Among the allegations in Michael Cohen’s blistering testimony Wednesday about President Donald Trump is that his former boss “cheated” — Cohen’s word — to inflate his net worth. Trump’s former lawyer said the documents were generated as Trump was seeking to move up on the list of Forbes billionaires as well as obtain loans from Deutsche Bank in an effort to buy the Buffalo Bills.
The information provided by Cohen is extremely confusing. For two years, 2011 and 2012, he offered up documents that had been produced in June. For 2013, he submitted one had been produced in March. The two earlier years also include a more detailed list of Trump’s assets and liabilities. It is not exactly clear who compiled the documents. But the final document submitted by Cohen does not list any payments to Trump’s loans. And there are four loans that have the same values listed for 2012 as 2013, perhaps suggesting no payments were made on them.
Trump’s cash and securities values fell by $89 million from 2011 to 2012, but then shot up by $176.4 million from 2012 to 2013.
It’s also notable that Trump offers values for specific buildings in these documents. Trump Tower, for instance, is valued at $150 million plus, a top range value in his Office of Government Ethics disclosure forms. In the 2012 document released by Cohen, that building is valued at $501 million.
The documents offer fresh valuations of Trump’s net worth, produced specifically for Forbes, according to Cohen. Trump has guarded access to specifics about his financials and is still the only modern president not to release his tax returns. These documents do not seem to represent official valuations, however, so it’s possible they should be viewed as ballpark estimates.
Here’s a timeline of the documents released by Cohen alongside what has been reported about Trump’s activities at the time:
Forbes says in March: Trump is #420 on the billionaire list, with a listed net worth of $2.7 billion.
Trump says in June: Trump statement of financial condition released by Cohen argues Trump has a net worth of $4.26 billion.
Forbes says in March: Trump is worth $3.1 billion.
Trump says in June: Statement on financial condition released by Cohen argues Trump has a net worth of $4.56 billion.
Forbes says in March: Trump is #423 on the billionaire list, with a listed net worth of 3.2 billion.
Trump says in March: His summary of net worth, as released by Cohen, lists Trump’s net worth at $8.66 billion. More than making up for some dips in value elsewhere is a new line item for $4 billion worth of “brand value” even though his income from real estate licensing had fallen more than $10 million that year.
March: Buffalo Bills founder Ralph Wilson dies and several bidders try to buy the team during the year. Trump later tells Sports Illustrated about the negotiations and how fellow billionaire Terry Pegula got the team. “I bid a billion dollars,” Trump told the magazine a year later. “All cash on the table. He bought it for a billion-two, I believe, although they say it was a billion-four.” Cohen says Trump inflated his net worth to get a loan from Deutsche Bank for the deal.
October: Trump is still frustrated he didn’t get the Bills and tweets: “The @nfl games are so boring now that actually, I’m glad I didn’t get the Bills. Boring games, too many flags, too soft!”
June: Trump announces his bid for the White House on June 16.
Forbes says in June: Trump is worth $4.1 billion, a figure the magazine reports is half what Trump claimed — $8.738 billion. The magazine adds that Trump has been inflating his net worth. Cohen will later include this story as an exhibit for his testimony.
March: The Guardian publishes a story headlined “How Trump’s $50 million golf club became $1.4 million when it came time to pay tax.” Cohen will later include the story as an exhibit for his testimony.
CNN has also reported on this phenomenon. In fact, there have been disputes over property taxes on all but one of Trump’s US golf properties. Trump argues for tax purposes that the Westchester County, New York, course is worth $1.5 million. In a filing for the Office of Government Ethics he says it is worth more than $50 million.
Forbes says in October: The magazine estimates Trump is worth $3.7 billion.
November: Trump elected president.
January: Trump inaugurated.
Forbes says in March: Trump falls 220 spots to #544, with a listed net worth of $3.1 billion.
Forbes says in March: Trump falls another 222 spots to #766, with a listed net worth of $3.5 billion.