Trump Wins Partial Stay of Fraud Judgment, Allowed to Post $175 Million

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
New York Attorney General Letitia James arrives to hear former president Donald Trump testify in his civil fraud case at New York State Supreme Court on Nov. 6 in New York.

An appeals court panel in New York said Monday that former president Donald Trump would be allowed to post a $175 million bond to stave off enforcement of a nearly half-billion-dollar civil judgment against him and his business.

The order was a significant win for Trump, who was otherwise facing a massive cash crunch and the prospect of New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) moving to seize some of his assets as soon as this week.

However, while the five state judges on the panel eased the financial strain on Trump, they did not erase it entirely. They gave Trump 10 days to come up with the reduced bond of $175 million, saying they would only delay enforcement of the full amount if he put up that lower figure within this window – and it is not immediately clear how he will come up with the money.

“We’ll put up the cash or a bond very quickly,” Trump told reporters Monday, but provided no specifics. Trump’s attorneys had previously sought to post a $100 million bond, rather than the full amount.

The panel’s order came at a precarious moment for Trump, who is contending with significant financial pressure and legal peril. The appeals panel’s order came down while he was in a New York court in a bid to delay the start of his criminal case related to hush money payments made to an adult film actress. The justice rejected that effort and said the case will go to trial April 15.

The ruling put the first-ever criminal trial of a former president back on track, after the judge had ordered a brief delay to consider a claim from Trump that prosecutors had engaged in misconduct. Trump faces 34 charges of falsifying business records as he sought to hide payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

Separately, Trump has also been ordered by two civil juries to pay nearly $90 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll. He also faces charges in four criminal cases, including the hush money case in New York.

The civil fraud judgment against Trump, meanwhile, stems from a lawsuit that James brought against him and his company, as well as his two eldest sons and two former executives. James’s lawsuit said Trump misstated the value of his properties and other assets by up to $2.2 billion a year from 2011 to 2021.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who heard the case, in February issued a written decision that assailed Trump and the other defendants, saying they showed a staggering “lack of contrition and remorse.” He ordered that Trump pay the hefty judgment, which with interest comes out to more than $450 million.

The former president immediately vowed to appeal that ruling, but to stop James from collecting in the meantime, he was required to put up a bond in the full amount.

Trump’s attorneys have said he could not finance an appeal bond of more than $450 million. They said his team had contacted 30 companies, none of which would take real estate – which accounts for most of Trump’s wealth – as collateral. Instead they required he put up cash or investment accounts. Securing such a large bond in cash is a “practical impossibility,” Trump’s lawyers argued.

The appeals court panel on Monday did not reduce the initial judgment, only the amount Trump needs to put up for a bond while appealing. His deadline for securing the bond is next Thursday, April 4. The extra 10 days may not be enough of an extension for Trump to turn his real estate into cash, as it typically takes weeks or months to sell properties such as golf courses or hotels.

Asked Monday by reporters how he would pay or secure the $175 million bond, Trump replied, “I have a lot of cash” before adding that he would “like to be able to use some of my cash to get elected.”

Exactly how much Trump has in cash and securities is difficult to determine. In April of last year, he claimed to have “400-plus” million dollars during a deposition in the fraud case. In an August financial disclosure filed with the Office of Government Ethics, he listed hundreds of bank and investment accounts with a total value of between $252 million and $924 million, according to a Washington Post analysis of the form.

Since then, there have been some meaningful changes to his finances. Earlier this month, he posted a $91 million bond to delay enforcement of a judgment in one of the defamation cases he lost to Carroll, eating into his wealth. But when shareholders voted last week to take the parent company of his Truth Social platform public, they handed him a windfall – at least on paper. At Monday afternoon’s stock price, which had risen more than 35 percent over the course of the day, Trump’s 60 percent share in the company was worth more than $3 billion. But he cannot sell or borrow against his ownership stake for six months unless the company’s board grants him a waiver.

Asked Monday whether he would accept assistance from a foreign government, Trump said, “I don’t do that.” He then added, “I think you’d be allowed to possibly, I don’t know. …The biggest banks, frankly, are outside of our country. So you could do that. But I don’t need to borrow money.”

Foreign governments spent millions of dollars at Trump properties while he was president, according to a January report from House Democrats. Trump’s company donated some of the revenue to the U.S. Treasury and has said the transactions were for market rates.

Trump has long used his legal jeopardy to rally supporters, arguing that he is being politically targeted. Polling showed that after he was indicted last year, his support among Republicans increased. And even though Monday’s appeals court ruling boiled down to an order that he must find $175 million to stop state authorities from taking his assets, he hailed it as a victory over Engoron and James, claiming in a social media post that the ruling “shattered” their credibility.

James’s office had argued against Trump’s attempts to stay the entire judgment or let him post a lower amount. On Monday, after the panel released its order, James’s office said the ruling did nothing to change Engoron’s finding that Trump committed wrongdoing.

“Donald Trump is still facing accountability for his staggering fraud,” a spokesperson for her office said. “The court has already found that he engaged in years of fraud to falsely inflate his net worth and unjustly enrich himself, his family, and his organization. The $464 million judgment – plus interest – against Donald Trump and the other defendants still stands.”

Although the appeals court gave no reasoning for its decision, Adam Pollock, an attorney who formerly served as assistant attorney general in New York, said the decision could indicate that it might consider permanently reducing the judgment against Trump on appeal.

“It’s extraordinary because the law is clear that you have to post a bond in the full amount, and it additionally suggests that there may be concern that the underlying judgment is itself excessive,” said Pollock.

The appellate court did indicate that it wants to keep the case moving based on the schedule it laid out, legal experts said. The order requires Trump to appeal in time for the court’s September term. That requires that his appeal be prepared by July 8, according to Pollock. “Here what they’re saying is, ‘You’re not going to get to drag this out,’” Pollock said.

In addition to reducing the amount Trump must put up for his appeal bond, the panel also said it would stay other parts of Engoron’s decision.

Among other things, the panel said it would block Engoron’s decree that Trump and his company be prohibited from getting loans from any New York financial institution for three years. The panel also said it would block Engoron’s orders barring Trump from serving in a top position at a New York corporation for three years or his sons – Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump – for two years. An appeals court judge had granted temporary stays on those measures last month, though it remained unclear whether the full panel would maintain or change that.

The panel said some of Engoron’s other moves, including his directive installing an independent director of compliance for the Trump Organization, should stand.