By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and his adult children on Thursday urged a federal judge to dismiss a racketeering lawsuit accusing them of using the family name to promote sham marketing opportunities to vulnerable, financially struggling investors.
Calling the lawsuit “implausible,” the Trump family said in a filing in federal court in Manhattan that the four plaintiffs failed to prove there was fraud or intent to cause harm, or that any statements by Donald Trump caused losses.
A spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, who went by pseudonyms, had no immediate comment.
They accused the Trump family of having received millions of dollars of secret payments from 2005 to 2015 to endorse American Communications Network, which charged $499 for a chance to sell videophones and other goods, and two other businesses.
The lawsuit said the Trumps deliberately conned victims into believing Donald Trump stood behind the investments and thought they would pay off, when the real goal was to enrich themselves. They said this violated a federal anti-racketeering law known as RICO.
Other defendants included an affiliate of the Trump Organization and Trump‘s adult children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka.
In Thursday’s filing, the defendants suggested that the case was politically motivated, having been filed against the Republican president one week before November’s congressional elections and funded by a nonprofit whose president backs progressive causes.
They also said Trump‘s promotional statements about ACN were merely opinion, or were “puffery” that reasonable investors could not rely on, and that none of the other defendants said anything the investors might have heard.
The plaintiffs originally sued on Oct. 29, 2018, and amended their complaint on Jan. 31.
But according to the defendants, the new complaint “cures none of the original defects, and in fact only highlights the implausibility, of a lawsuit that seeks to convert a celebrity endorsement by Mr. Trump and the licensing business of the Trump family, in toto, into a RICO violation by which Plaintiffs-who paid no money to any Trump business, ever-lost $499 each.”
The plaintiffs have until March 7 to respond.
The case is Doe et al v Trump Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-09936.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Grant McCool)