SAN DIEGO (CN) – The Trump University settlement suffered a major complication as one woman is appealing the final deal, threatening to hold up the $25 million payment.
Florida attorney Sheri Simpson is appealing the large settlement between the now-defunct Trump University and its former students who claimed they were duped into paying for classes that were little more than an infomercial.
“Having swept Trump’s fraud under the rug, yesterday’s filing tries to nail that rug to the floor,” Simpson’s attorney Gary Friedman said in an email to Courthouse News. “It is a desperate attempt to choke off an appeal that the settling parties know they will lose.”
Lawyers for the class members on the verge of getting paid on Wednesday asked the judge overseeing the case to force Simpson to pay a $220,000 appeals bond, essentially a down payment on attorney fees and court costs she would have to pay if her appeal is not granted.
“Simpson’s appeal is delaying settlement payments to class members that they may need to get out of debt, replenish retirement funds, or confidently enter retirement,” class attorney Rachel Jensen in a memo filed with the court. “As the appeal may well take years to resolve, payments will be delayed too long for many class members who may declare bankruptcy, lose homes, decline in health to the point where they cannot enjoy the money, or die before it is over.”
In March, Simpson – who had previously filled out a claim form to be reimbursed for the money spent on Trump University – filed an objection and asked to opt out of the settlement.
Friedman said she did this because the settlement was meager compared to what plaintiffs were promised.
“Instead of being forced to pay back all the ill-gotten gains of Trump U, automatically tripled under the RICO statute, plus interest (for a total of $170 million or so), Trump settled for $23 million – or as he tweeted, ‘a small fraction of the potential award,’” Friedman said.
When that objection was denied by the court, Simpson filed an appeal questioning the merits of the entire settlement. Her appeal threatens to delay payments a decade in the making, class attorneys say.
In exchange for the delay, plaintiffs say Simpson should have to put up money in case a judge finds her claims meritless and awards the class attorney fees.
“An appropriate bond is needed in this case so that the class members are not left holding the bag once Simpson and her attorneys are done appealing a settlement that she admits is a ‘laudable result,’” Jensen says in the memo.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel granted final approval of the settlement in late March over the objections of Simpson and Friedman.
Those following the case will watch closely to see if Curiel will require the appeals bond, which could be a significant amount. If Curiel does grant the motion and Simpson is sufficiently worried to drop the appeal, it will mark the end of a seven-year case.
If Simpson goes forward with her appeal, it will be heard by the Ninth Circuit.
Former students of Trump’s former real estate school filed class actions against the business mogul-turned-world leader over promises they’d learn his insider real estate secrets by instructors he’d handpicked.
Students said they paid upwards of $35,000 for an education they said provided little more insight than an infomercial.
Trump acknowledges no wrongdoing or liability as part of the finalized settlement.