Judge orders Cushman & Wakefield to comply with Trump subpoenas
Anti-Trump demonstrators gather outside of the New York County Supreme Court in New York City, U.S., April 25, 2022.
David Dee Delgado | Reuters
A New York judge Monday ordered commercial real-estate services giant Cushman & Wakefield to comply with subpoenas about its appraisals of several Trump Organization properties that are being eyed in a civil investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office, a spokesperson for that office said.
The order by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron came hours after the same judge held former President Donald Trump in contempt of court for failing to comply with another subpoena issued by Attorney General Letitia James seeking business documents as part of her probe.
The judge, a Democrat who was elected to the bench in 2015, said Trump would have to pay $10,000 per day in penalties for every day he failed to turn over the documents. Trump’s lawyer said she would appeal that ruling.
“For the second time today, a judge has made clear that no one is above the law,” James said in a statement issued Monday afternoon, after a hearing on the Cushman & Wakefield subpoenas.
“Cushman & Wakefield’s work for Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization is clearly relevant to our investigation, and we are pleased that has now been confirmed by the court,” James said. “Our investigation will continue undeterred.”
James’ investigation is focused on allegations that the Trump Organization misstated the true values of multiple real-estate assets when it applied for loans and insurance coverage, and in tax-related filings, in an effort to obtain more favorable financial terms.
James’ office on Monday said that Engoron had given Cushman & Wakefield, which had refused to comply with the demand for documents, until May 27 to turn over the documents pursuant to her subpoenas.
“Cushman & Wakefield’s work for the Trump Organization is significant to our ongoing investigation into Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial practices,” said James said earlier this month.
Cushman & Wakefield in an emailed statement said, “While we acknowledge today’s ruling, any suggestion that Cushman & Wakefield has not responded in good faith to the Attorney General’s investigation continues to be fundamentally untrue.”
“We made it clear during the hearing that our firm has devoted significant time, resource and expense in our efforts to cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation including sharing tens of thousands of items of information,” the company said. “Once again, Cushman & Wakefield affirms that we stand behind our appraisals and appraisers.”
A Cushman spokeswoman also told CNBC that contrary to some published reports Monday, the company itself is not a focus of the investigation by James.
The attorney general on April 8 filed a motion seeking to compel Cushman & Wakefield to comply with subpoenas related to its work for the Trump Organization.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally to boost Ohio Republican candidates ahead of their May 3 primary election, at the county fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio, U.S. April 23, 2022.
Gaelen Morse | Reuters
Her office said the company “has refused to comply with subpoenas for information related to its appraisals of three specific Trump-owned properties — the Seven Springs Estate, Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles, and 40 Wall Street — and information about Cushman’s larger business relationship with the Trump Organization,” according to a news release.
James’ office also said that in regards to the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, New York, and the Trump National Golf Club in L.A., “evidence indicates that the Trump Organization submitted fraudulent or misleading valuations of conservation easements to the Internal Revenue Service.”
“Those valuations were used to obtain tax deductions and involved appraisals issued by Cushman,” the release said.
The news release also noted that “Cushman issued multiple appraisals of 40 Wall Street in downtown Manhattan,” including three appraisals issued to “to Capital One Bank between 2010 and 2012, valuing the Trump Organization’s interest in the property between $200 million and $220 million.”
Allen Weisselberg (C) former US President Donald Trumps company chief financial officer arrives to attend the hearing for the criminal case at the criminal court in lower Manhattan in New York on July 1, 2021.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images
“In 2015, that same Cushman team prepared another appraisal on the property for Ladder Capital Finance LLC, this time, valuing the building at $550 million,” James’ office said at the time. That appraisal was used by the Trump Organization to secure a loan.”
Jack Weisselberg, the son of Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg works at Ladder Capital. Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization last year were indicted in criminal charges that accuse them of a scheme that since 2005 had sought to avoid taxes on compensation for the CFO and other Trump Organization executives.
Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty in that criminal case, which is being prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.