Was Trump University a Scam?

TrumpScam

Donald Trump’s fake college is running into trouble again. Three years ago New York State’s Education Department became really annoyed with the real estate mogul and his Trump University and demanded that he stop using the word “university.” The “Use of the word ‘university’ by your corporation is misleading and violates New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents,” said the Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education, Joseph Frey.

Trump complied and in June, 2010 the online education company, which provides courses in real estate, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation for a hefty fee, became “The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.”

There are bigger problems, however.

According to an article at Business Insider:

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump and his eponymous “Trump University” for defrauding students looking to learn about the billionaire’s brand of business acumen. The suit says that 5,000 students, many paying thousands of dollars, thought they would get to at least meet the Donald. Instead, they only got their picture taken with a cardboard cutout.

Between 2005 and 2011, Trump University swindled consumers into paying for a spate of expensive courses that did not deliver on promises to teach real estate investing techniques, the suit alleges.

People paid Trump’s company some $40 million for classes and workshops but, according to Schneiderman, “Trump promised free workshops taught by his own knowledgeable, hand-picked instructors who were, in fact, nothing of the sort.
The free workshops were actually designed to get students to sign up for another three-day, $1,495 seminar where Trump would supposedly appear in person.”

Trump’s attorney denied the charges, saying that Schneiderman was just angry because Trump didn’t do enough fundraising for him.

The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative sure sounds scammy to me, but whether or not it’s fraud is a little questionable. If Trump had shown up for some of the workshops would that have been enough? What would a legitimate online “entrepreneur initiative” look like?

The reality is that the “billionaire’s brand of business acumen” is actually pretty much stuff like this. A lot of hype about networking and personality and a lot of business deals that go awry.

Perhaps those people who paid so much money to learn Trump’s “real estate investing techniques” should be thankful they didn’t get the inside tips. While Trump has said “everything I’ve done has been a tremendous winner,” in fact his hotel and casino holdings have filed for bankruptcy four times in the last 20 years. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer