SAN DIEGO – President-elect Donald Trump agreed Friday to pay $25 million to settle lawsuits against his now-defunct Trump University for real estate investors, averting a trial in a potentially embarrassing case that he had vowed during the campaign to keep fighting.
The agreement came 10 days before jury selection was scheduled to begin in one of three cases. The complaints accused Trump University, which wasn’t an accredited school, of defrauding students who paid up to $35,000 a year to enroll in programs that promised to share Trump’s real estate secrets.
About 7,000 students would be eligible for refunds if US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel approves the proposed settlement. Under the terms, Trump admitted no wrongdoing in two class-action lawsuits in San Diego and a civil suit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The settlement lifts what would probably have been a major headache for Trump as he works to fill key executive branch positions and get acquainted with foreign leaders. The San Diego trial, on a case filed in 2010, was expected to last several weeks, guaranteeing daily news coverage of a controversy that dogged him during the campaign.
Trump’s political rivals seized on the lawsuits to try to portray him as dishonest and deceitful. Trump brought more attention to them by repeatedly assailing Curiel, who oversaw the San Diego cases. Trump suggested the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican heritage exposed a bias.
Thousands of former students covered by the San Diego lawsuits will be eligible to receive at least half and possibly all their money back, as much as $35,000, said Jason Forge, an attorney for the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs’ attorneys waived their fees.
Trump has denied the allegations and said during the campaign that he would not settle. He told supporters at a May rally that he would come to San Diego to testify after winning the presidency.
“I could have settled this case numerous times but I don’t want to settle cases when we’re right. I don’t believe in it. And when you start settling cases, you know what happens? Everybody sues you because you get known as a settler.
One thing about me, I am not known as a settler,” Trump said at the time. (AP)