SAN DIEGO — A federal judge in San Diego signed off Monday on a $25 million settlement in lawsuits filed by former students of now-defunct Trump University, who claimed they were bilked out of millions of dollars by the real estate program.
The settlement was initially approved a year ago by U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, but a former Trump University student challenged the agreement, saying she wanted to file her own lawsuit in hopes of recouping more money and getting now-President Donald Trump to apologize.
A federal appeals court in February rejected Sherri Simpson’s challenge, ruling the plaintiff did not have the right to opt out of the appeal under the terms of the class-action suit. Curiel approved the settlement once Simpson agreed to drop further appeals.
About 8,000 former students are eligible to receive 80 to 90 percent of what they paid for Trump University programs, totaling $21 million in two lawsuits filed in California and $4 million in a case filed in 2013 by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who welcomed the finalization of the settlement.
“Judge Curiel’s order finalizing the $25 million Trump University settlement means that victims of Donald Trump’s fraudulent university will finally receive the relief they deserve,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “We are particularly pleased that the final settlement we negotiated with class counsel ensures that members of the class will receive an even higher settlement than anyone originally anticipated.”
Curiel’s handling of the case came under fire by then-candidate Trump, who suggested the jurist’s Mexican ancestry tainted his decision-making in light of Trump’s hard-line stance on curbing the flow of immigrants over the U.S.-Mexico border.
The settlement was reached shortly after Trump — whose statements on Curiel were widely condemned — was elected president. Under the terms, he did not admit any wrongdoing.
In the lawsuits, former Trump University students alleged Trump committed fraud when he promised to use “hand-picked” instructors to teach success in real estate through a program that cost up to $35,000.
Plaintiffs also claimed that Trump misled them by calling Trump University a “university,” when it wasn’t an accredited school.
Attorneys for Trump said many Trump University students gave the program positive ratings and those who failed to succeed had only themselves to blame.
Lead Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli said Trump did not run Trump University, and that his involvement in the program was fairly nil.
But Jason Forge, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, argued that Trump “set the tone” for promotion of the real estate program with his involvement in marketing and promotional ads.