How to succeed in business without really succeeding
by Tom Sullivan
“What, exactly, is Donald Trump’s business?” asks The New Yorker‘s Adam Davidson. The Trump Organization seems to have been in and out of so many unrelated ventures and manages to profit even as the projects themselves fail. Middle-class housing, luxury housing, casinos, licensing agreements. All require different business models and skill sets. So what is it Trump really does?
“It is becoming increasingly clear that, in the language of business schools,” Davidson writes, “the Trump Organization’s core competency is in profiting from misrepresentation and deceit and, potentially, fraud.
The New York Times on October 2 gave a master class in forensic reporting that uncovered how much the Trump Organization profits from “defrauding state and federal governments through tax fraud.” All while being bailed out by his father after one failed venture after another. Now, reporting from ProPublica and WNYC reveals how Trump profits from “patterns of deceptive practices” found in Trump deals around the globe.
“Pump and Trump” catalogs the ways in which the Trump Organization misrepresents its involvement in construction projects that bear the Trump name. By inflating the number of units sold and the amount of Trump money on the line, the Trump family lures investors into projects that go bankrupt with remarkable frequency. Trump himself manages to walk away with the up-front profits.
It is hard to understand why developers would, again and again, pay the Trumps an unusually large amount of money up front and then a significant share of profits just for their name, especially when their track record of success is so low. One explanation could be that everyone involved is bad at business. The Trumps, their partners, the banks, and others involved simply don’t do proper due diligence, don’t think through the potential risks of a project, and aren’t dissuaded by Trump’s long record of failure. Another explanation, though, is that they are good at a different business. They are not in the real-estate industry. Perhaps, the evidence suggests, some of Trump’s partners are in the money-laundering and financial-fraud industries.
ProPublica, like the New York Times before it, explores deal after artful deal, shadow buyer after shell company, and bankruptcy after bankruptcy how investors take baths and Trump takes their money. Another Trump core competency is getting away with it.
Now, in his hubris he has by seeking the presidency drawn the attention of the world’s greatest criminal investigators. Nominally in his employ, members of the Department of Justice actually work for the people of the United States. Trump is riding the tiger and dare not let go, just as his Republican Party dares not let go of the grifters, paranoids, propagandists, and politics of resentment it rode to control of all three branches of government.
On Wednesday, Digby posted Banana Republic Watch warning that along with accomplices running interference in Congress, Trump is using the machinery of government to evade scrutiny of himself, his business, and his executive branch allies. Independent reporting suggests he may have to go full banana Republican if he hopes to keep himself from being eaten.
Bruce Geller and CBS once sent the IMF into banana republics to cut the legs out from under leaders like those trying to establish one in here the U.S.
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