By Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge will hear arguments Thursday about final approval of a $ 25 million settlement of fraud lawsuits against President Donald Trump during his real estate investment seminars at Trump University, and at least a former student objected to the agreement.
Sherri Simpson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who paid $ 19,000 to learn about Trump’s investment “secrets,” filed court papers earlier this month arguing that the class action settlement should not have contained a provision prohibiting her from Other students choose not to participate and sue Trump on their own. .
The objection raises the possibility that the litigation will continue to haunt the Trump presidency. During the campaign, Trump vowed to fight fraud allegations, but accepted the deal shortly after the election. Under the agreement, Trump did not admit to having committed any crime.
Attorneys for Trump and those representing thousands of other students in two class actions will urge United States District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego to override the objection and approve the settlement.
The students, who paid up to $ 35,000 for the seminars, are expected to get back more than 80 percent of the money they paid.
Although Simpson’s attorney, Gary Friedman, called the settlement “laudable,” he said his client wanted to push for a full recovery, as well as punitive damages and other reparations. He plans to argue that the deal should be rejected unless she is allowed to.
“What Ms. Simpson is looking for is her day in court,” Friedman said in court documents.
Simpson and other students say they were lured into the seminars with false promises that they would learn Trump’s investment strategies from his “hand-picked” instructors. Trump admitted that he did not personally select the instructors, but said the claim was “boastfulness” of sales.
Rachel Jensen, the students’ class action attorney, said in a court file that about 3,730 students submitted claim forms. Two objections filed, but only Simpson’s attorneys are expected to attend the hearing.
In court documents, both Jensen and Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for Trump, suggested that Simpson’s objection could be politically motivated. They noted that it appeared in an anti-Trump political ad in February 2016.
“The defendants paid $ 25 million to avoid the uncertainty that political opponents could request opt-out to force a high-profile trial,” Jensen said.
Friedman denied any political motives and said he would appeal if the judge overruled the objection.
Trump accused Curiel of bias last year based on the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican ancestry.
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