How New York’s massive corporate fraud verdict will do real damage to Trump’s empire

(Elizabeth Williams/Associated Press)

How New York’s massive corporate fraud verdict will do real damage to Trump’s empire

On Ed

Harry Litman

February 16, 2024

Over the course of an eleven-week fraud trial before New York Judge Arthur Engoron, Donald Trump was practically begging for a harsh verdict. On Friday he got his wish and then something else.

Engoron issued a scathing 92-page decision ordering Trump and his co-defendants to pay $364 million for defrauding the people of New York. And that gargantuan figure actually underestimates the price tag: With the addition of prejudgment interest required under New York law, Trump is looking at closer to $500 million.

Combined with the $83 million that a jury ordered Trump to pay last month for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll, the former president is facing a financial blow that exceeds even his own likely inflated account of his empire’s available cash.

Like Carroll, New Yorkers may not see the money anytime soon; Trump has vowed to appeal the verdict, although that will require him to pay the fine or at least secure bond.

The decision nonetheless brings real accountability to a man who has managed to avoid it time and time again. Engoron’s opinion castigates Trump for his unresponsive, stream-of-consciousness testimony and appears to cast him as a truant child in need of constant supervision and severe punishment.

While the financial aspect of the punishment made headlines, it is just one of many ways Engoron beat up the former president.

The verdict further punishes Trump with loss of control over his company. Engoron appointed a second monitor, styled as an independent director of compliance, to oversee Trump’s empire alongside former judge Barbara Jones. The net effect is that after a lifetime of doing whatever he pleases regardless of the rules, Trump will have to get off his perch and ask someone else’s permission for all kinds of previously one-sided business decisions, at least in New York.

Engoron has come up with a solution to secure the assets that are now temporarily owed to the people of the state. They are no longer Trumps he can do whatever he wants with.

The judge further banned Trump from serving as a director or officer of any New York company for three years. That means he can’t try to maneuver his way out of trouble and scrutiny by setting up another company.

The opinion also marks a blow to the brand that Trump has mythologized his entire life. Titans of commerce don’t tend to cough up huge fraud judgments or ask anyone’s permission to write a check.

The extent to which the Trump brand is supported by lies has always been an open question. According to today’s assessment, the brand is supported by even less.

Engoron’s assessment was also not limited to Trump himself. His sons also face steep financial penalties and are banned from holding senior positions in any company in New York for two years.

And Trump’s problems are really just beginning. The day before the verdict, another New York judge ordered him to stand trial next month in Stormy Daniels’ hush money case, which could result in a misdemeanor conviction and even prison time. Also on the horizon are three other criminal trials, civil lawsuits over the events of January 6, 2021, and the results of a potentially devastating tax audit looming.

Even his only apparent long-term defense strategy, returning to the White House to avoid further prosecution, could not undo much of the damage.

Engoron’s sharp statement left no doubt that Trump’s characteristic arrogance and slash-and-burn politics played a major role in the verdict. The judge noted his complete lack of remorse and remorse, which he said bordered on the pathological.”

In this regard, he compared Trump unfavorably to criminal mastermind Bernie Madoff, who at least had the humility to appreciate the damage he caused and apologize to the court and his victims.

Trump, on the other hand, has only one speed. He can be counted on to continue approaching the campaign and his serial court hearings with his trademark brand of in-your-face, outrageously dishonest braggadocio. If other things turn out the way this one does, this could yet prove to be his downfall.

Harry Litman is the host of the

Talking Feds Podcast




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