Lawyers for Donald Trump and former students of his now-defunct Trump University filed an agreement in court to settle lawsuits alleging that the president-elect defrauded them, signaling that a deal announced last month remains on track for a judge's approval next year.
Trump agreed last month to pay $25 million to settle two class-action lawsuits in San Diego and one by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Under the terms, the president-elect admits no wrongdoing.
The filing late Monday puts a formal agreement in front of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to determine if it is "fair, reasonable and adequate" under federal law. When announcing the terms in his courtroom on Nov. 18, Curiel called it "the beginning of a healing process that this country sorely needs."
Curiel's preliminary approval would trigger additional procedural steps — such as formally notifying class members and giving them an opportunity to object — and set the stage for final approval next year.
About 7,000 students who paid up to $35,000 a year are expected to be eligible for refunds of at least half of what they paid to attend seminars that promised to share Trump's real estate secrets. Plaintiff attorneys agreed to waive their fees.
The lawsuits alleged that Trump University gave nationwide seminars that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring people to spend more and, in the end, failing to deliver on its promises. A San Diego trial that had been scheduled to begin Nov. 28 would have been pinned on whether jurors believed Trump misled customers by calling the business a university when it wasn't an accredited school and by advertising that he hand-picked instructors.
Trump has strongly denied the allegations and said during the campaign that he would come to San Diego to testify after winning the presidency. Last month, Trump said he settled "for a small fraction of the potential award" because he needed to focus on the country.
The settlement spared Trump a trial that would have lasted weeks and guaranteed constant news coverage of a controversy that dogged him during the campaign.