Trump unable to post $454M fraud case bond

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures towards the crowd at a campaign rally Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures towards the crowd at a campaign rally Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

NEW YORK -- Donald Trump's lawyers told a New York appellate court Monday that it's impossible for him to post a bond covering the full amount of a $454 million civil fraud judgment while he appeals, suggesting the former president's legal losses have put him in a serious cash crunch.

Trump's lawyers wrote in a court filing that "obtaining an appeal bond in the full amount" of the judgment "is not possible under the circumstances presented." Trump claimed last year that he has "fairly substantially over $400 million in cash," but back-to-back courtroom defeats have pushed his legal debt north of a half-billion dollars.

Citing rejections from more than 30 bond underwriters, Trump's lawyers asked the state's intermediate appeals court to reverse a prior ruling requiring that he post a bond covering the full amount in order to halt enforcement while he appeals the judgment in New York Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit.

Trump's financial constraints are being laid bare as he appeals Judge Arthur Engoron's Feb. 16 ruling that he and his co-defendants schemed for years to deceive banks and insurers by inflating his wealth on financial statements used to secure loans and make deals.

If the appeals court does not intervene, James can seek to enforce the judgment starting March 25. James, a Democrat, has said she will seek to seize some of Trump's assets if he is unable to pay.

Still, even if the higher court rejects his appeal, Trump is not entirely out of options. He might appeal to the state's highest court, quickly sell an asset or seek help from a wealthy supporter.

Trump's team has also left the door open to exploring a bankruptcy for corporate entities implicated in the case, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. That option, however, is politically fraught during a presidential race in which he is the presumptive Republican nominee, and for now it appears unlikely.


With interest, Trump owes the state $456.8 million. That amount is increasing nearly $112,000 each day. In all, he and co-defendants, including his company, sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. and other executives, owe $467.3 million. To obtain a bond, they would be required to post collateral covering 120% of the judgment, or about $557.5 million, Trump's lawyers said.

The company providing the bond would essentially promise to cover Trump's judgment if he lost an appeal and failed to pay.

Trump maintains that he is worth several billion dollars, but much of his wealth is tied up in his skyscrapers, golf courses and other properties. Few underwriters were willing to issue such a large bond and none would accept Trump's real estate assets as collateral, instead requiring cash or cash equivalents, such as stocks or bonds, his lawyers said.

Trump has more than $350 million in cash, a recent New York Times analysis found, far short of what he needs.

Trump's lawyers said freeing up cash by offloading some of Trump's properties in a "fire sale" would be impractical because such cut-rate deals would result in massive, irrecoverable losses.

Under the law, James could have moved to collect from Trump as soon as Engoron ruled, but she offered a 30-day grace period, until March 25. It is unclear whether she will provide Trump extra time or if she will move swiftly to collect. Nor is it clear whether the appellate court will rule on his plea for help before the deadline.

Trump could also seek to appeal to New York's highest court, and it is unclear whether James will hold off on the seizure while he pursues that route.

Not mentioned in Trump's court filings Monday was his potential financial windfall from a looming deal to put his social media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, on the stock market under the ticker symbol DJT.

A shareholder meeting is scheduled for Friday. If the deal is approved, Trump would own at least 58% of shares in the company, which runs his Truth Social platform. Depending on share price, that could be worth several billion dollars.


Trump is asking a full panel of the intermediate appeals court, the Appellate Division of the state's trial court, to stay the Engoron judgment while he appeals. His lawyers previously proposed a $100 million bond, but Appellate Division Judge Anil C. Singh rejected that after an emergency hearing on Feb. 28. A stay is a legal mechanism pausing collection of a judgment during an appeal.

In a court filing last week, Senior Assistant Solicitor General Dennis Fan urged the full appellate panel to reject what he dubbed the defense's "trust us" argument, contending that without a bond to secure the judgment Trump may attempt to evade enforcement at a later date and force the state to "expend substantial public resources" to collect the money owed.

A full bond is necessary, Fan wrote, in part because Trump's lawyers "have never demonstrated that Mr. Trump's liquid assets -- which may fluctuate over time -- will be enough to satisfy the full amount of this judgment following appeal."

Trump's lawyers asked the Appellate Division panel to consider oral arguments on its request, and preemptively sought permission to appeal a losing result to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Singh did grant some of Trump's requests, including pausing a three-year ban on him seeking loans from New York banks. In their court filing Monday, Trump's lawyers did not address whether they have sought a bank loan to cover the cost of the judgment or obtain cash for use as bond collateral.

Trump appealed on Feb. 26, a few days after Engoron's judgment was made official. His lawyers have asked the Appellate Division to decide whether Engoron "committed errors of law and/or fact" and whether he abused his discretion or "acted in excess" of his jurisdiction.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing and claimed that James and Engoron, both Democrats, are out to get him.

"This is a motion to stay the unjust, unconstitutional, un-American judgment from New York Judge Arthur Engoron in a political witch hunt brought by a corrupt attorney general," Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump's campaign, said in a statement. "A bond of this size would be an abuse of the law, contradict bedrock principles of our republic, and fundamentally undermine the rule of law in New York."

Trump wasn't required to pay his penalty or post a bond in order to appeal, and filing the appeal did not automatically halt enforcement of the judgment. Trump would receive an automatic stay if he were to put up money, assets or an appeal bond covering what he owes.


In all, Trump has more than $543 million in personal legal liabilities from three civil court judgments in the past year. Bonding requirements could add at least $100 million to that total.

In January, a jury ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she accused him in 2019 of sexually assaulting her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. Earlier this month, after his lawyers made similar arguments that he be excused from posting a bond, Trump did secure a $91.6 million bond to cover 110% of the Carroll judgment while he appeals.

Trump, who obtained that bond from the insurance giant Chubb, pledged an investment account at Charles Schwab as collateral, records show. He most likely pledged more than $100 million in cash and stocks and bonds that he could sell in a hurry -- investments that are now no longer available for him to use in the civil fraud case.

A nearly $500 million bond, Trump's lawyers wrote Monday, "is unprecedented for a private company."

Yet Trump's legal team "devoted a substantial amount of time, money, and effort" to finding one, according to a court filing by Alan Garten, the top lawyer at Trump's family business.

Using four separate brokers, the lawyers approached more than two dozen companies that provide appellate bonds, including Chubb and Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run for decades by Warren Buffett, Garten said. He added that most of the companies were either unable or unwilling to handle a bond of this size, and that none were willing to accept property as collateral.

Their best bet appeared to be Chubb, but within the past week, Chubb notified Trump's lawyers that it, too, could not accept property as collateral.

Trump's company has not ruled out the possibility of having the corporate entities declare bankruptcy, the people with knowledge of the discussions said. That move would automatically halt the judgment against those entities and prevent James from seizing some of the former president's properties.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Sisak of The Associated Press and by Ben Protess, Kate Christobek and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.

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