Portrait Of A Con: Donald Trump’s Inflated Self Worth (VIDEO)

How much of Donald Trump’s wealth is real and how much is made up? We don’t know. What we do know, from Trump’s own statements under oath, is that the candidate has no problem inflating the value of his own property and investments.

While under oath, Trump shared his secret for determining how much his assets are worth.

Transcripts of Trump’s testimony under oath, obtained by the New York Times, tell us a lot about Trump’s lack of honesty in his financial dealings.

For example, when asked about his personal portfolio, he told the court that its estimated worth varies according how he feels about it.

From the New York Times:

Perhaps the most striking revelations surround Mr. Trump’s fluid evaluations of his own financial portfolio, which he declared in a deposition can fluctuate based on his “feelings.”

“Yes, even my own feelings,” Mr. Trump testified, “as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day.”

When asked about whether his feelings played a role in valuing a parcel of land in Westchester County, N.Y., Trump explained that property value increased by $70 million based on nothing more than his feelings:

“Was it your view of the value of the property that changed from 2005 to 2006?” he was asked.

“Yeah, that the value of the property has gone up substantially,” Mr. Trump said.

“Did you have any appraisal done?” he was asked a moment later.

“I don’t believe so, no.”

“Did you have any basis for that view other than your own opinion?” a lawyer followed up.

“I don’t believe so, no,” he said.

Trump’s portfolio lists nearly 400 companies that bear the Trump name.

While Trump boasted back in July that his financial disclosures would show his net worth at more than $10 billion dollars, the actual disclosures showed a portfolio worth somewhere between $33.4 million and $87.9 million. But even that is entirely speculative.

As Business Insider reports, much of Trump’s financial portfolio is based on investments in companies “in which he is a trustee, president, chairman or member.” The portfolio includes 500 such companies, and 391 of them bear the “Trump name.”

Since Trump has established that the value of his personal investments fluctuates based on “how he feels about them,” a sizable chunk of his portfolio is more than likely inflated.

Some of Trump’s companies have been linked to fraud.

Given the fraudulent nature of some of the companies which have born the Trump name, as well as the tendency of some others to go bankrupt (in spite of rosy financial reports) there is a lot to question about Trump’s stated self worth.

You don’t have to look very hard for examples of Trump’s perpetual fraud. There’s Trump University, an unlicensed scam school that was run by Trump, which is now facing a $40 million dollar fraud suit in Manhattan.

Trump is still operating that company, only now it’s a scam online school. The name was changed from Trump University to The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, but only after the state of New York went after Trump for falsely peddling the scam company as a “university.”

Here’s more on the Trump University scam.

Trump inflated the worth of his golf courses by as much as five times their actual value.

As CNBC points out here, a large portion of Trump’s estimated worth is wrapped up in his golf course investments. Financial experts analyzed the estimated values that Trump reported on his financial disclosure, finding that he likely inflated the worth of the 16 golf courses he owns by as much as five times their real value.

“The Donald valued 10 of his golf courses at more than $50 million, but Larry Hirsh, a founder of the Society of Golf Appraisers and president of Golf Property Analysts, expressed to CNBC his skepticism.

“I’ve valued 3,000 courses in 45 states, Canada and beyond and I can only remember one that was worth $50 million,” Hirsh said. “It had four courses at an extraordinarily well known facility.”

Sorry Donald, the Trump Brand ain’t all that.

An article published by Forbes in June, titled “Trump Exaggerating His Net Worth (By 100 percent) In Presidential Bid,” provides a look at how Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder may be a root cause of his inflated self worth.

According to Forbes:

“Trump claims that his brand and brand-related deals are worth some $3.3 billion. We value his brand at just $125 million; we give him another $128 million in management fees for Trump-branded hotels.”

Forbes is likely being generous with their estimate, considering that a string of lawsuits over a bunch of failed real estate development projects in California, Florida and Mexico show that the Trump brand isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. (More about that later.)

Trump values undeveloped properties as if they were already developed.

Trump also violates traditional rules of estimating value by “Trumping up” the worth of properties that are under construction. Forbes points out that Trump claims nearly $300 million in “properties under development,” while making it clear that traditional property value estimates do not “give properties full build-out value until they’re actually fully built and running.”

Think about it. Does claiming that you’re going to build a house on an empty lot make the empty lot worth what it would be worth, if it had a house on it already? Of course it doesn’t. But according to Trump’s inflated property valuations, it does.

The estimated “properties under development” figures are important, especially in light of the fact that Trump has a well-documented habit of never completing the projects he starts.

Here’s how people learned that the Trump Brand is just a great big scam.

A string of lawsuits, filed by defrauded investors who lost millions of dollars on projects Trump personally sold to them, underscore just how much of a con artist the GOP candidate really is.

