A veteran commercial real estate appraiser took the stand on Thursday in the civil fraud case against the Trump Organization, testifying that the former president’s son, Eric Trump, was eager to assign a higher value to its Briarcliff golf course development in Westchester, New York.
David McArdle, a senior managing director in the real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield who has worked in commercial real estate for decades, was called as a witness by New York Attorney General Letitia James’s team. He testified at length about his work in 2013 on the golf course property’s appraisal as well as some other engagements with the Trump Organization.
“Eric loved this project, he thought it was very special and I didn’t disagree with him,” McArdle testified, recalling his work with Eric Trump in 2013 and noting that as a “savvy” appraiser he also sought information from the company about the cost to build out high-end duplex residential units on the property. “He shared his thoughts … and I was perfectly willing to listen; owners are a great source of information.”
However, McArdle also said appraisers typically review data from multiple sources to arrive at property valuations, and he acknowledged reaching out to another appraiser in 2013 to seeking additional “unbiased” information about the property. In an email shared in court, McArdle wrote that Eric Trump had “lofty” ideas about the golf property’s potential value.
At one point McArdle said that his team was getting close to a valuation in the low $40 million range and he did not return repeated calls from Eric Trump who sought to discuss the valuation. Ultimately, he urged others he was working with to reach out to him. “He continues to call me. I am uncomfortable not replying. Please call him,“ the email written by McArdle in 2013 that was presented by the AG’s office as evidence said.
An attorney he was working with ultimately acknowledged that Eric Trump was reached. “I spoke to Eric, he is aware that the more supportable value at this point is around 45 million,” the email stated, noting that it complied with IRS appraisal standards.
The Briarcliff property was noted by Judge Arthur Engeron in a ruling in the case last month. He noted that the golf club portion of the Briarcliff property, not including the undeveloped land, was valued at $16.5 million in April of 2014 and then later that year Donald Trump valued the golf club portion at $73.4 million. Defendants, he wrote, attempted to rebut the “strong showing of fraud” arguing that they were not obligated to use market value but could use a “fixed asset approach to valuation. But the judge said “it is false and misleading to use a fixed-assets evaluation.”
The testimony comes in the third week of the trial of the case that was filed in September 2022, which alleges that the former president — with help from his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization including his former CFO Allen Weisselberg — falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to secure bank loans for the company on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, among other motives.
While real estate valuations are part of the typically routine financial reporting practices, the day-to-day approach of Trump and some of his officers to financial reporting was far from routine, as described in the ruling from New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur F. Engoron.
In his 35-page decision, Engoron found that New York Attorney General Letitia James had satisfied her burden of establishing liability on the part of the defendants related to their use of fraudulent documents that inflated the value of many of Trump’s signature real estate assets.
Trump’s lawyers have appealed a ruling from New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron — who found Trump and his company liable for fraud in the case. The former president has derided the suit as politically motivated and his attorneys have argued that property appraisals are subjective.