CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Trump’s lawyers say it is impossible for him to post bond covering $454 million civil fraud judgment

Mar 18, 2024, 3:28 PM

Former US President and current GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump...

Former U.S. President and current GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to address the press at Mar-a-Lago on February 16, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump spoke about a New York judge who ordered him to pay $355 million and barred him from running New York businesses for fraudulently inflating net worth. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s lawyers told a New York appellate court Monday that it’s impossible for him to post a bond covering the full amount of a $454 million civil fraud judgment while he appeals, suggesting the former president’s legal losses have put him in a serious cash crunch.

Trump’s lawyers wrote in a court filing that “obtaining an appeal bond in the full amount” of the judgment “is not possible under the circumstances presented.” Trump claimed last year that he has “fairly substantially over $400 million in cash,” but back-to-back courtroom defeats have pushed his legal debt north of a half-billion dollars.

Citing rejections from more than 30 bond underwriters, Trump’s lawyers asked the state’s intermediate appeals court to reverse a prior ruling requiring that he post a bond covering the full amount in order to halt enforcement while he appeals the judgment in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit.

Trump’s financial constraints are being laid bare as he appeals Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 16 ruling that he and his co-defendants schemed for years to deceive banks and insurers by inflating his wealth on financial statements used to secure loans and make deals.

If the appeals court does not intervene, James can seek to enforce the judgment starting March 25. James, a Democrat, has said she will seek to seize some of Trump’s assets if he is unable to pay.

With interest, Trump owes the state $456.8 million. That amount is increasing nearly $112,000 each day. In all, he and co-defendants, including his company, sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. and other executives, owe $467.3 million. To obtain a bond, they would be required to post collateral covering 120% of the judgment, or about $557.5 million, Trump’s lawyers said.

Trump maintains that he is worth several billion dollars, but much of his wealth is tied up in his skyscrapers, golf courses and other properties. Few underwriters were willing to issue such a large bond and none would accept Trump’s real estate assets as collateral, instead requiring cash or cash equivalents, such as stocks or bonds, his lawyers said.

Trump’s lawyers said freeing up cash by offloading some of Trump’s properties in a “fire sale” would be impractical because such cut-rate deals would result in massive, irrecoverable losses.

Not mentioned in Trump’s court filings Monday was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s potential financial windfall from a looming deal to put his social media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, on the stock market under the ticker symbol DJT.

A shareholder meeting is scheduled for Friday. If the deal is approved, Trump would own at least 58% of shares in the company, which runs his Truth Social platform. Depending on share price, that could be worth several billion dollars.

Trump is asking a full panel of the intermediate appeals court, the Appellate Division of the state’s trial court, to stay the Engoron judgment while he appeals. His lawyers previously proposed a $100 million bond, but Appellate Division Judge Anil C. Singh rejected that after an emergency hearing on Feb. 28. A stay is a legal mechanism pausing collection of a judgment during an appeal.

In a court filing last week, Senior Assistant Solicitor General Dennis Fan urged the full appellate panel to reject what he dubbed the defense’s “trust us” argument, contending that without a bond to secure the judgment Trump may attempt to evade enforcement at a later date and force the state to “expend substantial public resources” to collect the money owed.

A full bond is necessary, Fan wrote, in part because Trump’s lawyers “have never demonstrated that Mr. Trump’s liquid assets — which may fluctuate over time — will be enough to satisfy the full amount of this judgment following appeal.”

Trump’s lawyers asked the Appellate Division panel to consider oral arguments on its request, and preemptively sought permission to appeal a losing result to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Singh did grant some of Trump’s requests, including pausing a three-year ban on him seeking loans from New York banks. In their court filing Monday, Trump’s lawyers did not address whether they have sought a bank loan to cover the cost of the judgment or obtain cash for use as bond collateral.

Trump appealed on Feb. 26, a few days after Engoron’s judgment was made official. His lawyers have asked the Appellate Division to decide whether Engoron “committed errors of law and/or fact” and whether he abused his discretion or “acted in excess” of his jurisdiction.

Trump wasn’t required to pay his penalty or post a bond in order to appeal, and filing the appeal did not automatically halt enforcement of the judgment. Trump would receive an automatic stay if he were to put up money, assets or an appeal bond covering what he owes.

Gary Giulietti, an insurance broker friend enlisted by Trump to help obtain an appeal bond, wrote in an affidavit Monday: “A bond of this size is rarely, if ever, seen. In the unusual circumstance that a bond of this size is issued, it is provided to the largest public companies in the world, not to individuals or privately held businesses.”

Giulietti, who acts as an insurance broker for Trump’s company, testified at the civil fraud trial as an expert witness called by Trump’s lawyers. In his ruling, Engoron observed that some of Giulietti’s testimony was contradicted by other witnesses, including a different defense expert. He noted that Giulietti’s company collected $1.2 million in commissions on its Trump accounts in 2022.

In all, Trump has more than $543 million in personal legal liabilities from three civil court judgments in the past year. Bonding requirements could add at least $100 million to that total.

In January, a jury ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she accused him in 2019 of sexually assaulting her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. Earlier this month, after his lawyers made similar arguments that he be excused from posting a bond, Trump did secure a $91.6 million bond to cover 110% of the Carroll judgment while he appeals.

Last year, a jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million in a related trial. In that case, rather than post a bond, Trump put more than $5.5 million in cash in an escrow account while he appeals.

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Trump’s lawyers say it is impossible for him to post bond covering $454 million civil fraud judgment