Judge Holds Real-Estate Giant Cushman & Wakefield in Contempt Over Donald Trump Case

·3 min read
REUTERS/Kate Munsch
REUTERS/Kate Munsch

Cushman and Wakefield, the real estate firm used by Donald Trump to allegedly inflate the value of his real estate properties, has been ordered by a New York judge to pay a daily $10,000 fine for failing to turn over evidence to state investigators.

On Tuesday afternoon, a clearly irked Justice Arthur F. Engoron signed an order ripping into the real estate behemoth for missing a deadline to turn over documents—after having two months to meet it.

In his order, Engoron said he “is incredulous as to why Cushman & Wakefield would wait until two days after the court-ordered deadline had lapsed to initiate the process of asking for yet another extension.”

Judge Says Real Estate Giant Broke Rules for Trump

He criticized the company, which routinely helped Trump value properties in ways that benefited him directly, for dragging its feet.

“Cushman & Wakefield fails to identify any good cause” for blowing the deadline, he wrote.

The massive, national real estate firm was supposed to deliver documents related to its valuations of all kinds of properties—so that state investigators could compare how the company treated other projects compared to Trump developments.

The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James issued subpoenas between September 2021 and February 2022 that the firm still hadn’t complied with, so the judge ordered the company play ball in April. But the firm fought that in appellate court—and lost.

Judge Engoron then set a new deadline for Cushman and Wakefield to deliver the goods: June 29. The real estate firm then missed that deadline.

Time is of the essence. State investigators are set to interview former President Donald Trump and two of his children—Don Jr. and Ivanka—in closed-door depositions the week of July 18. And investigators have said they need to review the evidence from Cushman and Wakefield before those interviews.

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But on Wednesday at 11:32 p.m., with less than half an hour to go before the midnight deadline, the real estate company’s lawyers filed a document in court asking the judge for a last-minute delay.

On Friday, the A.G.’s office asked the judge to step in and force the company to comply with a subpoena to turn over key evidence.

In his letter, Assistant Attorney General Austin Thompson noted that the real estate company had actually slipped up by seeming to admit that it didn’t do any work at all for several weeks because it had essentially made a stupid bet and lost—holding off on accumulating the mountains of evidence because it thought its appeal would win.

He pointed to this sentence in an affidavit—written on the very last day of the deadline—by the outside company helping Cushman and Wakefield sort through the evidence: “Platinum has been working around the clock for more than a week to accomplish its delegated tasks.”

Thompson pointed out that the real estate firm had eight weeks—not one—to get started.

“This suggests that Cushman waited until [it lost its appeal] to begin the process of compliance in earnest. If Cushman made a strategic decision to assume it would obtain a stay and to not use the eight weeks since the April 26 order to prepare to comply, it is not incumbent upon [the attorney general’s office] or the court to relieve it from the consequences of that decision,” he wrote.

In a statement to The Daily Beast on Tuesday, the company said it “has gone to great expense and effort to identify, collect, review and produce the massive set of documents.” It criticized the attorney general for “misleading the court by belittling our significant efforts to comply with the court’s order.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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