AP

Trump property appraiser held in contempt in NY civil probe

Jul 6, 2022, 9:47 AM | Updated: 12:33 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — A company that has performed appraisals on some of Donald Trump’s most prized properties has been held in contempt of court for missing a deadline to turn over documents in the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into the former president’s business practices.

Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron said late Tuesday that real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield had shown a “willful failure” to comply with Attorney General Letitia James’ subpoenas, which sought records on Trump properties including a suburban Seven Springs Estate, Wall Street office building, Chicago skyscraper and Los Angeles golf course.

Engoron ordered Cushman & Wakefield to pay a fine of $10,000 per day, beginning Thursday, for each day that it fails to fully comply with James’ subpoenas. The same judge recently lifted a contempt order for Trump after a two-month legal fight over his slow response to a subpoena for documents in James’ probe.

Engoron, in a written order posted to the court docket Wednesday morning, appeared incensed that Cushman & Wakefield had asked for him for more time after missing a June 27 deadline that he’d set for the company to turn over subpoenaed documents. The company said last year it would no longer do business with Trump’s company, Trump Organization.

“Cushman & Wakefield has only itself to blame if it chose to treat the looming deadlines cavalierly,” Engoron wrote, noting that each delay only prejudices James’ investigation and, “indirectly, the people of New York State.”

Cushman & Wakefield said it will appeal Engoron’s ruling, which came after months of legal jousting between the company’s lawyers and James’ office.

In a written statement, Cushman & Wakefield said Engoron’s contempt finding “demonstrates a failure to understand the extreme lengths Cushman has gone to comply with the Court’s order.”

“We have gone to great expense and effort to quickly identify, collect, review and produce the massive set of documents requested by (James’ office), and we have now produced over hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and over 650 appraisals since the last subpoena was issued in February 2022,” the company said.

James’ subpoenas not only sought records pertaining to Cushman & Wakefield’s work for Trump, but also appraisals the company performed on other properties not owned by Trump. As of February, the company said it had spent more than $500,000 on storing documents sought in James’ investigation.

James, a Democrat, has said her three-year investigation uncovered evidence that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of assets like skyscrapers and golf courses on financial statements for over a decade.

Trump, a Republican, has denied the allegations. He has said James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

A message seeking comment was left with Trump’s spokesperson.

James’ office pushed for sanctions against Cushman & Wakefield and welcomed the contempt finding.

“Cushman & Wakefield’s work for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization is clearly relevant to our investigation, and we’re pleased that the court has recognized that and taken action to force Cushman to comply with our subpoenas,” James said in a statement. “No person or company, no matter how powerful, is above the law.”

In addition to appraisals, Cushman & Wakefield provided brokerage services for years for Trump and his company, the Trump Organization. James’ office has served multiple subpoenas on the company, including last September and in February.

In addition to information about Trump’s properties, James’ office is also seeking documents pertaining to Cushman & Wakefield’s larger business relationship with the Trump Organization, the attorney general’s office said.

In a separate subpoena battle, Engoron declared Trump in contempt of court on April 25 for being slow to respond to a subpoena issued by James’ office, only lifting the order late last month. Trump paid $110,000 in fines he racked up as a result of the contempt finding.

Trump and his two oldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., are scheduled to testify under oath in James’ investigation starting July 15 after the state’s highest court rejected his last-ditch attempt to avoid a subpoena.

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak

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Trump property appraiser held in contempt in NY civil probe