Money, Money, Money: $25M Trump U Settlement on its Way to Students

Trump University Lawsuit
Donald Trump and Michael Sexton announce the establishment of Trump University, May 23, 2005. Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo

Thousands of ex-students who joined the multimillion-dollar Trump University class-action lawsuit could soon be getting hefty checks in the mail.

On Friday, Judge Gonzalo Curiel approved the $25 million settlement that President Donald Trump agreed to weeks after he won the general election in November.

“The settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable,” Curiel said in his decision.

The lawsuit accused Trump University of tricking people into spending thousands of dollars for courses that would help them become mega-rich real estate moguls practically overnight.

The former students, who spent between $1,495 and $35,000 on courses will receive nearly 90% of their money back, according to CNN Money.

Here’s How Trump University Attracted Students

Trump started the school in 2005 and used a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to lure in potential students with the promise of a free 90-minute live event called “The Preview.”

The message was plastered on TV, in newspapers and online for days before the event: Donald Trump is “ready to share — with Americans like you — his best advice on investing in today’s once-in-a-lifetime real estate market.”

According to court documents, the ads went on to promise that “Donald Trump’s hand-picked instructors” would teach students a “proven system for profitable real estate investing that anyone can use, right away, to score big profits in today’s market.” The ads touted the events as “the next best thing to being his Apprentice.”

Attendees were greeted by the song “Money, Money, Money,” and then an instructor followed a playbook that specified every detail of the event down to what music to play and where to stand onstage at specific times.

At the end of the perfectly choreographed seminar, the instructor would offer the people in the room a chance to purchase “The Fulfillment,” a one-year “apprenticeship” that cost $1,495. They enticed them with lofty promises of riches that would help “pay off their credit cards, pay off the cars and fully fund retirement.”

But those who bought into The Fulfillment did not get a year-long apprenticeship with Trump; instead they got a ticket to a three-day workshop plus a phone number to call with the promise that they could reach out to a mentor who worked for Trump.

Like the initial seminar, those who attended the workshop were offered an upsell again. This time the cost was $34,995 for Trump’s “Gold Elite” program, and if attendees couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for the program, Trump’s team of instructors — salespeople working on commission and directed to “Sell, Sell, Sell!” — were ready with other offers, including:

  • Elite mentorship for about $25,000.
  • Trump Silver Elite program for $19,495.
  • Trump Bronze Elite program for $9,995.

Each time a student purchased a new course, there would eventually be an upsell that encouraged them to buy another. By the time Trump University closed in 2010, students had spent tens of thousands of dollars but had not learned any of the real estate secrets the program promised to teach.

When Will You See Your Money?

While one woman objected to the settlement amount because she thought she could get her full $20,000 back if she went to trial, now that the settlement has been approved, she and the 3,700 others who submitted their claims by the March 6 deadline could see checks rolling in as soon as this summer.

If you’re not one of those expecting a payout from Trump University, another company might own you money. We found about $1 billion in pending class-action money from six cases. See if you qualify for any of them.

Your Turn: Are you expecting a payout from Trump University or any other class-action settlement?
Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She got settlement checks from both Capital One and Red Bull last year, but they were only about $9 total.