Abonné·e de Mediapart

Billet publié dans



Suivi par 36 abonnés

Billet de blog 24 janv. 2022

New legal filing reveals details of possible fraud by Trump Organization

The filing, submitted by New York Attorney General Letitia James, comes several years after a ProPublica investigation revealed conflicting financial details the Trump Organization filed for its downtown Manhattan skyscraper at 40 Wall Street.

Abonné·e de Mediapart

Ce blog est personnel, la rédaction n’est pas à l’origine de ses contenus.

By Heather Vogell

A new legal filing by New York’s attorney general this week accused former President Donald Trump’s company of misleading lenders about the financial health of its landmark downtown Manhattan skyscraper, 40 Wall Street, while seeking to renew the building’s mortgage.

Though the Trump Organization called 40 Wall Street “one of the great success stories post 2008,” lender Capital One found the company’s estimates of the building’s worth so unbelievable that the bank declined to refinance the tower’s loan in 2015, the filing alleges.

“Capital One harbored great skepticism regarding the Trump Organization’s valuations,” says the filing, which was submitted by Attorney General Letitia James in response to Trump’s efforts to block her from questioning him and his children as part of an ongoing investigation by her office.

The new accusations offer startling details about possible financial fraud involving 40 Wall Street — one of the subjects of a 2019 ProPublica story that highlighted conflicting financial documents the Trump Organization had filed for the building.

ProPublica’s story documented how income, expense and occupancy numbers cited in the eventual refinance for 40 Wall Street and another Manhattan building sometimes didn’t match those the company had filed with city tax authorities. A lower valuation for the city would produce a lower tax bill, while a higher valuation for lenders would make it easier to get a new mortgage.

One expert said it appeared like the Trump Organization was keeping “two sets of books.”

“It feels like a set of books for the tax guy and a set for the lender,” said Kevin Riordan, a financing expert and real estate professor at Montclair State University, at the time.

In her filing, James asserts that Trump Organization employees, including Trump’s children, took part in a pattern of deception in which they misled lenders, insurers and the Internal Revenue Service by vastly overstating values for 40 Wall Street and a host of other Trump properties, including golf courses in Scotland, Los Angeles and Westchester and his buildings on Fifth and Park avenues.

The Trump Organization on Thursday [Jan. 20th] lashed out at James, a Democrat, via a statement emailed by a spokesperson, saying, “The only one misleading the public is Letitia James.

“She defrauded New Yorkers by basing her entire candidacy on a promise to get Trump at all costs without having seen a shred of evidence and in violation of every conceivable ethical rule,” the organization’s statement said. It asserted that James “has no case” and that the “allegations are baseless and will be vigorously defended.”

Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump, also criticized James, accusing her of making “repeated threats to target the Trump family” and ignoring legal protections for “the very people she is investigating.”

James is seeking to compel testimony and obtain documents from Trump, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, who she said have not cooperated with her investigation.

The filing says that property valuations formed the heart of statements of financial condition that the Trump Organization used to demonstrate its net worth. The statements, which James said contained inaccuracies, were compiled by an outside accounting agency from a data spreadsheet and backup material provided by the Trump Organization.

Trump’s personal guarantees to some banks and insurers required him to certify that his financial statements were correct, according to James’ filing. The documents say her office has evidence Trump was “personally involved in reviewing and approving” the statements.

If the company or its employees are found to have deliberately provided misleading valuations, they could face civil or criminal penalties. The company is under investigation by both James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

With its classic Gothic Revival style and signature green spire, 40 Wall Street gave Trump a presence in the most famous financial district in the world. His company doesn’t own it, but rather purchased in 1995 the right to act as the landlord for its office and retail space. Finding tenants for that space, however, particularly in the building’s narrow tower, proved a challenge, especially after 9/11, when occupancy sagged and the entire financial district struggled, the ProPublica investigation found.

James’ filing says that as early as 2009, Capital One, which held the mortgage on the property, “raised substantial concerns about cash flow” at 40 Wall Street, prompting in-person meetings with Trump, longtime Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and others. Donald Trump Jr. was also involved in the discussions, the filing says.

The conversations led to a loan modification in 2010, with bank personnel harboring doubts about the Trump Organization’s representations of the building’s financial standing. During those discussions, the Trump Organization provided the bank with profit numbers for 2010 of $12.3 million, which bank personnel described as “very optimistic.”

More startling were the differences between valuations that appeared on Trump’s statements of financial condition and those prepared by appraisers for Capital One. The Trump Organization set the value of the building at $601.8 million in 2010, while the appraisals for Capital One done by Cushman & Wakefield set it at just less than one-third of that, $200 million.

Weisselberg shared one of the company’s higher valuations for the building with the bank in early 2015, boasting of “considerable capital investment” and “a much improved cash flow.” He wanted Capital One to restructure its loan and waive a principal payment of $5 million due in November.

But Capital One declined to refinance the mortgage, referencing its own internal estimate that the building was only worth $257 million a few months before.

That year, 40 Wall Street’s $160 million mortgage was a thorn in Trump’s side, representing his then-largest single debt as he launched his campaign for the presidency.

After Capital One’s rejection, the Trump Organization turned to Ladder Capital Finance, where Weisselberg’s son Jack was a director. Ladder commissioned its own appraisal. Though Ladder used the same Cushman & Wakefield team that had estimated the building was worth $220 million in 2012, the team this time more than doubled the value to $540 million, legal filings said. Ladder approved the refinance.

