Thousands of former students of the defunct real estate program known as Trump University won a surprise victory late Friday when President-elect Donald Trump agreed to settle $25 million in response to their claims of fraud.
The suit, brought by New York Attorney General (AG) Eric Schneiderman on behalf of former seminar attendees, accused Trump of "swindling thousands of innocent Americans out of millions of dollars through a scheme known as Trump University."
In a late Friday announcement, Schneiderman celebrated the settlement, which he described as a "stunning reversal" on the part of Trump, who fought "every step of the way."
"The victims of Trump University have waited years for today's result and I am pleased that their patience—and persistence—will be rewarded by this $25 million settlement," Schneiderman said, noting that "every victim will receive restitution and that Donald Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the State of New York for violating state education laws."
Throughout the case, which was launched in 2013, the AG said that Trump "fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university. Today, that all changes."
The real estate mogul has frequently boasted that he "never settles" such lawsuits. Indeed, Schneiderman noted that the compromise marked a "stunning reversal" by Trump and a "major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university."
And while the President-elect does not admit to any wrongdoing in the agreement, Patrick Coughlin, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, told the New York Daily News that the amount of money "speaks to the merits of the claims that we had."
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The Daily News reported:
Under the deal negotiated by Trump's lawyers, Schneiderman and the law firms that brought two separate class action lawsuits regarding Trump University in California, the President-elect agreed to pay a total of $25 million to settle the matter. Of that, $21 million will help reimburse those in the two California class action suit—many of whom were also part of the case brought by Schneiderman. New York will get an additional $3 million to repay people who were not covered by the California lawsuits.
The agreement also spares Trump "the embarrassment of having to testify in a class action lawsuit in California that was supposed to begin the Monday after Thanksgiving," the Daily News further noted.
Predictably, the president-elect attempted to paint the settlement in a different light:
The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who Trump once accused of being biased in the case due to his Mexican heritage, said he hoped the settlement could be a part of the healing process "that this country very sorely needs."
The Trump University cases are just a few of the pending lawsuits against the president-elect, who will come into office under a "cloud" of litigation, which observers have described as an "extremely unusual situation."