Subpoena in Trump Case Would Breach Privacy of 1,000 Clients: Cushman & Wakefield

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Cushman & Wakefield is pushing back against a New York State Supreme Court order forcing the firm to provide additional material to New York Attorney General Letitia James in the investigation of former President Donald Trump, claiming it has cooperated so far with the investigation into Trump’s real estate appraisal.

C&W filed an appeal Wednesday with the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division on the grounds that handing over the subpoenaed documents would compromise the confidentiality of close to 1,000 of C&W’s other clients.

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“Despite already having possession of all Cushman & Wakefield appraisal-related documents pertaining to the three Trump Organization properties at issue, the Attorney General has now ordered us to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents related to our work with nearly 1,000 clients that have no connection whatsoever to the Trump Organization,” a C&W spokesperson said in a statement. “Providing these documents would represent a violation of our clients’ proprietary business information and their privacy and a breach of the trust they place in us to preserve it.”

James’ office has cast doubt on whether the firm followed industry standards based partly on testimony regarding the appraised values on properties such as 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, Seven Springs Estate in Westchester, N.Y., and Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles. The attorney general accused C&W of refusing to comply with subpoenas demanding information on its appraisals of Trump’s properties, and a judge last month ordered the firm to turn over the documents.

C&W believes evidence is already available to investigators that sufficiently proves its appraisers “exercised independent judgment and frequently refused or rejected suggestions from The Trump Organization or its outside counsel,” the spokesperson said.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The New York Times reported in 2020 that Sheri Dillon of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, a go-to lawyer for the Trump Organization, had hired C&W for the Silver Springs appraisal. The attorney general’s office said in court papers that the Trump Organization was not happy with C&W’s work and that “the client blew up at her.”

When Dillon attempted to place pressure on C&W to raise the assessed value, the firm wrote an email to Dillon saying: “We’ve been over these issues and there is no point in dredging them up again. It’s time to agree to disagree and move on,” according to the Times.

Afterward, Dillon’s firm allegedly asked for the appraisal to be backdated, but the request was rejected citing the appraisers’ professional standards.

Last month’s order to uphold the subpoena came hours after the Trump Organization was held in contempt of court by State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron, who imposed a fine of $10,000 for each day the former president doesn’t comply with the investigation.

Trump himself has attempted to undermine the seriousness of the investigation, calling it a “witch hunt” and accusing James of pushing to fulfill a campaign promise made during her 2018 run for attorney general.

But James has stated in the past the appraisals for the properties in question look too good to be true. Investigators believe the Trump Organization gave banks and tax officials misleading information to obtain favorable loans and other financial benefits.

Seven Springs, for example, increased in value from $80 million to $200 million from 2004 to 2007, then up to $291 million in 2012, according to James’ office. The attorney general office claims that two separate appraisers valued the property at $56 million.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.