Not only did Donald Trump allegedly attempt to sexually assault a former contestant on The Apprentice, he also allegedly offered her incredibly bad financial advice.
Summer Zervos, a Huntington Beach, California, restaurant owner and contestant on Season 5 of The Apprentice, recounted her harrowing experiences with the Republican presidential candidate in a Friday afternoon press conference. According to Zervos, she stayed in touch with Trump after he told her “you’re fired” on the show in the hopes he could arrange a position for her in his organization. Eventually, in 2007, Trump invited Zervos to meet him for dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. But instead of eating in the hotel’s famed Polo Lounge, Trump asked her to meet in a private bungalow on the hotel grounds, where he attempted, she says, to coerce her into having sex, kissing her “aggressively,” and “thrusting his genitals” against her. Zervos fought Trump off, telling him she came to eat dinner with him.
That’s the truly appalling part. What allegedly happened next was merely mystifying and, well, bad. After Trump stopped haranguing Zervos for sex, she says, he went on to offer some ghastly real estate guidance. As Zervos recounted at the press conference:
The conversation then focused on the fact that I had a mortgage on my home, which I told him was in good standing. He spoke about how he was able to maneuver to get out of debt. He told me that I need to let my house go into default and tell the bank they could take it back. He advised that the bank would then take anything to help rid themselves of a problem loan. He told me to call the bank and tell them I was leaving the keys on the table, and tell them to just pick it up. He said that would be a mini-version of what he does. He urged me not to make another payment on my home loan.
If you are thinking of trying this, don’t. Just don’t.
Many, many people missed payments on their mortgages during the housing crisis, around the time of Zervos and Trump’s encounter, and for years after. If only they could have convinced their mortgage lender to “take anything!” But not only did banks not make a deal, as Trump would put it; they instead immediately began to assess penalties, late fees, and other charges onto the loan, making the financial situation of the beleaguered home owner much worse. In millions of cases, the homes would be lost to foreclosure.
Even if by some miracle the kind of default Trump allegedly suggested worked (which wouldn’t happen!), it would have all but destroyed Zervos’ credit record for years. Zervos is not a multimillionaire (or billionaire) real estate developer, or someone making a mint playing a successful real estate developer on a so-called reality television program, or someone profiting by licensing her name. Zervos owned a popular restaurant in Huntington Beach. If hard times came, she would have needed excellent credit in order to even have a chance.
And didn’t she know it! Like Trump, Zervos’ restaurant-owning family declared bankruptcy in the early 1990, and lost almost everything. “They went bankrupt at the same time that Donald Trump did,” she told the Orange County Register in 2006. “He came out a little better than we did.”
So how did Trump do it? The funds Trump borrowed were significantly larger than the amount of money owed by the typical homeowner or small businessperson. Banks negotiated and made deals with Trump when his finances hit a rough patch not because he was such a savvy deal-maker and negotiator, but because they had loaned him so much money that they couldn’t afford to hang him out to dry. According to Reuters, which looked into Trump’s 1990s financial woes, these arrangements were not dictated by Trump but instead arranged by the banks and other lenders so they could get as much of their funds back as possible. It’s one thing to foreclose on a house worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, another thing entirely to take over a property worth hundreds of millions of dollars. No surprise, this is not how Trump recalls it. He claims he threatened to ensnare his lenders in legal proceedings that would go on for years, and that they immediately caved. Not true! And if Trump couldn’t get a deal the way he suggested Zervos should, certainly she wouldn’t have made it work either.
None of this to say that Trump didn’t follow his own advice. He did! But it wasn’t with banks. It was, instead, with small contractors and business owners who worked on properties including his casinos and golf courses. In a number of cases, he would refuse to pay bills, and then, when pressed, often threatened them with litigation, and then offered to settle the claims for pennies on the dollar.
They literally couldn’t say no. There’s a word for that.