The former accountant for the Trump Organization, Donald Bender, testified in a civil fraud trial that he was not responsible for the accuracy of the financial statements that he prepared for former President Donald Trump and his company.
The trial, which began on October 4, is brought by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who accuses Trump and his company of inflating the value of their assets to obtain loans and tax benefits. “This civil action seeks to end the Trump Organization’s years-long pattern of fraud,” James said in a statement.
Bender, who worked for the accounting firm Mazars USA, said that he relied on the information provided by the Trump Organization to prepare the statements of financial condition, which were used to showcase Trump’s wealth and financial performance. He said that he did not verify the value of Trump’s assets with any independent sources, and that he was not aware of any appraisals or valuations that were used to determine them.
“We relied on the client’s representations. We didn’t do anything to check them,” Bender said.
He also said that he did not know how the statements of financial condition were used by lenders or investors who received them, and that he was not involved in any negotiations or discussions with them. He said that he was only providing a service to the Trump Organization, and that it was their responsibility to ensure the statements were truthful and accurate.
“The statements of financial condition were the Trump Organization’s responsibility. They were not our responsibility,” Bender said.
Bender’s testimony contradicts the claims of the attorney general, who alleges that Trump and his company intentionally inflated the value of their assets to secure favorable loans and tax breaks, and deflated them to reduce their tax liability. The lawsuit cites several examples of alleged discrepancies, such as a 212-acre property in Westchester County, New York, that was valued at $261 million in 2012, but reported as $56.5 million in tax filings in 2015.
The attorney general is seeking to compel Trump and his company to pay restitution, damages, and penalties, and to ban them from engaging in similar conduct in the future.
The trial is expected to last for several weeks, and will feature testimony from other witnesses, including Trump’s son Eric Trump, who is the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, and Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the company, who is also facing criminal charges of tax evasion and fraud.
– Ex-accountant says statements were ‘Trump Org’s responsibility’, ABC News, November 15, 2023
– Defense presses ex-accountant on evaluation of assets, ABC News, November 10, 2023
– Trump’s penthouse value estimate boosted by millions due to his fame, accountant says, ABC News, October 5, 2023
– Breaking Down New York’s Long-Awaited Fraud Lawsuit Against Donald Trump, The New Yorker, October 4, 2023