A group of consumers has filed suit against Trump University, the financial institution that holds itself out as a vehicle to instant wealth and happiness, alleging that the only thing they got from the school was a massive amount of debt.
According to the suit, Trump University promises big things, assuring consumers that "it's the 'next best thing' to being Donald Trump's next 'Apprentice." Indeed, the company's website promises that students can, depending on their goals, "become the next real estate mogul," "become your own success story," or "learn wealth strategies."
But the plaintiffs say it didn't take long before they realized that "[t]he primary lesson Trump University teaches its students is how to spend more money buying more Trump seminars."
According to the complaint, when the plaintiffs first arrived at Trump University, the faculty sought to reassure them about the high cost of the seminars they were being offered. Specifically, the plaintiffs say they were told they would get all their money back at their first real estate closing, and that they stood to make "tens of thousands of dollars" every month after that. And, in addition to the seminars, the plaintiffs say they were promised, among other things "a one-year apprenticeship, a one-on-one mentorship ... [and] a 'power team' consisting of real estate [professionals]."
Lead plaintiff spent $60,000
As it turned out, Trump University might have oversold itself a bit. According to the suit, the one-year apprenticeship turned out to be a three-day seminar; the one-on-one mentorship, paradoxically, "consisted of no practical insights and no mentorship"; and the members of the "power team" were only interested in lining their own pockets.
The suit also says students were asked to raise their credit card limits and prepare "detailed financial statements," ostensibly so that they would have enough money to cover their first real estate investment opportunity. In reality, though, the plaintiffs claim Trump University was just making sure that the students would have enough money to cover the Trump Gold Program, which clocks in at an eye-popping $34,995.
According to the suit, lead plaintiff Tarla Makaeff was talked into signing up for the program after Trump University speaker Tiffany Brinkman guaranteed that her first real estate deal "would earn her in the ballpark of $35,000." Makaeff spent $60,000 on Trump courses over a one-year period, and ended up having to turn down the only two real estate deals that came her way, as "both were flawed and appeared unprofitable."
Allegations resemble other suits
Unfortunately, Trump University isn't unique. Last September, a suit against Millionaire University claimed that students spent over $20,000 on "real estate investment opportunities," only to end up with property that no one was willing to buy. The homes were in "high crime, highly vandalized areas," and, in case that wasn't enough, Millionaire University saturated neighborhoods with "five or more of the same model home...in close proximity to one another," making resale almost impossible.
Trump University was founded by Donald Trump, the real estate tycoon and host of The Apprentice, the NBC reality show in which contestants compete to be Trump's second-hand man. The school's home page features a characteristically intense-looking Trump next to the headline, "Are YOU My Next Apprentice? Prove it to me!" A button below the challenge instructs visitors to "Join Now. It's Free."
The plaintiffs are demanding a full refund for the money they spent on Trump University courses, an injunction prohibiting Trump from falsely advertising the school, and all suit-related costs, including attorneys' fees. The suit alleges breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and violation of several California consumer protection statutes.