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Ceresney flashback: deposing ‘The Donald,’ part II

Bruce Carton | August 10, 2016

I wrote here last month about a deposition that Andrew Ceresney took back in 2007 of the Republican Party Nominee for President, Donald Trump. Ceresney, who is now the SEC's Director of Enforcement, was at the time a partner in private practice at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton.

An article in today's Washington Post provides many more interesting details about that deposition, including the fact that one of Ceresney's colleagues working on the case and the deposition with him (defending a New York Times reporter named Timothy L. O'Brien in a lawsuit filed by Trump) was none other than ... Mary Jo White! White, who is now the chair of the SEC, was also a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton at the time of the deposition in 2007.

As described in the Post article, the December 2007 deposition was "an interrogation unlike anything else in the public record of Trump’s life." For two days, Ceresney and White hammered Trump with questions focused primarily on his honesty:

The lawyers confronted the mogul with his past statements — and with his company’s internal documents, which often showed those statements had been incorrect or invented. The lawyers were relentless. Trump, the bigger-than-life mogul, was vulnerable — cornered, out-prepared and under oath.

Thirty times, they caught him.

In one of the 30 instances, for example, Ceresney questioned Trump about his statement that he had been paid "more than a million" dollars to deliver a 2005 speech at New York City’s Learning Annex. Under oath, Trump admitted that he had only been paid approximately $400,000 in cash. The rest of the amount Trump claimed to have been paid consisted of the intangible value of publicity. Trump said the publicity from the speech helped his brand, so "in his mind he’d been paid more than $1 million, even though his actual payment was $400,000," the Post reported.

Other examples included:

  • Trump claimed in a TV interview that “twenty-two thousand or so” people worked for him. In his deposition, Trump admitted that he did not have 22,000 employees on his payroll, and that many of these people were "employees of other companies that acted as suppliers and subcontractors to his businesses."
  • In O’Brien’s book, Trump stated that he “had zero borrowings from [my father’s] estate. . . . I give you my word.” In his deposition, he admitted to borrowing "in the $9 million range” from his father.
  • In another book, Trump claimed that membership at one of his golf courses was a "bargain" at $300,000. In his deposition he admitted that the membership cost was $200,000.

Trump's lawsuit against O'Brien was dismissed in 2009 after five years of litigation.