Election 2024 Trump

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Claremont, N.H. AP Photo/Reba Saldanha, File

NEW YORK — Deutsche Bank viewed Donald Trump as a “whale” of a client, was eager to land him and eagerly cultivated a relationship that grew from $13,000 worth of revenue to $6 million in two years, according to documents presented Wednesday at the former president’s civil fraud trial.

The bank’s dealings with Trump are a key issue in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit, which accuses Trump, his company and some executives of hoodwinking lenders and insurers by presenting them with grossly inflated statements of his asset values.

The defendants deny any wrongdoing. They have sought to show that the bank felt delighted, not deceived, by Trump and courted his business.

“We are whale hunting,” then-bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic wrote colleagues in November 2011, after she had been introduced to Trump’s son Donald Jr. but had yet to meet the elder Trump. The bankers used “whale” to refer to a very wealthy client, Vrablic testified Wednesday.

Vrablic first came into contact with the Trumps when they were looking for a loan to buy the Doral golf resort near Miami. Over the next three years, that contact blossomed into loans for that project and two others in Chicago and Washington, as well as multimillion-dollar deposits in the bank.

The bank’s revenue from its Trump business shot up from about $13,000 in 2011 to a projected $6 million in 2013, according to a bank document prepared for the then-co-chairman, Anshu Jain, before a lunch with Trump in early 2013.


The briefing document suggested “key asks” for Jain to make: “Obtain more deposits and investment management assets,” and “strategically discuss leveraging Mr. Trump’s personal and professional network within the real estate industry in NY” for the bank’s benefit.

And how did it go?

“It was a very, very nice, productive lunch,” Vrablic recalled on the stand.

The next year, her direct boss went to lunch with Trump to thank him and “ask whether we can work on other opportunities with them,” according to a document for that meeting.

James maintains that Trump’s allegedly inflated financial statements were critical to netting his company the Deutsche Bank loans at favorable rates, saving him many millions of dollars in interest.

Trump says the financial statements actually underestimated his wealth and that a disclaimer on them absolves him of liability for any problematic figures. Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, claims that James, a Democrat, is trying to harm his prospects of returning to the White House.

Judge Arthur Engoron will decide the verdict. He ruled before the trial that Trump and other defendants engaged in fraud and he ordered that a receiver take control of some of Trump’s properties, putting their future oversight in question. An appeals court has put that order on hold for now.

The trial concerns remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. James is seeking more than $300 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York.

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