Trump Is Staring Down Half A Billion In Court Fines With No Obvious Path Forward

The former president is going to need to make some difficult financial decisions — and fast.

New York courts have levied enormous fines against former President Donald Trump in recent weeks. He owes more than $83 million for defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll and more than $450 million for his real estate empire’s fraudulent business practices.

No matter how much Trump rails against the courts — so far he has labeled them “absolutely ridiculous” and “a Complete and Total SHAM” — he still needs to figure out what to do about the judgments while he appeals them. And at this point, he doesn’t appear to have the cash on hand.

If he doesn’t make a plan, he could be forced to fork over the funds, a messy route that New York Attorney General Letitia James has nevertheless said she is prepared to undertake.

James is behind the civil fraud suit against Trump and his business partners that culminated with Judge Arthur Engoron’s whopping Feb. 16 fine of $355 million plus tens of millions in interest, which is accruing at a rate of more than $100,000 per day. A federal civil jury determined the amount of the smaller fine on Jan. 26 in a win for Carroll, who maintains that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s.

In both cases, Trump will need to put up either cash or a bond covering the full amount he owes, plus a little extra, to cover interest while he appeals.

He has until early March to come up with funds for the Carroll case and until March 25 in the fraud case, according to The Washington Post.

It is not clear what Trump will do; he has not spoken publicly about his plan.

The New York Times estimated that, as of 2023, Trump had at least $350 million at his immediate disposal. (The former president’s net worth — he claims to be a billionaire — is largely rooted in the value of his real estate assets.)

Trump’s likeliest option appears to be securing bonds, although he does not seem to have done this yet.

An attorney for Carroll, Roberta Kaplan, has said she suspects that Trump may actually have a difficult time procuring a bond given how he handled the $5 million fine imposed on him in a related case in 2023. Trump put up cash while he appealed, which Kaplan considered unusual.

“I suspect it’s because he couldn’t get a bond,” she said on a recent episode of the podcast “On with Kara Swisher,” adding, “Whatever questions the bond companies were asking, either he didn’t want to answer or they didn’t like his answers.”

In many cases, an individual can secure a bond by putting up a percentage of the total owed, but the sheer size of the judgments against Trump makes him unique. As does the fact that much of his wealth is tied up in commercial real estate — which is not very desirable in the post-pandemic marketplace.

“I believe there’s a path for him to get it,” said Neil Pedersen, a New York-based surety bond broker who specializes in bonds for judicial proceedings, although he said the size of the bond would be “unprecedented for an individual.”

Trump is going to need to put up “liquid funds either equal to or close to the full amount of the bond,” Pedersen told HuffPost.

Even then, it is likely to be risky.

“There’s, what, a 50-50 shot that he’s our next president? Let’s say you did extend him credit and you had to enforce an agreement against a sitting president, it’s not an attractive proposition,” Pedersen added.

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