A New York judge has determined that Cushman & Wakefield, one of the world’s largest real estate firms, broke its own rules to appease the Trump Organization and the former American president’s chronic practice of inflating the value of his properties.
Judge Arthur F. Engoron’s surprising assertions were included in his court order on Wednesday, in which he formally directed Cushman & Wakefield to turn over documents to the New York attorney general’s office.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the Trump Organization over what prosecutors have determined to be a long-running pattern of hyping the value of golf resorts and buildings in California and New York, as part of a scheme to commit bank and insurance fraud.
In his order, the judge indicated he has personally reviewed sensitive documents in the privacy of his court chambers that indicate Cushman & Wakefield employees played along — a damning revelation that could open the global corporation to accusations of conspiring along with the Trump Organization.
“This court has reviewed numerous documents in camera demonstrating that C&W was not consistent in adhering to its internal quality control practices when conducting appraisals on behalf of the Trump Organization,” he wrote.
By enforcing the AG’s subpoenas, Engoron’s court order adds key support to the New York investigation, which is heating up in what could be the final phases of the probe. When the investigation concludes, James will be able to sue the Trump Organization and others for violations of the state’s business laws — and seek to shut them down permanently and seek monetary damages.
“It is within the OAG’s purview to investigate C & W’s appraisals to determine if C&W has appropriately and accurately disclosed to regulators and other governmental authorities whether its internal quality controls were followed,” Engoron added.
Sawnie A. McEntire, a Texas lawyer representing the real estate services firm, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In its multi-year investigation, the AG’s office has already amassed hundreds of thousands of documents that describe how Trump valued his Trump Tower skyscraper on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, his private golf club and forested Seven Springs estate north of the city, and his other golf club near Los Angeles.
Some of the evidence made public by James in January revealed the ridiculous lengths which Trump went to inflate the value of his properties, including one instance in which he lied by simply tripling the size of his already humongous three-story penthouse at Trump Tower. The twice-impeached former president’s company repeatedly turned to Cushman & Wakefield to assess the value of those properties.
Investigators contend they need additional evidence from Cushman & Wakefield to see if the firm played fast and loose with other clients. The firm has been pushing back, claiming that handing over that kind of proprietary data to law enforcement would violate the corporation’s rights to keep them secret.
In court on Monday, the AG’s attorneys detailed how their investigators had caught Cushman & Wakefield employees lying in ways that would benefit the Trump Organization.
Assistant Attorney General Austin Thompson laid out how the firm’s appraisers routinely abdicated their responsibilities and just defaulted to whatever the Trump company and its outside lawyer, Sheri Dillon, wanted from them. He cited two instances in Los Angeles and Seven Springs when appraisers claimed they created value assessments that factored into planned real estate development timelines — except the appraisers just filled in the blanks as they were told.
“In both instances, a Cushman appraiser appears to have crafted the development timeline and falsely attributed it to somebody else,” Thompson said in court on Monday.
Thompson said that when investigators sought necessary records from the company, it responded in a way that was “intransigent and incalcitrant” —handing over documents without any explanation or context, leaving attorneys without a clue how to sort through the evidence.