Donald Trump’s companies are targeted by far-reaching tax investigations. What consequences could this have for the Trump organization – and for the ex-president himself? An overview.
It is no surprise that Donald Trump’s corporate empire is being investigated. The organization of the former US president has long been under observation. But now the allegations are concrete – the senior public prosecutor has initiated further investigations, and the Trump organization’s chief financial officer, Allan Weisselberg, has faced the authorities. But what’s behind the investigation? And to what extent is Donald Trump himself affected?
The most important questions and answers at a glance:
What exactly is the Trump organization accused of?
The Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg have been charged with 15 counts by the Manhattan District Attorney for tax fraud and forgery of business records. District Attorney Cyrus Vance is leading the investigation.
These are the first charges in an investigation that has targeted the corporate network of former US President Donald Trump for years. Since 2005, the Trump organization has allegedly defrauded the tax authorities by providing off-book perks to company executives. Accordingly, the beneficiaries received significant parts of their income in an indirect and disguised manner, which was not reported to the tax authorities.
Finance chief Weisselberg was also charged with serious theft. The Trump Organization apparently paid him the rent for an apartment of Weisselberg’s son Barry in Manhattan, leasing fees for two Mercedes-Benz vehicles and school fees for Weisselberg’s grandchildren – a total of 1.76 million dollars, which he is said to have not disclosed.
Allan Weisselberg: The Trump organization’s chief financial officer is under pressure. (Source: Brendan McDermid / Reuters)
According to the media, his former daughter-in-law provided decisive information against the chief financial officer. Among other things, this testified to the investigators that Barry Weisselberg received a free apartment and a generous salary while working for the Trump organization.
Trump himself is said to have signed checks for tuition fees. Prosecutor Carey Dunne spoke of a staging by the highest executives that had benefited them and the company financially. That was done at the expense of the taxpayer.
The investigation into the Trump organization had begun with investigations against former Trump attorney Michael Cohen for hiding payments to women who allegedly had affairs with Trump. Most recently, they had led to a dispute in the Supreme Court over the release of Trump’s tax documents.
What does the Trump organization say about the allegations?
The Trump organization and CFO Weisselberg plead not guilty. The Trump organization accused the prosecutor of wanting to use Weisselberg as a pawn sacrifice. Attempts should be made to leave scorched earth behind and harm the former Republican President. “This is not a judiciary, this is politics,” it said in a statement. Trump himself had denied any wrongdoing and described the investigation as a witch-hunt by politically motivated prosecutors. District Attorney Vance is a Democrat.
Who is Allen Weisselberg?
Allen Weisselberg (73) started working for the Trump family at the age of 26. Initially he was employed by Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father. In 2000 he became CFO and Vice President of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. In January 2017, shortly before Trump took office as US President, Weisselberg was appointed to the leadership of the Trump organization along with Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. Since then he has worked as chief financial officer and supported the management of the real estate empire. “He knows about every penny that leaves the building,” said a book by US authors Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.
Weisselberg presented himself to the public prosecutor’s office on Thursday. She now hopes to get the CFO to cooperate and testify against Trump. That would have the advantage for him that he could improve his own prospects in the case. However, it is unclear whether Weisselberg will oppose the former US president.
The Trumps and Weisselbergs have a long-standing relationship: Here Donald Trump can be seen with his son Donald Jr. at the Bar Mitzvah of Allan Weisselberg’s son Barry. (Archive image from 1980) (Source: Zuma Wire / imago images)
Weisselberg’s sons are also connected to the Trump Organization: Barry Weisselberg earned about $ 200,000 a year as manager of the Wollman Rink in Central Park, a property in New York City that the Trump Organization operated until the beginning of this year. Jack Weisselberg works at Ladder Capital, a commercial real estate lender who did business with the Trump organization.
What consequences could a judgment have for the Trump organization?
The latest charges could only be the tip of the iceberg: The full scope of the investigation against the company is unknown to the public, as reported by several US media outlets. If convicted, the company faces fines, among other things.
Concrete amounts cannot be given at first, but: According to the law of the state of New York, the Trump organization must expect a maximum fine of 10,000 dollars per charge and an order for the payment of reimbursements for the financial allegations, reported the “Los Angeles” Times, according to New York state attorneys unlike those in some other US states, it does not have the power to ask a judge to wind up a company.
At first glance, the consequences for the Trump organization initially seem less serious. But things can get much worse for the empire: According to the report, experts forecast that the investigation could result in collateral damage and the company could fall into ruin. For example, companies and banks could lose trust in the company or be prevented from continuing to work with the Trump organization due to internal rules, laws or regulations. According to experts from the Los Angeles Times, banks in particular will be reluctant to lend money to companies involved in legal proceedings – the likelihood that such a company will not be able to repay the money is too high.
According to the report, experts estimate that it is possible that the public prosecutor’s office will propose a deal: for example, the company may plead guilty and the persons responsible, in the Allen Weisselberg case, will not be sued. Such cases, however, usually involve companies whose executives have cooperated fully with investigators and agreed to reform their business practices and make amends. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the Trump organization at the moment.
The Trump Tower: Donald Trump put the real estate business in the hands of his children and Weisselbergs in 2017. (Source: imago images)
What is Donald Trump threatening himself?
The ex-president himself will not initially be held personally accountable – but the damage or even bankruptcy of the company would also hit Trump financially.
It is currently not expected that Trump himself will be blamed this week. However, his lawyer Ronald Fischetti announced that, according to the prosecutor, the screening of his company was going on. So Trump’s financial and political future seems uncertain. One thing is certain: the process could cost him millions – and put a further strain on his already controversial reputation in the business world and in politics.
What is the Trump Organization doing?
Donald Trump became known as the real estate tycoon as the head of the Trump organization, which consists of many smaller companies. He is considered to be very closely interwoven with his corporate empire. The group claims to have tens of thousands of employees.
The Trump Organization operates hotels, golf courses and vacation resorts around the world. Before moving into the White House in January 2017, Trump placed his company under a trust overseen by his adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and Weisselberg. It is unclear what role Trump is currently playing in the company.