Justice Engoron also ordered Mr. Trump, as well as Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., to face questioning under oath from Ms. James’s investigators. (Eric Trump was previously questioned for the investigation, during which he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.) And in May, a New York State appeals court panel unanimously upheld that ruling, forcing Mr. Trump and his children to sit for depositions. The string of losses for Mr. Trump appeared to embolden Ms. James and clear a path for her lawsuit, which had seemed imminent for months.
Early this year, Ms. James outlined the contours of her case in court papers, and disclosed in one filing that Mr. Trump’s longtime accounting firm cut ties with the former president and essentially retracted a decade’s worth of his financial statements. The firm, Mazars USA, compiled the financial statements based on information from Mr. Trump and his company, which “engaged in conduct intended to mislead Mazars in connection with its work compiling the statements, including by concealing important information,” the lawsuit contends.
Mr. Trump’s lead accountant testified under oath in a deposition that he was “shocked by the size of the discrepancy” between the value for the rent stabilized units at Trump Park listed in a 2010 outside appraisal and the value the Trump Organization assigned to the units. He also testified that he would not have issued the statements with the asset values the company provided for the building if he had been told about the 2010 appraisal, as well as one in 2020, or the fact that several units were rent stabilized.
In some years, Mr. Trump’s financial statements contained clear contradictions, according to the lawsuit. His golf clubs, for example, derived some of their value from Mr. Trump’s “brand premium” — despite the annual statement “expressly advising” that the worth of his brand was not included in the figures.
In fighting the case, Mr. Trump’s lawyers will likely point out the disclaimer in his financial statements saying that Mazars had not audited the valuations. They also would likely argue that the Trump Organization submitted the statements to sophisticated financial institutions that conducted their own due diligence and profited in their dealings with Mr. Trump.
“While the job of the attorney general is to protect the interests of the public, today’s filing, for the first time in the history of the attorney general’s office, seeks to protect the interests of large, sophisticated Wall Street banks,” the company’s statement on Wednesday said.
Anticipating this defense, the lawsuit contends that Mr. Trump’s valuations “cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ.” Instead, the lawsuit argued, the Trumps used “objectively false assumptions and blatantly improper methodologies with the intent and purpose of falsely and fraudulently inflating Mr. Trump’s net worth.”