By Kainoelani Lee
By Kainoelani Lee
Rabat – In a testimony revealed on Tuesday, former managers of Trump University, the for-profit school opened by Donald J. Trump, said the university as an unethical business that relied on high-pressure sales tactics, employed unqualified instructors, made deceptive claims, and exploited vulnerable students willing to pay tens of thousands for Trump’s insights, according to the New York Times.
Ronald Schnackenberg, a sales manager for Trump University, described how he was reprimanded for not pushing a financially struggling couple hard enough to sign up for a $35,000 real estate class, regardless of his conclusion that it would endanger their economic future. He watched, disgusted, as another Trump University salesman persuaded the couple to purchase the class anyway.
“I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme,” Schnackenberg wrote in his testimony, “and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”
The release of the documents on Tuesday, under court order, was the latest turn in a federal lawsuit, filed in California by dissatisfied former Trump University students, that have tormented Trump since 2010, and could follow him into the White House if elected president.
Trump acted as the chief promoter of the university, selling it as a tool of financial empowerment that would improve life for thousands of ordinary Americans. He started the university in 2005, and has since owned 93 percent of the company. The university, he said, would “teach you better than the best business school”, according to the transcript of a Web video.
The documents that were made public on Tuesday show Trump University internal employee guides, where employees are told to encourage customers with little money to pay for the tuition with their credit cards.
“We teach the technique of using OPM… Other People’s Money,” explained the internal instructions for salespeople. The documents forced employees to exploit the emotions of potential customers. “Let them know you’ve found an answer to their problems,” read confidential instructions to salespeople.
The most striking documents were written testimony from former employees of Trump University, who said they had become disillusioned with the university’s tactics and culture. Event manager, Corrine Sommer, recounted how colleagues encouraged students to open up as many credit cards as possible to pay for classes thay many could not afford.
“It’s O.K., just max out your credit card,” Ms. Sommer recalled their saying.
Jason Nicholas, a sales executive at Trump University, recalled a deceptive pitch that was used to lure students – that Trump would be “actively involved” in their education. “This was not true,” Mr. Nicholas testified, saying Trump was barely involved at all. Nicholas concluded that Trump University was “a façade, a total lie.”
On Tuesday, lawyers from Trump challenged the testimonies, saying that former Trump University employee’s testimonies “was completely discredited” in depositions taken for the California lawsuit. Lawyers from Trump declined to release those depositions on Tuesday.
Trump argued through representatives that the complaints stemmed from a small number of former students and that the vast majority of students had offered positive reviews of their experience.
“Trump University looks forward to using this evidence, along with much more, to win when the case is brought before a jury,” said Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump.
Trump had fought Tuesday’s release of previously sealed documents in the case, and made an attempt to discredit the judge in the case, Gonzalo P. Curiel. Trump made statements calling the judge biased, and a “hate of Donal Trump”, also drawing attention to the judge’s ethnic background – “we believe Mexican,” Trump said. (Judge Curiel was born in Indiana, and if of Mexican descent.)
Not all documents made public on Tuesday were critical, as many former students said the classes delivered exactly what they expected. “Trump University definitely made me more prepared to tackle the ‘real world’ of real estate investing,” wrote David Wright. Jr., who signed up for a six-month program at the university. “We really learned a lot from Trump University and have found a modicum of success,” wrote another student, Kissy Gordon.
Former employees like Sommer differed from opinion, as her testimony stated that she was startled by the qualifications of some Trump University instructors. She recalled that a member of the Trump University sales team, who had previously sold jewelry, was promoted to an instructor, but had “no real estate experience,” she said.
She added that many of the instructors had the quality that the school seemed to value most: “They were skilled at high-pressure sales,” she said.