James’ filing said that evidence her office obtained suggests the 2015 Cushman valuation “appears to have used demonstrably incorrect facts and aggressive assumptions” to arrive at the higher estimate, which the document said “did not reflect a good faith assessment of value.”

On Thursday, Cushman & Wakefield defended its practices, saying it took “great issue with mischaracterizations concerning the work performed and believe they are not supported by the evidence.

“The referenced Cushman & Wakefield appraisals were undertaken and completed in good faith based upon the material information made available,” the company said in a statement emailed by a spokesperson. “We stand behind the appraisers and the referenced appraisals which reflect fair valuations based upon the underlying facts and market dynamics.”

In 2015, the Trump Organization’s statement of financial condition listed the value of the building as $735.4 million.

Ladder Capital and Capital One did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. Allen Weisselberg and Jack Weisselberg could not immediately be reached.

ProPublica’s 2019 story found several instances of the Trump Organization reporting much lower expenses to its lender, Ladder Capital, than to city tax authorities — including 40 Wall Street’s insurance costs and ground lease. Jack Weisselberg declined to comment at the time on Ladder’s loans or his relationship with the Trump Organization. Executives with Ladder also declined to be quoted for the story then.

In 2019, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress that the Trump Organization inflated valuations at times to appear more profitable and deflated them to achieve a lower real estate tax bill.


  • ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive ProPublica's biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

Bienvenue dans le Club de Mediapart

Tout·e abonné·e à Mediapart dispose d’un blog et peut exercer sa liberté d’expression dans le respect de notre charte de participation.

Les textes ne sont ni validés, ni modérés en amont de leur publication.

Voir notre charte

À la Une de Mediapart

Journal — Exécutif
Une seule surprise, Pap Ndiaye à l'Éducation
Après vingt-six jours d’attente, Emmanuel Macron a nommé les vingt-sept membres du premier gouvernement d’Élisabeth Borne. Un casting gouvernemental marqué par sa continuité et toujours ancré à droite. La nomination de l’historien Pap Ndiaye à l’Éducation nationale y fait presque figure d’anomalie.
par Ilyes Ramdani
Journal — Gauche(s)
Union de la gauche : un programme pour mettre fin au présidentialisme
Jean-Luc Mélenchon et ses alliés de gauche et écologistes ont présenté le 19 mai leur programme partagé pour les élections législatives, 650 mesures qui jettent les bases d’un hypothétique gouvernement, avec l’ambition de « revivifier le rôle du Parlement ». 
par Mathieu Dejean
Écologie politique : ce qui a changé en 2022
Les élections nationales ont mis à l’épreuve la stratégie d’autonomie des écologistes vis-à-vis de la « vieille gauche ». Quel dispositif pour la bifurcation écologique, comment convaincre l'électorat : un débat entre David Cormand, Maxime Combes et Claire Lejeune.  
par Mathieu Dejean et Fabien Escalona
Journal — France
À Romainville, un site industriel laissé à la spéculation par la Caisse des dépôts
Biocitech, site historique de l’industrie pharmaceutique, a été revendu avec une plus-value pharaonique dans des conditions étranges par un promoteur et la Caisse des dépôts. Et sans aucune concertation avec des élus locaux, qui avaient pourtant des projets de réindustrialisation. 
par Romaric Godin

La sélection du Club

Billet de blog
Marche contre Monsanto-Bayer : face au système agrochimique, cultivons un autre monde !
« Un autre monde est possible, et il est déjà en germe. » Afin de continuer le combat contre les multinationales de l’agrochimie « qui empoisonnent nos terres et nos corps », un ensemble d'activistes et d'associations appellent à une dixième marche contre Monsanto le samedi 21 mai 2022, « déterminé·es à promouvoir un autre modèle agricole et alimentaire, écologique, respectueux du vivant et juste socialement pour les paysan·nes et l'ensemble de la population ». 
par Les invités de Mediapart
Billet de blog
L'effondrement de l'écologie de marché
Pourquoi ce hiatus entre la prise de conscience (trop lente mais réelle tout de même) de la nécessité d’une transformation écologique du modèle productif et consumériste et la perte de vitesse de l’écologie politique façon EELV ?
par jmharribey
Billet de blog
Reculer les limites écologiques de la croissance… ou celles du déni ?
« À partir d’un exemple, vous montrerez que l’innovation peut aider à reculer les limites écologiques de la croissance ». L' Atécopol et Enseignant·es pour la planète analysent ce sujet du bac SES, qui montre l’inadéquation de l’enseignement des crises environnementales, et les biais de programmes empêchant de penser la sobriété et la sortie d’un modèle croissantiste et productiviste.
par Atelier d'Ecologie Politique de Toulouse
Billet d’édition
Pour une alimentation simple et saine sans agro-industrie
Depuis plusieurs décennies, les industries agro-alimentaires devenues des multinationales qui se placent au-dessus des lois de chaque gouvernement, n’ont eu de cesse pour vendre leurs produits de lancer des campagnes de communication aux mensonges décomplexés au plus grand mépris de la santé et du bien-être de leurs consommateurs.
par Cédric Lépine