President-elect Donald Trump on Friday settled three lawsuits for a total of $25 million against his for-profit educational enterprise, Trump University.
The now-defunct Trump University promised students instructors "handpicked" by Trump and seminars on real estate as good as those offered by University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. In 2010, former students—some of whom paid as much as $35,000 for the courses—sued Trump and the school, claiming the school misled them.
After the lawsuit was filed, the school changed its name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative and stopped enrolling students. Trump lost a bid to dismiss the case in November 2015.
In another case filed in 2013 by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), Trump University is alleged to have operated as an unlicensed education institution.
Trump has defended the school, saying it had a higher approval rating than Harvard University or Wharton, his alma mater.
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One lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial Nov. 28, but U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who presided over the two lawsuits filed in California, suggested the two sides come to an agreement.
Under the terms of the settlement, $21 million will be distributed to plaintiffs in the San Diego cases and $4 million will go toward plaintiffs in the New York case. Trump did not admit to any liability or wrongdoing under the agreement.
"I am pleased that under the terms of this settlement, every victim will receive restitution and that Donald Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the state of New York for violating state education laws," Schneiderman said in a statement before the settlement was officially announced. "The victims of Trump University have waited years for today's result, and I am pleased that their patience—and persistence—will be rewarded."
The president-elect "is pleased to have this case behind him so he can focus on every important issue facing this country," said Trump's attorney Daniel Petrocelli Friday. "He was willing to sacrifice his personal interests to put this behind him and move forward."
Curiel will still have to approve the settlement because it involves class-action litigation. It will take at least a month for Curiel to determine whether the agreement is "fair, appropriate, and reasonable" (Davis, Los Angeles Times, 11/18; Nelson, Vox, 11/19).
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