Billionaires tried to help finance Trump’s bonds in a civil fraud case, sources say

By | March 26, 2024

By Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -Some major Republican donors banded together to help the U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump fund the initial bond amount needed to cover his $454 million civil fraud judgment before Monday’s deadline, three sources on the matter told Reuters.

Former Republican President Trump must post bail in a civil case in New York that found him liable for fraudulently inflating his wealth by billions of dollars to guarantee better loan and insurance terms.

On Monday he won a bid to delay execution of the sentence if he posted a smaller bail of $175 million within 10 days, but until that latest delay he appeared to be struggling to raise the original amount and risked that his property would be confiscated.

Billionaire hedge fund founder Johannes Paulson was involved in behind-the-scenes efforts by donors who were concerned about Trump’s legal troubles and wanted to help provide money for the bond, two of the sources told Reuters. Oil and gas magnate Harold Hamm was also involved, one of those sources said.

The sources asked not to be identified to speak freely about the matter, which has not previously been reported.

Paulson, the founder of Paulson & Co, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Reached by phone and asked about his involvement, Hamm, the founder of oil company Continental Resources, appeared to hang up. A spokesperson for Hamm did not respond to requests for comment.

In response to a request for comment, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said there was “no coordinated effort.” He added that Trump had “more than enough cash” to pay the judgment in full.

A fourth source, a Trump ally, said he had direct knowledge of a donor who offered more than $10 million in the bond over the weekend before being told it was not necessary.

After Monday’s court ruling that allowed a smaller bond, Trump said he could pay now.

“I will put up the $175 million in cash or bonds or securities or whatever is needed very quickly,” Trump told reporters in New York.

Surety companies would likely have required Trump to post about $558 million in collateral for the original bond, or 120% of the judgment, Trump’s lawyers said.

Full details of the billionaires’ fundraising efforts, such as how much each donor had potentially pledged, were not immediately available. One source said the group had collected the full amount originally due on Monday. It was not clear whether the megadonors would offer to help finance the new bond.

It was also unclear whether Trump would have to provide collateral or other guarantees to the benefactors.

The potential help from Trump’s billionaire allies shows he still has entrenched support in his quest to reclaim the White House in the Nov. 5 presidential election against Democrat Joe Biden.

It also highlights how big donor money is playing a potentially different role in this presidential election, as Trump faces major financial pressure amid multiple legal judgments and charges.

Paulson and Hamm are both involved in an upcoming campaign fundraiser for Trump that has nothing to do with the bond effort. An invitation lists Paulson as host and Hamm as co-chair.

Money raised at the April 6 event in Palm Beach, Florida, will go to Trump’s campaign, the Republican National Committee, state Republican parties and a group that has paid some of Trump’s legal fees, according to the invitation.

Trump has discussed selecting Paulson as his Treasury secretary if he wins the presidency, according to a separate source briefed on the matter.

LITTLE TRANSPARENCY ON BOND

There is no obligation to disclose the source of funds obtained for a bond.

For example, the terms of Trump’s $91.6 million bond for a defamation judgment in favor of writer E. Jean Carroll were not disclosed. That bond was posted on March 8 by Federal Insurance Co, part of insurer Chubb, which said bonds must be fully collateralized.

Under Trump’s civil fraud verdict, the bond would prevent the state’s seizure of his assets while he appeals Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 16 ruling against him. A bail bonds company would have to pay any payout if Trump loses an appeal and is found unable to pay.

Donors contributing to Trump’s bonds could face scrutiny from election regulators or federal prosecutors if the benefactors gave Trump amounts that exceeded campaign contribution limits.

While the payment would not be a direct donation to Trump’s campaign, federal law broadly defines political contributions as “anything of value” provided to a campaign.

About 30 surety companies contacted through four separate brokers rejected Trump’s efforts to secure the original bond needed to cover the $454 million judgment, his lawyers said earlier in March.

If the pause had not been granted and if Trump had been unable to post the original bond on Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James could have asked a court to seize assets, including valuable real estate holdings such as 40 Wall Street in Manhattan.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer. Additional reporting by Liz Hampton, Lananh Nguyen, Nathan Layne, Greg Roumeliotis, Gram Slattery, Luc Cohen, Jack Queen and Carolina Mandl. Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Nia Williams and Michael Perry)

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