Drawing from the publicity he received from his shows "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice," Donald Trump launched an educational program in 2005, "Trump University," that promises mentorships that are "the next best thing" to being Trump's apprentice. So far, over 11,000 people have attended, reports Marcus Baram for The Huffington Post.
However, the for-profit institution is now the target of a class-action lawsuit in federal court and the attorneys general of six states are investigating numerous complaints about it, including Texas, where the Trump Organization ultimately decided not to conduct any seminars.
The lead plaintiff in the class action, Tarla Makaeff, alleges that Trump University's mentors and associates “guide students toward deals in which they have a personal financial interest at stake -- creating a severe conflict of interest, so that the mentors profit while the student does not." Another plaintiff said the seminar promised access to “exclusive” property listings, but he found the listings elsewhere online for a fraction of the cost.
News of the lawsuit has not exactly shocked the media. Gothamist titled its report of the story: "Trump University Shockingly Sued For Trump-ness" and marveled at Makaeff's "straight-faced" quote to the New York Daily News that she "relied on the Trump name and Donald Trump's reputation as a real estate mogul. I expected nothing less than the best... Big mistake." Gawker reacted to the lawsuit, "Swindled by Donald Trump! Imagine that!"
Such reactions are more evidence that since Trump's highly criticized birther claims were debunked, if not before, his name has become synonymous with exaggerated claims and fraud, two qualities he certainly does not want associated with an educational system, particularly a for-profit school. As ex-Trump student Adil Bagirov noted to the Huffington Post, "the industry is prone to fraud" and "unscrupulous instructors" as it is.
Assistant general counsel for the Trump Organization George Sorial calls the allegations “completely ridiculous,” and Trump has filed a $100 million counterclaim for defamation against Makaeff, a move that Makaeff's attorney calls "nothing more than a class intimidation tactic by a bully."