Donald Trump’s namesake business, the Trump Organization, is currently under investigation by New York authorities for potential financial crimes. This has led to questions about the civil and criminal liability faced by the company that Trump ran prior to becoming president. Can lawsuits and criminal charges be filed against the Trump Organization?
The Trump Organization oversees hundreds of businesses involved in real estate, hotels, golf courses, licensing deals, and other interests. Trump ran the company for decades before his presidency. The organization is now managed by his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
As the investigations unfold, the prospect of lawsuits and prosecution raises some key issues:
- The types of charges and lawsuits the Trump Organization could face
- Legal protections and privileges that may shield the company
- How potential indictments or convictions could impact the company’s operations
- The role Donald Trump could play in any charges against his family business
Examining these questions requires untangling complex corporate legal matters as they intersect with Trump’s unique role as a former president and ongoing political figure.
Civil and Criminal Exposure
The Trump Organization is vulnerable to both civil lawsuits and criminal charges stemming from alleged business activities under Donald Trump’s leadership.
Potential Civil Lawsuits
On the civil side, the company faces a range of lawsuits alleging different types of harms:
- Tenant lawsuits – Current and former tenants of Trump Organization properties have sued over allegations of fraud and improper billing practices.
- Investor lawsuits – Investors in Trump projects like hotels and condos have brought suits accusing the company of providing misleading information on property values to boost sales.
- Tax authorities – New York tax officials are seeking $8 million in unpaid taxes from Trump Organization real estate deals. The company could face civil tax penalties.
- Emoluments Clause lawsuits – The Trump Organization is defending against allegations it illegally profited from foreign officials staying in Trump hotels while Trump was president.
Possible Criminal Charges
On the criminal front, the Manhattan District Attorney and New York Attorney General are investigating possible indictments against the Trump Organization for:
- Tax fraud – Providing misleading valuations of assets to reduce tax liability could lead to criminal tax evasion charges. Prosecutors appear to be building a case around compensation for Trump Organization executives booked as independent contractors.
- Bank fraud – Statements to lenders misrepresenting property values to obtain loans could violate financial fraud statutes.
- Insurance fraud – Inflating property values to insurance companies to reduce premiums could constitute criminal insurance fraud.
- Falsifying business records – Knowingly keeping false books and records can be prosecuted as a felony in New York state.
Legal Protections for the Trump Organization
If prosecutors pursue criminal charges, the Trump Organization will likely assert certain legal protections as a corporate entity:
The company will argue it is distinct and separate from any potential misconduct by individual employees or executives. This “corporate veil” limits liability, especially for large conglomerates.
Reliance on Legal Counsel
The Trump Organization had extensive in-house counsel and could claim it relied on legal advice regarding complex taxation and financial reporting rules. Advice of counsel is a defense against criminal liability for some charges like tax evasion.
Weakening of Older Claims
Certain allegations from tenants or investors relate to practices from over a decade ago. The company may argue claims that old are invalid or harmed parties have already been made whole.
However, legal experts believe if prosecutors establish an extensive pattern of fraud and criminal activity authorized at the highest levels, these defenses will hold less weight in front of a jury.
Impact of Charges on Operations
How would indictments or criminal convictions affect the Trump Organization’s ability to conduct business?
Revocation of Licenses
If convicted of certain financial crimes, the company could have licenses revoked that allow it to operate hotels, golf courses, and other ventures in a jurisdiction. This occurred when the Trump Organization was barred from casino operation in Atlantic City after multiple bankruptcies.
Exclusion from Public Contracts
The company could be prohibited from public procurement contracts and programs. Past allegations of housing discrimination have already led to federal oversight of the Trump Organization’s ability to obtain rental subsidies.
Difficulty Obtaining Loans and Insurance
Banks and insurance firms would likely be wary of lending to or underwriting a company convicted of financial crimes. Insurance may only be available at exorbitant rates.
Reputational Harm Among Consumers
Wrongdoing could tarnish the Trump brand image among portions of the public, hurting patronage of hotels and golf properties. However, the brand’s connection with Trump’s political appeal could also limit or counteract this effect.
On the whole, while a conviction would hurt the Trump Organization’s prospects, the company would likely continue operating with its existing properties and other business lines intact. But additional expansion would become challenging.
Donald Trump’s Role in Charges
What liability could Trump himself face regarding potential charges against his family business?
No Formal Role in Company Since 2016
Prosecutors would need to prove Trump was directly involved in formulating or authorizing criminal policies as head of the Trump Organization. Trump has not held an official role since becoming president in 2016.
Family Separation Could Be Stressed
In charges against the corporate entity, the Trumps may depict the former president as separate and distinct from the business’ daily operations – even while bearing its name.
Alleged Activity Pre-Presidency
Most alleged wrongdoing came prior to Trump’s presidency during the period when he did directly control the business. Claims he participated in or orchestrated criminality could still be made.
Past Statements Could Show Knowledge
Trump’s past statements exaggerating property values could be used as evidence if they align with inflated values on official records.
Overall, directly implicating Trump in criminal liability will be challenging for prosecutors. Convicting the Trump Organization itself may be simpler based on its past documents and business practices.
The Trump Organization is in a highly exposed position as prosecutors advance wide-ranging investigations into its financial activities over decades. While the company will seek to raise standard protections around separating corporate liability from individual wrongdoing, criminal charges remain a genuine possibility. A conviction could significantly hamper the organization’s future business prospects. Establishing Donald Trump’s direct legal culpability poses more hurdles for investigators, but remains feasible depending on evidence of his past involvement and knowledge while leading the company. Proving corporate-wide complicity in financial crimes will determine if the Trump Organization ultimately bears responsibility for its past actions.
 Barrett, Wayne. “The Trump Organization Could Be the Next Big Corporate Indictment.” The Atlantic. August 18, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/08/trump-organization-indictment-not-if-when/619643/
 Haag, Matthew. “Trump Organization Is Charged in 15-Year Tax Scheme.” New York Times. July 1, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/01/nyregion/trump-organization-tax-scheme-charges.html
 Rosenberg, Mica and Ransom, Jan. “New York’s Criminal Investigation Into Trump and His Business Takes Shape.” New York Times. November 19, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/article/trump-taxes-investigation-new-york.html
 Calia, Mike. “Trump Org. criminal case likely to come down to a fight over records.” NBC News. January 19, 2022. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-org-criminal-case-likely-come-down-fight-records-rcna12669
 Light, Joe. “This Is the End of the Trump Organization.” Slate. July 14, 2021. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/07/this-is-probably-the-end-of-the-trump-organization.html
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