Eric Trump testifies in civil fraud trial he relied on accountants for financial statements accuracy


NEW YORK (AP) — Eric Trump testified Friday that he was relying on accountants to ensure the accuracy of financial statements that authorities say fraudulently exaggerated his father’s wealth and the value of his assets to deceive banks and insurers.

On the witness stand for a second day in the civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, Eric Trump was pressed about what steps he took to verify information before signing documents certifying to lender Deutsche Bank that his father’s financial statements were correct.

The son insisted he would never sign something that was inaccurate.

“I relied on one of the biggest accounting firms in the country. And I relied on a great legal team. And when they gave me comfort that the statement was perfect, I was more than happy to execute,” he said.

Eric Trump’s comments echoed those of his brother, Donald Trump Jr., whose testimony earlier this week appeared to be laying groundwork to blame any irregularities in the financial statements on the Trump Organization’s longtime outside accountant, Donald Bender. Trump Jr. testified that the company “relied heavily on” Bender as “a point person for just about anything we did, accounting wise.”

James’ lawsuit alleges that Donald Trump, his company and top executives, including Eric and Donald Jr., conspired to exaggerate his wealth by billions of dollars on his financial statements. The documents were given to banks, insurers and others to secure loans and make deals.

Another executive of his father’s company testified that Eric Trump was on a video call about his father’s financial statement as recently as 2021. The family and company were aware by then that James’ office was looking into the statements. But Eric reiterated Friday that he had no memory of the call.

“I get thousands of calls,” he said, saying he picks up his phone at 5 a.m. and puts it down at midnight.

Earlier in the trial, appraiser David McArdle testified that Eric Trump took an active interest a decade ago in appraisals of some Trump-owned properties, including a golf course where the family envisioned 71 high-end townhomes in New York’s suburban Westchester County. In an email at the time, McArdle said that “Eric Trump has lofty ideas on value,” assuming the townhouses would easily sell for $1,000 per square foot.

The Trump son has testified that he barely remembers McArdle. But as for his own views on the potential development’s value, “I think a thousand dollars per square foot would absolutely be achievable, yes,” he told the court Thursday. The villas were never built.

Donald Trump and other defendants — including sons Donald Jr. and Eric — deny any wrongdoing. The former president has called the case a “sham,” a “scam,” and “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time.”

The civil lawsuit is separate from four criminal cases the former president is facing while he campaigns to retake the White House in 2024.

The former president, who has periodically appeared in court to watch the trial, is expected to follow on the witness stand on Monday. His daughter Ivanka Trump is also scheduled to testify next week after an appeals court late Thursday denied her request to delay her testimony.

The Trumps are being summoned to the stand by James’ office, but defense lawyers will also have a chance to question them and can call them back as part of the defense case later.

Judge Arthur Engoron has ordered that a court-appointed receiver take control of some Trump companies, putting the future oversight of Trump Tower and other marquee properties in question. But an appeals court has blocked enforcement of that aspect of Engoron’s ruling for now.

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