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Former Employees Say Trump University Was a 'Fraudulent Scheme'

Unsealed court documents from a lawsuit against Donald Trump's controversial seminar business show that former salespeople were uncomfortable pushing the expensive classes on those who couldn't afford them.
June 1, 2016, 4:10pm
Donald Trump and Trump University President Michael Sexton announcing the creation of Trump U in March 2005. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Ever since Trump University was accused of being a mechanism for defrauding people who wanted to learn Donald Trump's business secrets, the real estate mogul and presumptive GOP nominee has stood by his for-profit real estate seminar business. But he faces a contentious, potentially publicly damaging legal battle, as shown by the more than 400 pages of Trump U "playbooks" and testimony from former employees that was made public as part of one of the lawsuits against the company, the New York Times reports.


Trump U, launched in 2005 at the height of the housing bubble, claimed to be able to transform its students into real estate titans with a few weekend lectures. But at least three former employees described it as a predatory scheme that relied on savvy salesmen encouraging vulnerable people to take on credit card debt to pay for expensive lessons that weren't worth the price.

"In my experience, the primary goal of Trump University was not to educate students regarding real estate investing," testified Ronald Schnackenberg, who worked as a sales manager at Trump U for several months from 2006 to 2007. "The primary focus seemed to be making money, as quickly and easily as possible."

"Trump University was a fraudulent scheme," he added, according to court documents.

The Trump University handbook encouraged its sales team to dig personal information out of prospective students for leverage, and to "let them know you've found an answer to their problems." It also emphasized that they should encourage these people to take on credit card debt to pay for the courses.

Trump's lawyers called the testimony from employees "discredited," according to the Times, and Trump's camp continues to claim that most students at Trump U were satisfied (some of the unsealed court docs included positive statements from former students).

Trump has also gone on the offensive against the federal judge, Gonzalo Curiel, saying, "He is Hispanic, and he is very hostile to me" in a Fox News interview.

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