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Judge Holds Cushman & Wakefield Disdain in New York Trump Inquiry

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A New York state judge on Tuesday held one of the world’s largest real estate firms — which has appraised several properties belonging to former President Donald J. Trump — contemptuously in court over a civil investigation into whether it valued wrongly inflated its assets.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, said the company, Cushman & Wakefield, had failed to comply with subpoenas from the New York Attorney General’s office in the investigation into Mr. Trump and his family business. He ordered the company to pay a $10,000 daily fine from Thursday until it provided the requested documents to Attorney General Letitia James.

Justice Engoron, who separately despised Mr Trump in April, reprimanded the company for failing to respond to the court’s requests earlier this month. “Cushman & Wakefield only has itself to blame if it chooses to arrogantly handle impending deadlines,” Judge Engoron wrote in an injunction on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the real estate company said on Wednesday that the company has made “great cost and effort” to comply with the subpoenas and would appeal the ruling.

“The ruling to hold Cushman & Wakefield in contempt shows that Cushman does not understand how much effort Cushman has gone to in complying with the court order,” said spokesman Michael Boonshoft.

The contempt warrant comes at a critical time in Ms. James’ investigation into whether Mr. Trump and his family business, the Trump Organization, are fraudulently overstating the value of his golf clubs, hotels and other real estate in its financial statements.

Next week, her investigators are scheduled to question Mr. Trump and two of his children under oath, the culmination of the three-year investigation.

Her office could file a lawsuit against Mr. Trump and the company in the weeks following the interviews, accusing them of fraudulently inflating the value of Trump properties to obtain favorable loan terms and other financial benefits.

Cushman & Wakefield, with 50,000 employees in more than 60 countries, was founded in New York more than a century ago and has grown to become one of the largest real estate companies in the world. In addition to its brokerage services, the company also values ​​commercial real estate for clients.

The firm was hired by the Trump Organization to assess three of its properties that were central to Ms. James’s investigation: the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, NY; Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles, California; and 40 Wall Street in lower Manhattan.

Ms. James has made inquiries about those assessments from Cushman & Wakefield and information about her broader relationship with Mr. Trump.

“Cushman & Wakefield’s work for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization is clearly relevant to our investigation, and we are pleased that the court has acknowledged that and taken action to compel Cushman to comply with our subpoenas,” Ms. James said in a statement. a statement. † “No person or company, no matter how powerful, is above the law.”

The company spokesperson said the company had provided “hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and more than 650 reviews” to the attorney general’s office since February. In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Engoron acknowledged that the subpoenas included voluminous documents, but said state rules allowed such requests.

Ms. James, a Democrat, has already written in court documents that the Trump organization’s business practices were “fraudulent or deceptive” but argued that her office should question Mr. Trump — as well as his two oldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump. Jr. — to determine which Trump Organization employees were responsible for any misconduct.

Because the investigation is a civil matter, Ms. James can file a lawsuit, but not criminal charges. Still, a lawsuit could deal a major blow to the former president. If Mr. Trump is found liable at trial, a judge could impose heavy financial penalties and restrict the Trump organization’s activities in New York, at a time when Mr. Trump may become president again.

Mr. Trump, who had to pay $110,000 to have his own contempt warrant revoked this spring, has denied all wrongdoing and called Ms. James’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

Justice Engoron had concluded that Mr. Trump had not fully complied with Ms. James’ subpoena for his personal documents. Mr. Trump was eventually released from contempt, but only after he paid the fine and his lawyers clarified the extent to which they searched his records.

Mr. Trump also fought against Ms. James’ attempt to test him under oath, in part arguing that he should not answer her questions, while also facing a criminal investigation from the prosecutor’s office. Manhattan justice to some of the same behavior.

But Judge Engoron disagreed and ordered Mr Trump to run for impeachment, a ruling upheld by a New York state appeals court.

The criminal investigation was moving toward an indictment of Mr. Trump early this year, until District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg became concerned about whether his office had enough evidence to prove that Mr. of his property on his property misrepresented. annual accounts.

Some of the same challenges may arise in Ms. James’ civil case. During a trial, Mr. Trump’s legal team would likely argue that real estate valuations are subjective and that any errors were not intentional. They might also note that his financial statements have numerous disclaimers, including that the real estate valuations were not audited.

Still, Ms. James seems to believe she has gathered enough evidence to take action against Mr. Trump. The former president, she recently said, was “caught” using “funny numbers in his financial documents.”

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