Court documents from one lawsuit, filed in Tampa, Florida, show that Trump was paid $4 million dollars, plus a share of the profits, to mislead potential investors. The case concerned Trump Tower, a condominium project that was never completed.

As the New York Times explains here, marketing materials distributed to potential investors:

“left little doubt that Mr. Trump was a driving force behind the 52-story tower: ‘We are developing a signature landmark property,’ Mr. Trump declared in a news release unveiling it, which described him as a partner. In a marketing video, Mr. Trump called it ‘my first project on the Gulf of Mexico,’ and even showed up to mingle with potential buyers at a lavish, catered event. ‘I love to build buildings,’ Mr. Robbins recalled Mr. Trump telling the audience.

But it was all just a big scam. Trump’s role in the project was to deceive investors into believing an illusion.

A confidential agreement, later made public in court filings, told a different story: Mr. Trump was not one of the developers or builders. For $4 million, plus a share of any profits, he had licensed his name. As for the mingling with buyers? He was required to do it, up to two times, in the agreement, which spelled out that the appearances last ‘for no more than six (6) working hours each.’

According to the document, the very existence of the license agreement was to be kept confidential. And it remained that way, buyers said, long after they bought their units. ‘If at any point I had known this, I would have walked away,’ said Mr. Robbins, who put down a deposit of about $150,000 — half of which, under Florida law, the developer could use for construction costs.

All of the investors in Trump’s Tampa scam lost every cent. He participated in similar scams across the US and in Mexico, similarly defrauding investors in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Baja, California. Nearly 200 people lost more than $20 million dollars after investing in Trump’s Ocean Resort, Baja, another luxury condominium that was never built.

In Fort Lauderdale, the 24 story luxury hotel, which was supposed to be known as Trump International Hotel & Tower, was foreclosed on during construction. After several years and several lawsuits filed by defrauded investors, the property was sold at auction to someone who could finish the job. The building is now completed and known as Conrad Fort Lauderdale.

When you look at the track record of projects associated with the Trump Brand, it seems that having Trump’s name associated with a project could be seen as more of a liability than an asset.

When did you first lie about that?

During sworn testimony, Trump provided further insight into how he inflates income and also debt.

As the New York Times reports, Trump was asked under oath if he was “really paid $1 million for a 2005 speech, as he had boasted on television? He was not. (It was $400,000; in testimony, he said he counted efforts to promote the talk as a form of payment.)”

And what’s a few billion here and there?

“Did his debts ever reach $9 billion in the 1990s, as he said in two of his books to dramatize his eventual financial comeback? They did not. (‘That is a mistake,’ Mr. Trump said, ‘and I don’t know how it got there.’)

But, he said, it hardly mattered. ‘Frankly, whether it’s $9 billion or $3.6 billion,’  Mr. Trump said, ‘I don’t think makes any difference to anybody if they hear the story’.”

Does anyone know what Trump is really worth? Maybe.

Former New York Times staffer Timothy O’Brien, who wrote the book Trump Nation described what it was like trying to get to the bottom of Trump’s inflated self worth.

“On a single day in August 2004, he told me his net worth was $4 billion to $5 billion, then revised that later the same day to $1.7 billion. Forbes said at the time he was worth $2.6 billion. A year later Donald told me he was worth $5 billion to $6 billion, but a brochure left on my nightstand at his Palm Beach resort said he was worth $9.5 billion. When I interviewed Donald’s chief financial officer in a Trump Organization conference room in 2005 to discuss the range of numbers, the figure shared with me was $5 billion, not $6 billion. “I’m going to go to my office and find that other billion,” the CFO advised.”

What’s the truth? O’Brien says,

My sources at the time – all of whom had worked closely with Donald and had direct knowledge of his finances – believed that his net worth was $150 million to $250 million.

“What I did wrong was to trust Donald Trump.”

Donald Trump is nothing if not one of the greatest con artists in American history. A lot of people have fallen prey to his scams, drawn in by the illusion of get-rich-quick schemes and promising investment opportunities. Many of his victims say they were “bedazzled” by the Trump name and the Trump Brand.

When you scratch the surface of Trump’s facade, what you find is a man who has the frightening ability to persuade people to buy into the illusions he creates. It’s true of the people that want to believe in the illusion of a President Trump, just as much as it’s true of the people who signed up for Trump University, and those who lost every penny they owned investing in one of the bogus real estate projects Trump sold them.

Donald Isbell, who lost $147,000 on his investment in Trump’s Tampa project told the New York Times that “he has lain awake countless nights trying to figure out how he erred. ‘I have come to the conclusion,” he said, “that what I did wrong was to trust Donald Trump’.”

*Featured image credit: Ninian Reid, via Flckr CC 2.0