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31 Mar, 2017 19:33

Judge approves $25mn settlement in Trump University case

Judge approves $25mn settlement in Trump University case

A federal judge in California has approved the $25 million settlement in lawsuits against the defunct Trump University, calling it “extraordinary.” The case dogged President Donald Trump during the campaign, only to be settled right after the election.

“The amount offered in settlement provides significant and immediate recovery,” judge Gonzalo Curiel wrote in his ruling on Friday, approving the settlement in two class-action lawsuits as well as a civil complaint filed by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman.

Curiel called the settlement “extraordinary” in that the students who claimed to have been defrauded by the university would get 80 cents to a dollar in reimbursements.

Trump University, which closed in 2010, charged between $1,500 and $35,000 for real-estate programs, with instructors advertised as “hand-picked” by Trump himself. The plaintiffs claimed the program failed to live up to its promises, and accused Trump of fraud.

The case attracted a great deal of attention during the 2016 presidential campaign, with Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination as well as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton using it against the billionaire businessman, who went on to win the November 8 election. The controversy was further fueled by Trump accusing the judge of bias due to Curiel’s Mexican heritage.

Within a week of Trump’s electoral triumph, his lawyers proposed a settlement. Curiel gave it initial approval in December, setting a deadline for just before inauguration day. Two plaintiffs’ objections delayed the approval, however.

One of them, Sherri Simpson, wanted to opt out and sue Trump separately. Simpson, an attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said she had paid $35,000 for the “Gold Elite” program, but did not receive the promised secret real-estate strategies. She later appeared in two anti-Trump campaign ads.

Another plaintiff, identified only as Harold Doe, objected because he wanted more money, Reuters reported.

Patrick Coughlin, one of the class attorneys, said Simpson’s objections could “blow up a settlement that is returning 90 cents on the dollar. It's an outrageous position.”

Though court records made public during the campaign revealed numerous lawsuits by and against Trump, they also showed the real-estate mogul disliked settlements.

“I don’t settle lawsuits — very rare — because once you settle lawsuits, everybody sues you,” Trump said in March 2016, as opponents pressed him on Trump University.

Under terms of the settlement, Trump admits no wrongdoing.