Washington, June 1: Newly unsealed court documents in a case against White House hopeful Donald Trump's "university" reveal allegations from ex-employees that the now-defunct business preyed on the uneducated and misled consumers with aggressive marketing that amounted to fraud.
The most damning revelations came from former staffers of the profit-driven operation that launched in 2004 and closed in 2010, triggering lawsuits that may well see the presumptive Republican presidential nominee dragged into court.
"While Trump University claimed it wanted to help consumers make money in real estate, in fact Trump University was only interested in selling every person the most expensive seminars they possibly could," former Trump University staffer Ronald Schnackenberg wrote in a statement unsealed yesterday.
The business offered several courses in entrepreneurship, under the famous Trump brand. But Schnackenberg, the operation's former head of sales, described how he quit in 2007 after coming to believe that "Trump University was engaging in misleading, fraudulent, and dishonest conduct," echoing the arguments laid out by plaintiffs who are former "students" who claim they were scammed.
Another former employee, Jason Nicholas, acknowledged in testimony that the seminars were taught by "unqualified people posing as Donald Trump's 'right-hand men.'"
Nicholas said those staff "were teaching methods that were unethical, and they had had little to no experience flipping properties or doing real estate deals."
"It was a facade, a total lie," he testified. The court also unsealed internal company manuals, called "playbooks," detailing marketing and sales techniques for steering prospective students to the most expensive courses and programs, which ran as high as USD 35,000 for supposedly revealing Trump's wealth-generating secrets.
"Let them know that you've found an answer to their problems and a way for them to change their lifestyle," read the playbook, which went so far as to suggest the best chair arrangements and specify the ideal room temperature for luring prospective customers.
"Retention starts here," the manual added. "Be sure to congratulate the buyer, shake hands, and make eye contact," it explained, telling the marketers that they are "not doing any favor by letting someone use lack of money as an excuse" not to sign up.