A New York judge fined the Trump Organization’s former appraiser $10,000 a day after holding it in civil contempt for failing to comply with subpoenas from the New York attorney general’s office.
Judge Arthur Engoron said the appraiser, Cushman & Wakefield, “has only itself to blame if it chose to treat the looming deadlines cavalierly.”
Engoron acknowledged the subpoenas request “an enormous number of documents” but he said the attorney general’s powers are broad. The fine begins Thursday.
Appraisals performed by Cushman, which worked for the Trump Organization for years until it resigned following the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, are central to the civil investigation into the accuracy of the Trump Organization’s financial statements.
Cushman had previously fought the subpoena and challenged it in court. Last month, a New York appeals court said it would not block the state from enforcing the subpoena.
The company said it has gone to “extreme lengths” to cooperate with the court and the attorney general’s office, and plans to appeal.
“We have gone to great expense and effort to quickly identify, collect, review and produce the massive set of documents requested by the OAG, and we have now produced over hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and over 650 appraisals since the last subpoena was issued in February 2022,” a Cushman spokesman said.
“Cushman disagrees with any suggestion that the firm has not exercised diligence and good faith in complying with the Court’s order, and we will be appealing this decision,” the spokesman added.
The court ruling is another win for New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which is nearing the end of its years-long investigation into the accuracy of the Trump Organization’s financial statements used to secure loans, insurance, and tax benefits. Investigators said they are also examining Cushman & Wakefield’s relationship with the Trump Organization and whether their appraisers misstated the values of certain Trump Organization properties.
Lawyers for Cushman have denied allegations that any appraisers acted improperly or prepared appraisals in a fraudulent or misleading way. The Trump Organization has denied any wrongdoing and said the investigation by James, a Democrat, is politically motivated.
For years, Cushman was the go-to appraiser for the Trump Organization, assisting it in valuing several properties, including the family compound known as Seven Springs, the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles and 40 Wall Street, according to court filings. The civil subpoenas are seeking Cushman’s work documents relating to those properties and others, information on payments to the Trump Organization and its decision to cease doing work for Trump in January 2021. In addition, authorities are seeking information about a Cushman appraiser who went to work for the Trump Organization.
Investigators said in court filings that they’re looking to explore what was requested by Trump, “whether the appraisers were pushed by the client in any respect, and whether Cushman’s substantial business with the Trump Organization in any way impacted the appraisals prepared or other valuation-related information provided, or compromised Cushman’s objectivity.”
Cushman regularly provided the Trump Organization with real estate data that the attorney general’s office said was ultimately used in the preparation of the financial statements. There were “hundreds” of instances when that data, according to the attorney general’s office, was cited “as support for the inflated valuations” on the financial statements.
Cushman attorneys previously argued the subpoenas were overly broad and burdensome because they sought information about clients unrelated to the Trump Organization.
Engoron previously found that Cushman inconsistently applied internal quality-control practices when performing valuations for the Trump Organization.
This story has been updated with additional details.