Why New York State May Be Days Away From Seizing Trump’s Prized Assets

6 minute read

A former U.S. president has less than a week to come up with nearly half a billion dollars or lose some of his most prized possessions and face a humiliating financial crisis. Sounds like the premise of a television series, but it’s actually the predicament facing Donald Trump.

Trump has until Monday, March 25, to arrange a $464 million bond to comply with a New York state court ruling that found him guilty of civil fraud. Otherwise, he risks the state freezing his bank accounts and seizing some of his marquee assets, including a venerable golf course and private estate.

The amount Trump needs to secure may seem like a feasible chunk of change for someone who regularly boasts that he’s a billionaire. But Trump apparently doesn’t have that much cash on hand. His lawyers have said it’s “impossible” for him to get the money in time, and Trump has balked at taking the kind of drastic actions necessary to get it. 

Now, he’s scrambling to save his personal holdings, a week after cementing his status as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. 

On Friday, Trump suggested he may be in the clear after all. In an emphatic, all-caps Truth Social post, he wrote that “through hard work, talent, and luck,” he has nearly $500 million in liquid cash—undercutting his attorneys’ claim in court just days ago. Trump said he planned to use that money on his White House run, though he hasn’t contributed financially to one of his campaigns since 2016.

The post also came shortly before investors approved a plan to take his struggling social media company public, a move that stands to increase his net worth by billions but that won’t put more money into his bank accounts by Monday. 

Here’s what to know about Trump’s cash crunch. 

Why Does Trump Owe $464 Million?

It stems from New York Attorney General Letitia James’s three-year investigation into Trump and his business for committing financial fraud by inflating the value of assets. The scheme, James alleged, was part of a decades-long conspiracy to secure loans under false pretenses and close deals favorable to the firm. Last month, Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to pay the state $355 million plus interest from his personal fortune. 

That number didn’t come out of nowhere. Engoron determined that Trump would have made $355 million less on various transactions had he presented the value of his assets honestly. The judge also ordered Trump to pay substantial interest on that amount, pushing the penalty to more than $450 million. Defendants in New York typically have to pay 9 percent interest until their bond is paid in full or an appeal is resolved. Unless he wins an appeal, Trump’s debt will only grow larger the longer it takes him to pay. 

Why Hasn’t Trump Paid the Fine Yet?

Simply put: He doesn’t have the money, as most of Trump’s net worth is tied up in real estate. But Trump doesn’t need to pay the fine immediately. He just needs to arrange a bond from a company willing to guarantee that it will pay the court $464 million if Trump loses on appeal and fails to pay.

But bond companies rarely accept real estate as collateral. In a Monday court filing, Trump’s lawyers said that it was a “practical impossibility” to secure the bond after roughly 30 companies spurned his proposal. 

There’s also his personal pride. Even if Trump had the liquidity, sources close to him say, he would abhor shelling out the cash over what he calls a “witch hunt.” Hoping to avoid that outcome, Trump has asked an appellate court to let him forgo posting the bond in full while he appeals the ruling. New York state lawyers have asked the judge to deny Trump that request.

Defendants are usually required to post bond before they can appeal an unfavorable ruling before a higher court. It’s a source of consternation for Trump. “They don’t even give you a chance to appeal,” he told a radio show on Wednesday. “They want you to put up money before the appeal. So if you sell a property or do something, and then you win the appeal, you don’t have the property.” 

How Much Money Does Trump Have?

While Trump likes to brag that he’s a billionaire, he doesn’t have billions of dollars sitting around in bank accounts. Forbes estimates that his net worth is $2.6 billion as of mid-March 2024, based on the value of his properties, including hotels, resorts, and golf clubs. 

A recent New York Times analysis found that he has roughly $350 million in liquid cash—more than $100 million less than the amount he needs to pay New York state. 

That doesn’t include the $83 million he owes to E. Jean Carroll, the writer who accused him of rape, for making defamatory comments about her. Nor does it include the lawyers’ fees in his four separate criminal prosecutions. 

Trump appears to have just gotten a financial lifeline. He owns a stake in Trump Media & Technology Group, the social media company that owns Truth Social. Shareholders voted on Friday to approve a merger and take the firm public. Trump could make as much as $3 billion from the deal.

It’s not yet clear how quickly he could convert those funds to cash. He’s prohibited from selling his shares or using them as collateral for six months, but Trump could ask the board of the merged firm to waive the rule for him.

What Happens Next?

Trump can keep trying to secure a bond by the Monday deadline. But if he comes up short, he’s likely to face immediate consequences. 

On Thursday, James took the first step toward seizing some of Trump’s assets in New York. Her office filed a judgment in Westchester County court to take control of Seven Springs, a private estate in Bedford, and the Trump National Golf Course in Briarcliff Manor. If Trump still can’t post bond, she may not stop there. 

Trump’s best hope then may be to win on appeal and regain possession of those assets, assuming New York state hasn’t sold them off by then. Otherwise, he may have to sell off even more assets or accept the largess of a wealthy supporter. Some in his orbit have speculated that he could claim bankruptcy for the business entities implicated in the fraud case, but worry that such a move would be too damaging to his presidential aspirations. 

Trump’s financial woes are likely to be an enduring theme on the campaign trail. President Joe Biden is already seizing on his opponent’s plight. At a Thursday night fundraiser outside Chicago, the President reportedly recounted an incident in which someone approached him with the tale of an agonizing debt. 

Biden said he replied: “Donald, I can’t help you.”

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