Judge says giant broken real estate rules for Trump 2022-04-27 15:51:49

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A New York judge has decided that Cushman & Wakefield, one of the world’s largest real estate companies, violated its own rules to please the Trump Organization and the former US president’s chronic practice of inflating the value of his properties.

Judge Arthur F. Engoron’s surprising assertions were included in Wednesday’s court order, in which he formally directed Cushman & Wakefield to turn over the documents to the New York Attorney General’s office.

New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, investigated what prosecutors determined was a long-running pattern of inflating the value of California and New York golf resorts and buildings, as part of a scheme to commit bank and insurance fraud.

In his order, the judge noted that he personally reviewed sensitive documents in the privacy of courtrooms that indicate Cushman & Wakefield employees played together — a damning revelation that could open the global company to accusations of conspiring with the Trump Organization.

He wrote: “This court has reviewed numerous documents on camera that demonstrate that C&W has not been consistent in adhering to internal quality control practices when conducting assessments on behalf of the Trump Organization.”

By enforcing the AG’s subpoenas, the Ingoron court order adds key support to the New York investigation, which is heating up in what could be the final stages of the investigation. When the investigation is over, James will be able to sue the Trump Organization and others for violating the state’s business laws — and seek its permanent closure and demand monetary damages.

“It is the responsibility of the OAG to investigate C&W assessments to determine whether C&W has adequately and accurately disclosed to regulators and other government authorities whether its internal quality controls have been followed,” Angorone added.

Sunny A. did not respond. McIntyre, a Texas attorney representing the real estate services firm, immediately responded to a request for comment.

In its multi-year investigation, the AG’s office has already collected hundreds of thousands of documents describing how Trump graded his skyscraper at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City, his golf club and property in the woods of Seven Springs north of the city, and its location. Another golf club near Los Angeles.

Some of the evidence James made public in January revealed the ridiculous lengths to which Trump went to inflate the value of his holdings, including one case in which he simply lied by doubling the size of the already massive three-story penthouse in Trump Tower. The twice impeached former president’s company has repeatedly turned to Cushman & Wakefield to assess the value of those properties.

Investigators maintain that they need additional evidence from Cushman & Wakefield to find out whether the company played quickly and lost with other clients. The company has been fighting back, claiming that handing over this type of proprietary data to law enforcement would violate the company’s rights to keep it confidential.

In court on Monday, AG’s attorneys detailed how their investigators caught Cushman & Wakefield employees lying in ways that would benefit the Trump Organization.

Assistant Attorney General Austin Thompson explained how the company’s appraisers routinely abdicate their responsibilities and default to whatever the Trump Corporation and its outside attorney Sherry Dillon wanted from them. He cited two cases in Los Angeles and Spin Springs when appraisers claimed they had put in value valuations that took into account planned real estate development timelines — except for appraisers who filled in the blanks as they were told.

“In both cases, it appears that Cushman’s appraiser may have framed the development schedule and mistakenly attributed it to someone else,” Thompson said in court on Monday.

Thompson said that when investigators sought necessary records from the firm, it responded in a “stubborn and asymmetrical” manner — emphasizing documents without any explanation or context, and leaving lawyers with no idea how to sort the evidence.

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