Donald Trump’s business history has been so filled with disastrous ventures that it’s been hard to keep track of them all.
No longer. Digital World Acquisition Corp., which is the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, taking Trump’s “Truth Social” media platform public, has conveniently listed them in a document it is required to file publicly before selling stock. DWAC is aiming to raise at least $875 million.
Some followers of Trumpworld may find that the S-4 registration statement filed Monday in anticipation of the Trump-SPAC merger makes hilarious reading. It’s certainly thorough, though there’s always the chance that a business failure here or there escaped its drafters’ notice.
The litany appears in a section of the S-4 headed “Risk Factors,” specifically “Risks Related to our Chairman President Donald J. Trump.”
Because the success of the merged company depends in part on “the reputation and popularity of its Chairman, President Donald J. Trump,” his background is obviously pertinent.
The document also lists other more typical risks, including regulatory and competitive issues and “fires, floods, earthquakes, power losses, telecommunications failures, break-ins, and similar events,” but never mind them now.
Let’s delve instead into the Trump-related risks.
“A number of companies that were associated with President Trump have filed for bankruptcy,” the document states. “There can be no assurances that TMTG [that is, Trump Media & Technology Group] will not also become bankrupt.”
Let’s start with Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City:
“The Trump Taj Mahal, which was built and owned by President Trump, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991. The Trump Plaza, the Trump Castle, and the Plaza Hotel, all owned by President Trump at the time, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992. THCR, which was founded by President Trump in 1995, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004. Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc., the new name given to Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts after its 2004 bankruptcy, declared bankruptcy in 2009.”
Then there’s the list of “companies that had license agreements with President Trump [that] have failed”:
“Trump Shuttle, Inc., launched by President Trump in 1989, defaulted on its loans in 1990 and ceased to exist by 1992. Trump University, founded by President Trump in 2005, ceased operations in 2011 amid lawsuits and investigations regarding the company’s business practices. Trump Vodka, a brand of vodka produced by Drinks Americas under license from the Trump Organization, was introduced in 2005 and discontinued in 2011.”
Also, “Trump Mortgage, LLC, a financial services company founded by President Trump in 2006, ceased operations in 2007. GoTrump.com, a travel site founded by President Trump in 2006, ceased operations in 2007. Trump Steaks, a brand of steak and other meats founded by President Trump in 2007, discontinued sales two months after its launch.”
The S-4 also observes that “President Trump is involved in numerous lawsuits and other matters that could damage his reputation, cause him to be distracted from the business or could force him to resign from TMTG’s board of directors.”
Among them, the document specifies that “a congressional committee is investigating President Trump’s role, if any, in violence at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Two groups of U.S. Capitol Police officers, in two separate lawsuits, have sued President Trump for allegedly inciting riots on that date.”
Further, the S-4 mentions other “ongoing litigation involving President Trump related to the 2020 election,” including a lawsuit filed by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and a criminal investigation launched by “the Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney’s office … into President Trump’s alleged interference in the presidential election.”
Also, “the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform is investigating President Trump’s alleged destruction and removal of classified documents and White House records, as well as potential inaccurate financial statements filed by the Trump Organization in relation to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. “
Separate investigations have been launched by “the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney, the New York Attorney General, and the Westchester County District Attorney to determine if the Trump Organization made false valuations of property to avoid tax liability and for other financial benefits.”
The document continues, “On April 25, 2022, a New York state court judge held President Trump in civil contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for documents related to the New York Attorney General’s investigation of the Trump Organization. President Trump, along with his three eldest children (including Donald Trump, Jr., a TMTG board Member), are defendants in a class action lawsuit accusing them and The Trump Corporation of defrauding investors in exchange for secret payments from multiple companies.”
Also, “The Trump Organization recently paid $750,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the District of Columbia accusing the organization of misusing nonprofit funds from the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee.”
On top of that, “President Trump is the defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by E. Jean Carroll who claims that President Trump defamed her when he denied her allegations of sexual assault against him. In the past, President Trump has been involved in multiple lawsuits and settlements — and the subject of numerous accusations that did not result in legal action — related to sexual conduct and alleged misconduct.”
For investors, the scariest line in the entire document may be this: “The foregoing does not purport to be an exhaustive list.”
The S-4 cites a USA Today article from 2016 finding that “over the previous three decades President Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal and state courts…. In the 1,300 cases where the record establishes the outcome, President Trump settled 175 times, lost 38, won 450, and had another 137 cases end with some other outcome. In the other 500 cases, judges dismissed plaintiffs’ claims against President Trump.”
So if you’re inclined to invest with Donald Trump, don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Michael Hiltzik is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.