Donald Trump smiles from the home page of his “university’s” website and promises to make you into a real-estate tycoon in three days.
But two Oregonians who paid thousands for that school’s courses aren’t smiling—they say the developer’s Trump Entrepreneur Initiative is a Rogue. In fact, one of the two has joined a class-action lawsuit filed April 30 in U.S. District Court in Southern California.
“Rather than serving its students as a university or college, Trump University is more like an infomercial,” says the lawsuit, referring to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative by its previous name. “The primary lesson Trump University teaches its students is how to spend more money buying more Trump seminars.”
Jeffrey Tufenkian, a 49-year-old consultant for nonprofits in Southwest Portland, is one of potentially hundreds of plaintiffs in that federal class-action suit. Tufenkian says he spent about $43,000 on April 13, 2008, by enrolling in the institute’s yearlong Elite Gold Package.
“It was a complete waste of time and money,” he says. “And I have been working for well over a year to get my money back.”
To those who would say Tufenkian should have been warier of a get-rich-quick promise, Tufenkian says he considers himself pretty savvy. “I really kick myself that I took the bait on this,” he says. “But the idea of making money in real estate itself was not a snake-oil, get-rich-quick scheme.”
The New York Daily News reported last month that Trump University changed its name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative on May 25 due to pressure from New York educators who said its use of the name “university” violated state education laws. Trump doesn’t appear in the seminars, which come to Portland three or four times a year as part of a national circuit.
The Trump Initiative did not respond to WW’s requests for comment Friday and Monday. A schedule on the website doesn’t indicate the next time it’s coming to town.
Whenever the return is, Tim Behrens won’t be there. He walked out of a similar setting in disgust on Jan. 30, 2009.
“You shouldn’t have to pay $2,000 to learn how to buy a file cabinet,” says Behrens, a 40-year-old employee recruiter from Colton who paid almost $2,000 for the Trump Initiative’s three-day apprenticeship program.
Behrens describes the conference-room seminars as full of motivational music, PowerPoints showing the presenters next to fancy cars and houses, and bogus advice.
“A lot of red flags went up,” he said. “And I said, ‘You know what? This is bull,’ and I walked out.”