Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New York Sues Trump University

It seems that very few people were actually shocked to know that “Trump University” has been sued by the New York State attorney general’s office for illegal business practices. The suit seeks $40 million in restitution and accuses Trump and his staff of running an unlicensed educational institution and making false claims about its course offerings. That’s a polite way of saying that “Trump University” is nothing more than a money-making scam, a fraud, a deception. 

According to complaints from students, the “online university” mostly operated as a series of marketing pitches, with “upsells” at every stage. The “school” would lure people in with the promise of a free 90-minute seminar about real estate investing that, according to the lawsuit, “served as a sales pitch for a three-day seminar costing $1,495.” This three-day seminar was itself “an upsell,” the lawsuit said, for increasingly costly “Trump Elite” packages (supposedly personal mentorship programs) costing between $10,000 to $35,000 to get individual instruction until they make their first real estate deal. The lawsuit charges that the program failed to deliver on its promises and in some cases did not stop billing students even after their courses had ended.

The suit also accused the organization of false advertising, claiming that Trump had personally hand-picked the instructors and designed the curriculum; in reality, the lawsuit alleges, Trump’s involvement was mostly a matter of putting his name on the scheme. But what is even more bizarre was that students were misled into thinking they would meet the man himself! Instead they were treated to the opportunity to have their photo taken with a life-sized picture of Trump!

This is marketing that is unethical and very wrong. Trump University, with Donald Trump’s knowledge and participation, relied on Trump’s name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand.

Of course, the real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star responded to the above by declaring that the lawsuit was false and politically motivated. He even lashed out at Attorney General Eric Schneiderman by saying the latter went after him because Trump had refused to give him a campaign contribution!

Trump’s attorney Michael D Cohen told The Associated Press on Saturday that Trump and his university never defrauded anyone. He even said that Trump University provided nearly 11,000 testimonials to Schneiderman from students praising the program and said 98 percent of students in a survey termed the program "excellent"!

Postscript: The New York Education Department had told Trump to change the name of his enterprise years ago, saying it lacked a license and didn't meet the legal definitions of a university, and in 2011, it was renamed the “Trump Entrepreneur Institute” which means as an institute, it can pretty much do any damn thing it pleases.

I continue with my monthly capture of photos of the Sunway University academic building taken this morning: 

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