I would like to set aside all of the bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, hateful and inane comments made by a certain Presidential candidate and focus on his touted main reason for electing him, his business record. Yet, to the contrary of his claims, everything one needs to know about Donald Trump and his lack of veracity as a candidate is in his history and it is not hard to find. And, I don’t mean his history of sexual harassment and assault using his own words corroborated by a growing number of women. I mean his business history, which is less sensational.
Let’s focus on two main things. How did he make his money and how did he treat people along the way? Trump touts his skills as a businessman, yet while he is a superb public relations and marketing person who has merchandised himself well, his business management skills and ethics are lacking. In fact, Trump’s history is one of exploiting people for money. This includes employees, contractors, customers and co-investors.
He does this by bullying, litigation or threatened litigation, stiffing people, renting his name to other developers so they can charge more, misrepresentation, and poor business decisions leading to business failures and six bankruptcies. Whether it is bullying or suing people to get them out of their homes, refusing to pay contractors like painters, electricians, dry wallers, landscape professionals, piano suppliers, etc., misrepresenting to people about the benefits of a purchase and using strong-arm marketing tactics, or just getting over leveraged with debt which led to the business bankruptcies and almost his own personal one, his track record is not exemplary. The latter was a key reason for the $916 million loss on his leaked 1995 tax return per The New York Times.
During the campaign, non-partisan and Pulitzer prize-winning Poltifacts has noted Trump has lied more than any other Presidential candidate by far dating back to 2007. But, this is not inconsistent with his history in business. Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked for him, noted in an op-ed piece several interesting comments as his reasons not to vote for his old boss. Two stand out to me. First he said “Trump lies all the time.” Second, he said Trump often uses the excuse of poor work to stiff contractors. Doing it occasionally is one thing, but this is his modus operandi. One contractor who appeared on a Virginia voter panel on PBS Newshour this summer noted “the word on the street with Trump’s companies is get your money upfront.”
The dilemma is he uses a lawsuit or threat of lawsuit as a weapon. These unpaid contractors who felt wronged would sue him and then he would countersue. His attorneys and his wealth would outgun and out wait his opponents and they would drop the case. Many would have to file for bankruptcy themselves, since the contracts may be for much of their income. It should be noted some of his attorneys would go unpaid as well. Per an article in USA Today in June, 2016, it was reported that Trump has had 3,500 lawsuits, which average to 1 1/2 per week over a 45 year career.
But, let’s look at two microcosms going on today which indicate how he operates as a business leader. First, his Foundation is under investigation for mismanagement and self-dealing. It has been reported in The Washington Post that he has used his Foundation to settle business litigation, contribute to the campaign of the Florida attorney general and buy portraits of himself. Plus, the Foundation has not been registered with the state of New York and maybe other states. The Washington Post found the illegal donation to the campaign and Trump recognized the wrongdoing and corrected it, but it was also incorrectly reported on the Foundation’s earlier tax return as being made to a legitimate entity for a Foundation purpose.
Second, he is facing three class action lawsuits with Trump University which will continue irrespective of the outcome of the election. The lawsuits are for alleged misrepresentation to students and seminar goers regarding his promised hand selection of the professors and the benefit of the classes. He also tried to stop the public release of a marketing playbook in court disclosures which revealed aggressive and strong-arm pressure tactics to buy the seminars. The latter is not illegal, but indicates how he exploits people through pressure sales. It should be noted the campaign donation to the Florida AG noted above seemed to be timed to dissuade her from adding impacted Florida citizens to one of the class action lawsuits.
Finally, one of the areas of greatest concern was reported in a Newsweek piece on his global business. Per this article, he has not done much due diligence on who he has done business with and they present some severe conflicts of interests, should he get elected. One business deal is with a man whose father launders money for Iranian officials. Another is with a man in South Korea who was jailed for embezzlement and fled to North Korea. He has had poor dealings with folks in India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Turkish President Erdogan was so offended by Trump, he jailed Trump’s partner and said if Trump wins, the US cannot use their air base.
To me, these reasons paint a picture of a man who does not have a stellar business record to brag about. Yes, he can sell just about anything, but he has a hard time managing what he has sold. But, please do not take my word for it, as I have only compiled investigative research. I would ask that you do some digging. And, it will not be that difficult. You can start with the excellent reporting being done by The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Reuters, and PBS Newshour. What bothers me most is how many hard-working people have gone out of business or lost a great deal of income as a result of this man’s actions.