The judge says he will appoint a monitor for Trump’s company

By Michael R. Sisak | Associated Press

NEW YORK — A Manhattan judge said Thursday he will appoint an independent observer to former President Donald Trump’s real estate empire, restricting his company’s ability to freely do business, sell assets and change its corporate structure.

Judge Arthur Engoron appointed the Trump Organization’s outside watchdog while presiding over a trial in which New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges Trump and the company routinely questioned banks and others about the value of valuable assets, including golf courses and hotels, that bear his name, misled .

James’ office says the Trump Organization continues to engage in fraud and has taken steps to evade potential penalties from the lawsuit, such as forming a new entity in Delaware called the Trump Organization LLC — almost identical to the original company’s name — in September before the lawsuit was filed.

Engoron, in an 11-page order, prohibited the Trump Organization from selling or transferring any property without giving the court and James’ office 14 days’ notice. The monitor to be appointed is tasked with ensuring the company’s compliance and immediately reporting any violations to the court and the lawyers of both sides.

The Trump Organization must also provide the Monitor with access to its financial statements, asset appraisals and other disclosures, must provide a complete and accurate description of its corporate structure, and must give the Monitor at least 30 days’ notice of any potential reorganization, refinancing, or sale of assets, said Engoron.

The company also has to pay for the monitor, he said.

Engoron’s decision to appoint a monitor is only the latest decision he has made against Trump or his interests. While presiding over disputes over subpoenas issued in James’ investigation, the judge, a Democrat, despised Trump and fined him $110,000 after he was slow to hand over documents and forced him to pay for a to sit affidavit. In that statement, Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.

James, a Democrat, is demanding $250 million and a permanent ban on Trump, a Republican, from doing business in the state. In the meantime, she would like an independent observer to review and sign off on some of the company’s key business decisions, including any asset sales or transfers and potential corporate reorganizations.

“Our goal in doing this is not to interfere with the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization,” said Kevin Wallace, James’s senior enforcement counsel. He said the desired overview was “limited” and would not include subtleties such as: For example, how many rounds of golf or hotel rooms they book in a given year.

“The Trump Organization has an ongoing record of failing to comply with existing court orders,” Wallace said. “It shouldn’t be for the court or the attorney general to spend the next year looking over their shoulders to make sure there are no assets sold or the company restructured.”

Trump sued James in Florida on Wednesday to prevent her from controlling the family trust that controls his company. Trump’s 35-page complaint repeated some allegations from his previously dismissed lawsuit against James in federal court in New York, including that their investigation into him was a “political witch hunt.”

Wallace said at Thursday’s hearing that James’ office is trying to stop “fraudulent activity that is ongoing at the Trump Organization” and wants to put safeguards in place so the company can’t easily sell assets like Trump Tower and an office building at 40 Wall Street, which could eventually be used to pay for a potential court judgment.

Trump Organization attorney Christopher Kise responded that the company had “no intention” of divesting those properties, which together are conservatively valued at least $250 million. “Trump units are not going anywhere,” he added.

Kise argued that James’ lawsuit was a fuss about standard bona fide disagreements in the real estate industry. If banks that lent Trump money felt that he or the company had acted improperly, they would have spoken out, Kise said.

“There are no problems. There is no case here,” Kise said. “It’s annoying that instead of the owner of this property, a recipient is interfering in these complex transactions.” The judge says he will appoint a monitor for Trump’s company

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