Judge holds real estate firm in contempt over documents in Trump probe

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A commercial real estate firm that appraised several Trump Organization properties is being held in contempt by a state judge over its failure to hand over documents in a civil probe led by the New York attorney general.

Beginning Thursday, Cushman & Wakefield will be fined $10,000 a day until it produces documents that are already more than a week overdue to New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office, according to a court order filed Tuesday.

James’ office subpoenaed the documents as it considers whether to file a civil suit against former President Donald Trump and his company. In a previous filing, James’ office said it has “uncovered substantial evidence establishing numerous misrepresentations in Mr. Trump’s financial statements provided to banks, insurers, and the Internal Revenue Service.”

Trump and his company have denied any wrongdoing, with the former president at one point calling the probe “a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt of all time.”

The contempt order is the latest development in a lengthy legal battle that began when James’ office served subpoenas on Cushman & Wakefield in September and again in February.

The real estate firm had “partially responded” to the subpoenas in March before it refused to provide the remaining records, state Judge Arthur Engoron said in Tuesday’s contempt order.

While he acknowledged the “enormous number of documents” requested in the probe, Engoron said, “Cushman & Wakefield has only itself to blame if it chose to treat the looming deadlines cavalierly.”

Last week, two days after a deadline to comply with the subpoenas following previous delays, Cushman & Wakefield filed a motion for an extension. Engoron denied the request Tuesday.

“As an initial matter, this court is incredulous as to why Cushman & Wakefield would wait until two days after the court-ordered deadline had lapsed to initiate the process of asking for yet another extension,” Engoron wrote.

James said in a statement Wednesday that the real estate company’s work for the former president and his company “is clearly relevant to our investigation, and we’re pleased that the court has recognized that and taken action to force Cushman to comply with our subpoenas.”

A spokesperson for the real estate company said in a statement that the judge’s ruling “demonstrates a failure to understand the extreme lengths Cushman has gone to comply with the court’s order. We have gone to great expense and effort to quickly identify, collect, review and produce the massive set of documents requested by the OAG, and we have now produced over hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and over 650 appraisals since the last subpoena was issued in February 2022.”

“This time-intensive process started much before the Court rejected Cushman’s motion to stay in June,” the spokesperson continued. “Cushman disagrees with any suggestion that the firm has not exercised diligence and good faith in complying with the court’s order, and we will be appealing this decision.”

In a letter to Engoron on Tuesday, lawyers for the real estate company said that it had “produced more than 850,000 pages of materials” in response to James’ subpoenas and that a multimillion-page “document dump” would end up delaying her investigation.

In a related ruling last week, Engoron said Trump was no longer in contempt of court about two months after he declared Trump in contempt for a sluggish response to a civil subpoena issued by James’ office. Trump last month paid $110,000 in fines over the contempt order.

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