Former Trump executive in tears on stand at fraud trial
Jeffrey McConney has taken the witness stand for a fourth day at Donald Trump's civil fraud trial. Photo: AAP
Tearing up as he testified, Donald Trump’s former corporate controller has said he “gave up” on his longtime job because he was worn out by the company’s legal woes.
Jeffrey McConney was on the witness stand for a fourth day in six weeks on Tuesday at the former president’s civil fraud trial when defence lawyer Jesus M. Suarez asked why McConney no longer works at the Trump Organisation.
McConney paused, took off his glasses, raised his hands in the air, wiped his eyes with tissues that a court officer brought to him and started reflecting aloud about his more than 35 years at the company, ending in February.
“I’m very proud of the work that I did,” he said, then launched into a litany of investigations and legal proceedings in which he’s been subpoenaed or called to testify.
“I just wanted to relax and stop being accused of misrepresenting assets for the company that I loved working for. I’m sorry,” he testified, his voice trembling.
McConney is among defendants in the trial in which New York Attorney-General Letitia James alleges that Trump and executives at his company fraudulently inflated his wealth on his financial statements, which were used to secure loans and insurance.
Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, has deplored the case as a political attack by James, a Democrat. He contends the documents actually underestimated his net worth. And he has emphasised that the statements came with notes saying that they weren’t audited and that others might reach different conclusions about his financial position — disclaimers that he characterises as telling recipients to vet the numbers themselves.
Former controller McConney said he has retired and is receiving $US500,000 ($A763,000) in severance payments.
His exit came months after he was granted immunity to testify for the prosecution at the Trump Organisation’s New York criminal tax fraud trial, where he admitted breaking the law to help fellow executives avoid taxes on company-paid perks. The company was convicted and is appealing.
At the current civil trial, McConney was called to the stand last month by the attorney general’s office, and again this week by defence lawyers. He has testified that he and other executives arrived at the asset values that James’ office says were wildly high.
He disclosed, for example, that the estimate for the boss’s Trump Tower penthouse was increased by $US20 million ($31 million) partly because of the value of Trump’s celebrity and that he valued Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida as though the property could be sold as a private home, though an agreement with the National Trust for Historic Preservation barred such a use.
But McConney also testified that there was no “right way” to determine valuations. He said the bases for his evaluations were clear to the outside accountants who prepared the financial statements, and he testified Tuesday that he never intended to mislead anyone or to be purposefully inaccurate.
“I think everything was justified. Numbers don’t represent fully what these assets are worth,” he said, adding that he and others at the company “felt comfortable” with the valuations.
“To be hit over the head every time with a negative comment over something is just really frustrating, and I gave up,” he said, throwing up his hands.