By
Sarah May
|
December 4, 2023
|
11:15 pm

Deutsche Bank executives' testimony boosts Donald Trump's civil fraud defense

Though New York Attorney General Letitia James has been relentless in her pursuit of Donald Trump via a civil lawsuit against him and his business empire, testimony offered by witnesses from Deutsche Bank last week gave a serious boost to the former president's defense strategy, as The Hill reports.

The crux of James' case against Trump is the claim that he and his business enterprise engaged in wrongful inflation of asset values as well as of Trump's own net worth, all done in order to secure more favorable terms from lenders and insurers.

However, multiple executives from Deutsche Bank appeared to undermine major tenets of James' case by suggesting that there were no victims harmed by any of the conduct of which the state complains, that the bank willingly – indeed eagerly – did business with the Trump Organization, and that the institution was always repaid according to agreed terms.

As Bloomberg News noted, Deutsche Bank's David Williams declared that while it might have been “atypical,” it was “not entirely unusual” for his employer to lower the asset values provided by a prospective customer, sometimes by half, and still approve a loan application, as was the case with the institution's deals with Trump.

Internal bank communications introduced by the defense team indicated that the reason for such operating procedure was that the bank had a reasonable expectation that it would realize profits from deals with Trump due to his track record of successful ventures and other important factors.

Williams declared, “As part of our due diligence, we subject a client's asset value to adjustments. It's part of our underwriting process, we apply it to every client regardless of what's reported.”

Trump himself testified to his belief that banks typically performed their own examination of a applicant's financial situation and did not rely on the representations he made – particularly given the inclusion of disclaimers on such documentation.

“I've been dealing with banks for 50 years and probably know banks as well as anybody,” Trump said. “I know what they look at. They look at the deal.”

Testimony further revealed that Deutsche Bank was fully satisfied with the deals it completed with Trump, and another executive from the institution revealed that the family's business was aggressively pursued and highly valued, as The Hill noted separately.

Evidence introduced included communications between then-managing director Rosemary Vrablic and other bank employees which revealed Trump's status as a “whale” of a client whom the institution was very motivated to land, an enthusiasm which was later borne out by a jump in Deutsche Bank revenue from a mere $13,000 in 2011 to nearly $6 million by 2013.

Even so, presiding Judge Arthur Engoron, who has frequently locked horns with Trump during the course of the trial, did not seem to view the testimony as conclusive, saying, “I would point out that the mere fact that the lenders were happy doesn't mean that the statute wasn't violated, doesn't mean that other statutes weren't violated.”

Though the Trump defense team perceived the testimony from bank executives to be so persuasive as to request an immediate decision in their client's favor, Engoron said simply that he would take the motion under advisement.

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley, writing about the case, has pointed out that even if Trump's representations were inflated to some degree, none of the banks involved have complained that they suffered harm as a result, and therefore the massive penalties being sought by James --  upwards of $250 million in fines and revocation of Trump's New York State business certificates -- are utterly out of line.

In Turley's estimation, the Deutsche Bank testimony “highlights how out of proportion this effort has become,” potentially lending credence to the existing suspicions of many that Trump's characterization of the case as a partisan witch hunt is entirely accurate

Written By:
Sarah May

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