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Litigants Tell Donald Trump's University, "You're Fired!"

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San Diego, CA: "The Donald" got rich buying and selling real estate, and according to him, you can build a New York skyscraper with your name on it, too! Drawn by the power of the Trump name thousands of people have signed up for Trump University real estate investing seminars online and in hotels across the country. But Amber Eck, a San Diego lawyer from the firm Zeldes and Haegguist, argues that the purpose and content of the real estate investment seminars have been so egregiously misrepresented to the public as to constitute consumer fraud.

"First they offer you a free seminar. But that's just a teaser to get to sign up for the $1500 seminar. Once you pay for that, there's pressure to sign up for the $35,000 Trump Gold Seminar… it never ends"
"There are complaints about these seminars all over the internet," says Eck, who has recently filed a national class action against Trump University. "People have complained to the FBI, to the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureaus, to Attorney Generals' office in various states. Students are outraged, and I mean outraged."

The Trump University real estate investing seminar brochure promises to provide students with "a complete real estate education" and to show them how to develop relationships with bankers and investors that will lead to "financial independence."

"First they offer you a free seminar," says Eck. "But that's just a teaser to get to sign up for the $1500 seminar. Once you pay for that, there's pressure to sign up for the $35,000 Trump Gold Seminar and another seminar."

Eck's client and lead plaintiff in the suit, Tarla Makaeff, is one of those outraged students. She spent about $60,000 for a series of Trump University seminars, including what she thought was one-year apprentice program, complete with one-on-one mentoring. The assumption was that she would make all that money back and more after her first real estate deal.

"With the training I'd receive I could create a real estate investing business that could earn tens of thousands of dollars per month, and that I could likely pay off the $35,000 seminar price with the money I'd make from my first real estate deal," Makaeff told her lawyer.

The one-year apprentice program turned out to be three days long. She got a few minutes with the so-called mentors and a tour of the local Home Depot.

"Had I known then what I know now, I never would have spent a penny on these seminars," Makaeff says.

The problem is that students never get any actual instruction on how to flip real estate—just more pressure to buy into the next seminar. "It never ends," Eck adds. "Once you buy the 35,000 seminar you realize, 'Oh, I never got what I needed,' then they sell you another seminar and another seminar. They make it sound like Donald Trump is doing this to help people – he's already made himself and his family rich and now you can get rich too."

Although the suit does not name Donald Trump as a defendant in the case, it does name Trump University, which is owned and operated by Donald Trump. "He is chairman of the board of Trump University. His name and his photo are everywhere and in the initial free seminar they explain this is Donald Trump's company owned lock, stock and barrel by Donald Trump."

Ms. Makaeff is seeking punitive class damages for breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and bad faith, and refunds on the money paid to Trump University.

Amber Eck is an experienced lawyer with 15 years experience litigating complex individual and class action involving consumer fraud, securities and derivative litigation and business law. She is serving a class counsel in the suit against Trump University. Before joining Zeldes & Haeggguist, Eck was a partner at Coughlin, Stoia, Geller Rudman & Robbins. She has obtained substantial financial recoveries for a number of clients.


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