Monday, April 15, 2024

What Will Happen if Trump Does not get the $464 Million Bond?

HomePoliticsWhat Will Happen if Trump Does not get the $464 Million Bond?

The legal woes of former President Donald J. Trump took a potentially devastating turn this week as he faced a critical deadline of Monday, March 24th to secure an eye-popping $464 million bond related to the civil fraud judgment against him in New York.

In a bombshell ruling in February, New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron found that Mr. Trump had persistently committed staggering acts of fraud by wildly inflating the valuations of his assets by billions of dollars. The judge imposed a massive penalty of over $454 million on the former president himself, with additional millions tacked on from his sons Donald Jr. and Eric as well as the Trump Organization.

With interest compounding daily, the total amount ballooned to a colossal $463.9 million that Mr. Trump and his co-defendants were ordered to pay by securing a bond while their appeal moves forward. Failure to post the bond by the March 24th deadline opens the door for New York Attorney General Letitia James to begin the process of seizing Mr. Trump’s assets to satisfy the mammoth judgment.

In a desperate bid, Mr. Trump’s legal team petitioned an appeals court to reduce or eliminate the bond requirement, arguing he could face “irreparable harm” if forced to sell assets at a fire sale only to potentially win his appeal down the line. However, the court had not ruled on that request as of Saturday, leaving the former president staring down a doomsday scenario.

“It’s like a company that all of a sudden has no chairs, furniture, accounts receivable or anything. That is really the end of the day, I think, for the Trump Organization in New York,” cautioned veteran legal analyst Harry Litman. “It’s an ugly, ugly situation for him.”

So where could this unprecedented asset seizure process lead for the man who famously emblazoned his name across gleaming hotels and sparkling casino facades? Attorneys and former prosecutors who have handled complex fraud cases mapped out the potential judicial odyssey that could begin unfolding rapidly.

The Path to Seizing Trump’s Assets

While the staggering nine-figure bond represents a massive hurdle for even someone of Trump’s immense wealth, experts say Attorney General James’ office is likely prepared to pursue aggressive actions to freeze or seize the former president’s holdings if he fails to pay up.

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“They’re trying to get their ducks in a row. They want to find the most liquid of the assets they can restrain immediately,” said debt collection attorney Alden B. Smith. “A bank account is the most effective way to do it.”

Indeed, most legal analysts expect the first maneuver from James’ team will be to obtain a court order to seize cash from any bank accounts or holdings tied to Trump’s name. The process, while still complicated, proves more straightforward than going after physical real estate assets.

“The banks are the easiest part, they’ll receive the judgment from the Attorney General – the court order – then the banks will enforce,” explained former federal prosecutor Peter Katz. “They take the funds from the account and put it in the attorney general’s accounts. The other stuff is a little more challenging.”

To execute a seizure of funds, state prosecutors need only dispatch a city sheriff or U.S. Marshal to the main branch of any bank where Trump holds accounts. Armed with the court order, they would present it to the manager who would be legally obligated to immediately turn over the funds via a cashier’s check made out to the attorney general’s office.

That relatively simple opening salvo could be followed by a prolonged cage match over Mr. Trump’s vast real estate empire and business holdings. Lawyers say James will have to carefully evaluate her targets, as properties like the crown jewel Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida may enjoy more legal protections as homesteads.

“At the heart could be the homestead exemption. But that would have to play out in court,” noted Adam Pollock, a former New York assistant attorney general.

If James does decide to go after real estate or corporations tied to the Trump name, a more Byzantine process would initiate. It would start with the attorney general’s office filing the judgment against Trump in counties where the targeted properties are located – a move they have already taken in New York’s Westchester County regarding Trump’s Seven Springs estate.

From there, the sheriff’s office would be ordered to initiate a public auction of the asset by posting notices and advertising the sale over a period of around two months. With the former president’s properties sprawled across numerous states, the bureaucratic hurdles and legal wrangling could make the process excruciatingly slow.

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“The attorney general’s office is the largest firm in New York State, if you think about it as a law firm. The office has zero lawyers in Florida,” said Pollock. “I would see execution on properties in New York before you see anything in Florida.”

Trump’s Limited Options

So what potential avenues could Trump pursue to avoid this legal and financial calamity? His first and best hope remains convincing the appeals court to drastically reduce or eliminate the bond requirement as his appeal plays out – something legal experts deem an uphill battle after Engoron’s scathing ruling.

Another long-shot option could be filing for bankruptcy, which would automatically pause debt collection efforts by turning the matter over to federal bankruptcy courts. However, Trump has been vehemently opposed to that path which could deal a catastrophic blow to his business reputation and deal-making capabilities.

“You don’t want him to file bankruptcy, then the debt will be discharged,” warned Smith. “If he files for bankruptcy then the judgment is automatically stayed. Bankruptcy is the biggest nemesis of collection enforcement for lawyers.”

Barring those long-shot legal maneuvers, Trump may be left with a dwindling number of unpalatable choices – such as attempting to negotiate a settlement, selling off assets piecemeal to chip away at the gargantuan debt, or simply allowing the seizure process to initiate with the hopes of an eventual appeal victory down the line.

“At the end of the day, he’ll do anything before letting Tish James put on a metaphorical padlock on 40 Wall Street,” Litman opined, referring to the famous New York City office building housing many of Trump’s business operations.

Trump made a defiant public display on his Truth Social platform on Friday, claiming to have “ALMOST FIVE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS IN CASH” intended for his 2024 presidential campaign that he accused James of trying to “take away.” His attorney Chris Kise later walked back those comments, stating Trump was referring to money raised through past business activities rather than readily available liquid funds.

But Litman expressed deep skepticism about Trump’s true financial standing in the wake of the adverse fraud ruling.

“It’s like a company that all of a sudden has no chairs, furniture, accounts receivable or anything,” he reiterated. “That is really the end of the day, I think, for the Trump Organization in New York. It’s an ugly, ugly situation for him, even if it is halfway accurate.”

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An Unprecedented Legal Quagmire

The imminent deadline and potential asset seizures faced by Donald Trump are uncharted waters in the legal arena. Never before has a former U.S. president been subject to such aggressive debt collection efforts by state prosecutors following a civil fraud case.

Experts question why Trump was granted any courtesy grace period at all after being held liable for repeated, staggering fraudulent actions.

“There’s no reason for courtesy when he owes $455 million dollars to the people of the state of New York after being found persistently liable for fraud,” Pollock stated bluntly. “That’s not someone you typically extend courtesy to.”

For a man who has spent decades emblazing his name across glitzy hotels and real estate developments around the globe, the potential indignity of court officers padlocking and auctioning off those very properties on which his brand is emblazoned could represent a new apex of personal and professional ruin.

The high-stakes legal brinksmanship has captured international attention and raised the stakes even further for Trump’s increasingly turbulent campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. While he remains the frontrunner, the mushrooming civil case and potential for law enforcement to initiate seizures of his assets loom as potentially catastrophic body blows.

With the clock ticking down and the jaws of debt collectors closing in, Trump faces a legal quagmire with few palatable exit ramps as he stares down a potential financial reckoning of historic proportions. The former president has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence and railed against the fraud case as a partisan “witch hunt,” but the judicial stakes have now risen to arguably the highest level of his life.

How Trump and his legal team navigate the looming asset showdown will be a gripping saga that could jeopardize his political ambitions and deal a seismic blow to his business empire’s future. For a man whose brand has been minted on the very gold-plated logos of wealth and opulence, the unraveling threatens to leave him personally exposed with potentially his most prized holdings wrested from his grasp.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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