Monday, May 27, 2024

New York governor seeks to quell business owners’ fears after Trump ruling

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The New York governor has told business owners in her state that there is “nothing to worry about” after Donald Trump was fined $355m and temporarily banned from engaging in commerce in the state when he lost his civil fraud trial on Friday.

In an interview on the New York radio show the Cats Roundtable with the supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis, Kathy Hochul sought to quell fears in some quarters that the penalties handed to Trump for engaging in fraudulent business practices could chill the state’s commercial climate.

Asked if businesspeople should be worried that if prosecutors could “do that to the former president, they can do that to anybody”, Hochul said: “Law-abiding and rule-following New Yorkers who are businesspeople have nothing to worry about because they’re very different than Donald Trump and his behavior.”

She added that the fraud case against Trump resulted from “really an extraordinary, unusual circumstance”.

Hochul’s comments were directed at some New York business leaders who said they were concerned that the attorney general Letitia James’s case against Trump could deter businesses and investment from coming to the state. Hochul noted James’s case demonstrated how Trump and some allies obtained favorable bank loans and insurance rates with inflated real estate values.

The governor said most New York business owners were “honest people, and they’re not trying to hide their assets and they’re following the rules”.

Hochul said most business owners would not merit state intervention.

“This judge determined that Donald Trump did not follow the rules,” Hochul added. “He was prosecuted and truly, the governor of the state of New York does not have a say in the size of a fine, and we want to make sure that we don’t have that level of interference.”

Trump, who denied wrongdoing in the case and maintained there were no victims, now has 30 days to come up with a non-recoverable $35m to secure a bond – a third-party guarantee – against his real estate holdings to show that he can pay the full fine if his appeals fail.

Alternatively, he could put the $355m into an escrow account but would get the money back if he wins on appeal.

Either way, the ruling is a blow to the developer-politician whose sense of self is tied to financial success. And James has said Trump is actually in line to pay more than $463m when interest is taken into account.

In September, Trump’s former lawyer Christopher Kise argued in court that the decision against the ex-president would cause “irreparable impact on numerous companies”. It would also threaten 1,000 employees within the Trump empire, Kise maintained.

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But the judge, Arthur Engoron, who found the former president liable for fraud and assessed the fine and three-year disqualification from doing business in New York, dropped an earlier ruling to dissolve all the companies that Trump owns in the state that could have led to a liquidation.

“This is a venial sin, not a mortal sin,” Engoron wrote in a 92-page ruling that allowed the Trump businesses to keep operating and appointed two overseers to monitor “major activities that could lead to fraud”.

Engoron said he could renew his call for “restructuring and potential dissolution” based on “substantial evidence”.

Trump has lashed out at the ruling, vowing to appeal and calling James and Engoron “corrupt”.

But James said on Friday: “This long-running fraud was intentional, egregious, illegal.” She added: “There cannot be different rules for different people in this country, and former presidents are no exception.”

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