On April 13, Donald Trump sat down with New York Attorney General Letitia James and answered questions under oath for seven hours as part of the state’s civil fraud lawsuit accusing him of inflating the value of his assets by $812 million to $2.2 billion a year.
(Bloomberg) — On April 13, Donald Trump sat down with New York Attorney General Letitia James and answered questions under oath for seven hours as part of the state’s civil fraud lawsuit accusing him of inflating the value of his assets by $812 million to $2.2 billion a year.
According to a transcript of the deposition made public on Wednesday, Trump delved into an extended explanation of his philosophy on calculating asset values and wealth, saying his name alone was worth at least $3 billion.
“I think it’s the hottest brand in the world,” Trump said.
The former president turned down a suggestion by James’s team that he save some of his comments for later in the deposition, insisting that he explain how he calculates the value of his properties.
“No,” Trump said at the meeting in Lower Manhattan. “I want to explain it to you because you don’t have a case and you should drop this case.”
The lawsuit accuses Trump and his real estate company of exaggerating the value of his biggest properties from 2011 to 2021 to inflate his annual statement of financial condition, a document that was used to secure deals with banks and insurers. James, whose case is set for trial starting Oct. 2, alleges that helped Trump reap at least $250 million in ill-gotten financial benefits.
Here are the highlights from Trump’s deposition.
Trump testified that if he wanted to sell any of his assets, he “would get numbers that were staggering” and “astronomical” because they have “intrinsic value,” like an old master painting. By way of example, Trump mentioned his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and his Turnberry golf course in Scotland.
“You know, these are things that have tremendous value to rich people that, you know, if it makes 2 million or 3 million and therefore would be worth 30 million or 40 million, I think, you could sell it for 4 or 5 or 600 million because it’s a painting. The Mona Lisa is there, the Renoirs of property, many of my properties.”
“Why does somebody pay $250 million for a painting that sits on a wall? These are iconic, very iconic properties. And I have numerous of them.”
40 Wall Street
Trump is accused of repeatedly inflating the value of his 40 Wall Street skyscraper in Lower Manhattan, sometimes by twice its appraised value. He testified that he believes the appraisers failed to recognize the potential for the building to be redeveloped when the city recovers from its current slump. His own valuations included that unrealized potential, he said.
“I say that with a lot of things. You can say that with like — if the City ever comes back, you can convert the entire tower of 40 Wall Street into condos and make an absolute fortune, far greater than the 5 or $600 million probably that the building is worth now, probably more than that. But you’d make a fortune on the condos.”
Aside from stating his belief that the building should be worth more, Trump could not explain exactly why his statements of financial condition valued the tower at hundreds of millions of dollars more than it had been appraised for by his own bank, saying a “bank appraisal is always low.”
James alleges Trump valued the Palm Beach, Florida resort without accounting for numerous restrictions that preclude him from using the property as anything but a private club. He testified that he bought the property for $8 million in 1985 and that his expert witnesses will say it’s now worth as much as $1.5 billion. Trump testified that his valuation took into account the fact that the building is a protected “national landmark” that limits development.
Q. “And your understanding of it being worth $1.5 billion incorporates the fact that it can’t be ripped down?”
A. “Oh, yeah, sure. I mean, you wouldn’t want to rip it down. If you ripped it down, I believe the site would be worth a lot — possibly a lot less but less.”
The 212-acre property outside Manhattan in Bedford, New York, which Trump purchased in 1995 for $7.5 million, consists of two large homes, undeveloped land and a few other buildings. James alleges Trump valued the property at more than five times the appraised values some years — as high as $291 million. James calls those numbers fictions. In his deposition, Trump blamed New York for not allowing him to realize the property’s full potential.
“But if New York ever got their act together, if the City ever got back, Seven Springs is the Mar-a-Lago of New York. It’s the most incredible place and I think it has a, you know, it has a great value.”
Trump defended the valuations as “guesstimates” and said each of the financial statements included disclaimers, suggesting the reader was warned.
“I never felt that these statements would be taken very seriously, because you open it up and right at the beginning of the statement, you read a page and a half of stuff saying, go get your own accounting, go get your own this, go get your own that.”
When asked if the numbers were guesstimates, Trump replied, “The word ‘guesstimate,’ is a compilation of knowledge and all sorts of things put together, because, ultimately, I can’t tell you what the property is going to be worth and nobody can. Appraisers are right and wrong. Everybody knows that.”
The former president testified that if he really wanted to impress banks with his net worth, his statements of financial condition would have included the value of his brand, which he described as “probably my most valuable asset.”
“I didn’t even include that. The brand — if I wanted to create a statement that was high, I would have put the brand on. We had a value from the No. 1 — Predictiv, from the No. 1 branding person at the time 2.9 or $3 billion and that was years ago. That was back in 2000 and something. And now the brand is worth much more.”
Trump said the power of his brand was demonstrated when he sold a series of limited edition Trump non-fungible tokens. “It was supposed to take six months. It sold out in less than a day.”
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