, the consequences for Trump are severe. Besides the monetary fines, Trump’s businesses could be forced to hand over control to a court-appointed receiver or even sell some of its most iconic properties. Trump’s adult children, also implicated in the case, could be barred from serving as officers in any New York corporation.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Trump, also a frontrunner in the Republican upcoming primary, is fighting multiple legal battles. He faces 91 felony charges in total, spanning from efforts to overturn the 2020 election results to mishandling classified material. The outcome of this trial could impact not only his business empire but also his political aspirations.

The trial, expected to last about three months, could also signal broader implications for business ethics and regulatory oversight. Judge Arthur Engoron will decide the case, since Trump’s team never requested a jury trial. Engoron and James, both Democrats, have faced disparaging comments from Trump, who accuses them of being politically motivated.

Trump and his legal team continue to deny any wrongdoing, framing the legal challenges as politically motivated attacks. The trial serves as a critical juncture, not just for Trump but for the question of accountability in American business and politics.

While Donald Trump’s brand is built on the image of business acumen and success, the ongoing civil fraud trial in New York puts that reputation under scrutiny. The trial alleges that he inflated the value of his properties to unjustly enrich himself, actions that are not indicative of smart business but rather of fraudulent behavior to deceive banks, insurers, and other financial entities. 

Such practices, if proven true, don’t represent business skills but rather a willingness to manipulate the system for personal gain, which poses ethical and legal concerns. It challenges the integrity of business standards and undermines public trust.


Who is the judge?

Justice Arthur Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan is presiding over the civil lawsuit against Donald Trump and his family business, a case brought forth by state Attorney General Letitia James. Engoron, a Columbia University and New York University Law School graduate, was elected to the state Supreme Court in 2015 after more than a decade in private practice and 12 years clerking for a state judge. 

He has been described as “extremely intelligent” and meticulous in his understanding of the law. Engoron’s legal experience prior to the Trump case primarily involved commercial disputes and real estate matters.  

He has gained notoriety in this high-profile case, having already found the defendants liable for fraud in a preliminary decision on Sept. 26. Engoron has been openly critical of Trump and his defense, even fining the former president for contempt and labeling some of his arguments as “borderline frivolous.”

Despite Trump’s accusations of him being a “Highly Politicized Democrat,” Engoron’s decisions have been noted for their rigor and focus on the law, rather than politics.

The judge’s career has not been without controversy; two of his higher-profile rulings concerning real estate were overturned on appeal. Additionally, Engoron holds a membership in the American Civil Liberties Union, which might be construed by some as indicating a political leaning. However, both colleagues and opponents in court describe him as someone deeply concerned with understanding the case and the law to arrive at a just conclusion.


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