- Trump’s expert accountant testified over the course of three days in his NY civil fraud trial.
- He said accountants bear ultimate responsibility for Trump’s net worth statement.
- When asked, the key defense witness could not estimate how much Trump was paying for his testimony.
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In three days of testimony, Donald Trump’s top accounting expert in his New York civil fraud trial was stumped by a single, simple math question.
“How much are you being paid?”
The judge had asked the key defense witness a question about the consultancy fees just before he left the stand on Thursday morning.
“My firm is being paid,” replied the witness, Jason Flemons, a forensic accountant and senior managing director of Ankura, an international consulting firm.
New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron adjusted his question.
The judge asked, “How much of your bill has been paid and how much has not been paid.” This also proved to be a question reversal.
“It’s hard to say,” Flemons replied. “Because, as your Honor may know, there were some other experts in my firm” who were working for the Trump defense team, he explained.
“Let’s get it done on a joint basis, then,” the judge suggested.
“It’s hard for me to say,” the accountant said again. “I am not involved in the billing process.”
Asked how much Trump was billed per hour for his work on the case, Flemons said, “I believe it’s $925 but that’s the amount my firm bills.”
Kevin Wallace, one of Attorney General Letitia James’ lead lawyers, asked, “Do you have an estimate of the time spent on the case”.
“I don’t know,” Flemons replied.
The next witness, Steven Collins, another Ankura consultant and expert on government contracts, had a ready answer. When asked directly how much he was being paid, he said, “I believe it is $925.” He estimated that he had worked “forty to sixty hours” on Trump’s defense.
This strange conversation with Flemons took place on a morning in which he detailed his testimony over the past two days on Trump’s behalf.
James alleges that Trump wildly overstated his net worth in statements he issued to banks, insurers and tax authorities — by as much as $3.6 billion a year. She is seeking to permanently ban him and his two eldest sons from doing business in New York.
Engoron, in a pre-trial ruling, has already found that Trump’s net worth statements were fraudulent. He has ordered that Trump’s New York-headquartered real estate company, the Trump Organization, be put into receivership and that its assets be “disintegrated” or sold. The order has been appealed and is still not fully clarified or even partially implemented.
On Tuesday, Flemons, a former fraud enforcer for the Securities and Exchange Commission, testified that a variety of “methods” can be used in coming up with estimated assets and asset values. These methods can come up with net-worth values that differ from each other by “orders of magnitude,” he said.
On Wednesday, Flemons agreed with the stance that there were “obvious” problems with Trump’s decade-long annual net worth statements. But he said Trump’s accountants have ultimate responsibility for what is in the statements, a claim with which the AG’s office and judges disagree.
On Thursday, the AG’s lawyer Wallace asked him about that “orders of magnitude” comment.
He asked, “How can you get values that are orders of magnitude different” that both reflect the current value of the asset.
“Estimated present value is not an exact science,” he said.
Testimony in Trump’s defense case continues Friday.