Do you remember Trump University? Probably not — it didn’t really catch on.
And one big reason it didn’t catch on is because it was a total scam, say a slew of former students in complaints that were filed to the Federal Trade Commission and were recently unearthed by a Freedom of Information Act recently requested by Gizmodo.
“For my $35,000+ all I got was books that I could have gotten from the library that could guide me better then Trump’s class did. I just want my $35,000+ money back. I feel embarrass[ed],” reads one complaint.
Another grievance describes a level-unlocking strategy reminiscent of Scientology. After paying $1,495 for a three-day seminar, which provided information freely available on Zillow, “attendees were told that unless they purchased additional products (software; individual coaching) they would not succeed,” the complaint states.
Another former “student,” who purchased the $34,995 “Gold Elite” package after the $1,495 seminar under the promise of mentorship, calls the program “an absolute, utter waste.”
It is not only former students who have called into question the legitimacy of Trump University, which was founded in 2005. The New York Department of Education sent Trump a letter in 2010, accusing the operation of misleading students and misuse of the word “university.” Soon thereafter, the operation was renamed the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.
In 2013, the New York Attorney General’s office filed a $40 million lawsuit against the former reality star and current Republican presidential candidate for failing to impart the promised real estate education on 5,000 students and subjecting prospective students to high-pressure sales tactics. Naturally, Trump responded with his own complaint, accusing the attorney general of extorting him for campaign contributions. In April 2015, a judge ruled that Trump was indeed personally responsible and that the matter would go to trial. A class-action suit against Trump related to Trump University is also pending.
Nevertheless, Team Trump is still loudly trumpeting the legitimacy of the “university.” In a recent interview with National Review, Alan Garten, a Trump spokesperson said the New York Department of Education and prospective students “knew exactly what we were doing…and they were fine with it.”
Trump University aside, The Donald doesn’t always charge for his business insights. On Monday Trump offered free—albeit extremely obvious—advice about how to weather turmoil in the stock market.