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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 3, 2013

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Trump University, now called the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, is facing a $40 million lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

As the lawsuit continues, and media coverage focuses on interviews with past students, reached out to former instructors who reveal insight into the workings of the former Trump University.

One former instructor, who requested to remain anonymous, claims that she was hired by Trump University’s Entrepreneurship Mastery Program years ago. She instantly spotted that it was a racket.

Originally, she was surprised by how expensive Trump University was and now believes that celebrities should be careful when offering their brand name in areas outside of their expertise.

“Trump’s name is fine to link with luxury real estate properties but education requires a level of honesty and caring that his brand and organization may simply not possess,” she said.

The former instructor recounted her experience and just how the whole situation tipped her off that something was amiss with Trump University.

“A few years back I was contacted about teaching a marketing webinar,” she said. “The ‘broadcast studio’ was a messy conference room in a random office building. People dialed in to listen and they asked questions at the end. I wasn’t paid to teach and when I asked if I could get a list of attendees, I was refused. The whole experience was very unprofessional and hurried.”

Despite delivering great content in her speaking, she felt that the Trump name was just being used to draw in free speakers and to convince attendees into paying for access.

A second instructor also spoke about his negative experience with Trump University.

On the condition of anonymity, he explained that at the time he needed income, hence why he decided to teach for Trump University in the first place. The whole experience itself has been so caustic to him that he has sworn never to associate with any coaching company ever again.

He was actually fired from Trump University for suggesting that two students receive a refund. One student was leveraged with debt and faced a foreclosure on her home. The second student was disabled and also under severe debt prior to being enrolled into the program. After going through the program, that student was paying for its $7,500 tuition with student loans at 25 percent interest.

Trump University told the instructor that he was being terminated for failing to call three students, which this former instructor believes was simply an excuse to remove him as a result of his suggesting that two students receive refunds.

The Hallmarks of a Scam

Seminar industry veteran and former President of the National Capital Area Professional Speakers Association Tom Antion said that he suspects Trump University used several common seminar scam techniques. 

“The big thing is misrepresentation, which comes in many forms,” he said.

As a long-time veteran of the seminar industry, Antion has spoken at seminars that used the term “university,” yet never claimed to be institutions of higher learning. Trump University’s alleged business operations signaled red flags in his eyes for a number of suspicious activities.

Namely, and like many seminar scams, Trump University claims that its instructors are handpicked by its figurehead, while the Attorney General asserts that Donald Trump is no more involved in selecting instructors than he is in forming the curriculum.

Even more worrisome is that many of the “seasoned” real estate investors who acted as instructors were only available on evenings and weekends, thus implying they had day jobs.

But Trump University’s misrepresentation goes beyond the type of instructors they have.

Many students claim that Trump’s “secrets,” which were supposed to be divulged in these classes, were never actually taught and that students never received the mentoring they were promised.

One outrageous claim that sticks out to Antion is that many instructors claimed that Trump University students could make $50,000 or more on their first real estate deal and that their expensive training could be made back almost instantly.

Students were also deceptively told they would meet Donald Trump himself, yet in the end were only offered to get their picture taken next to a cardboard cutout of the celebrity billionaire.

While Antion did say that at least a few former students have publicly defended Trump University, the fact that so many are angered enough to warrant a lawsuit is evidence enough that they clearly did not receive what they were promised.

Experienced at detecting scams in the seminar industry and Antion believes that the charisma-based success of public speaking attracts sociopathic personalities.

In fact, one narcissistic speaker that scammed at least 50 people was “outed” by Antion and later claimed to be a victim himself, much like Trump has done in recent interviews where he has implied that the entire lawsuit against Trump University has political motives behind it.