June 24, 2024 9:20 am

Trump needs a $464m bond in six days. What if he can’t get it?

Donald Trump’s lawyers are asking a New York court to put a $464m (£365m) fine in a civil fraud case on hold, as the former president finds himself in a precarious financial situation that could ultimately see his most prized properties taken.

If Mr Trump wants to continue his appeal in the case, he must submit the full amount in cash or secure a bond from a private company by 25 March.

But on Monday, his lawyers said that despite their “diligent efforts” it had been “practically impossible” to find a company willing to act as a guarantor of the full sum and asked for a pause.

“We really are in a moment of serious crisis for Trump personally, as well as for his business,” said Professor Will Thomas from the University of Michigan Ross Business School.

So with the clock seemingly ticking, here’s what could happen next in the case.

1) Trump gets a pause

A panel of appeals court judges will decide by 25 March whether the $464m judgement can be paused while Mr Trump appeals.

This would be a best case scenario for the former president, who is no doubt eager to avoid having to pay an estimated 16% of what Forbes reports is his $2.6bn net worth.

The fact that Mr Trump has assets in the state of New York that can be seized, however, could reassure a court that he would be able to pay the penalty if he lost the appeal, according to Mr Thomas.

“I think it is very likely that he will get some kind of stay – unless they find some other stopgap option,” he told the BBC.

Renato Mariotti, a lawyer who represents large real-estate developers, said it was hard to predict how the court would treat a former president.

“But my clients wouldn’t get a pause,” he said.

2) He secures a bond

Mr Trump could still find a way to secure a bond – for a fee – if his request for a stay is rejected, although according to his lawyers, this could be difficult.

The bonding company would be agreeing to pay the financial penalty if Mr Trump loses his appeal and cannot do so himself.

But his legal team said they had already approached 30 companies without success.

To secure a bond, an individual has to demonstrate to the company providing the guarantee that they have enough liquidity – usually in the form of cash plus stocks or securities which can be sold quickly – to cover the amount.

Mr Mariotti said the fact he could not secure a bond could mean two things: “Trump is not nearly as wealthy as he has led the public to believe – or he didn’t prepare for this possible judgement.”

3) A compromise option

The New York appeals court could come back to Mr Trump with a middle-of-the-road option, experts said.

The court could require Mr Trump to post a bond of a smaller amount while he appeals against the ruling.

Mr Trump, however, has already asked an appeals court to allow him to post a bond covering $100m instead. His lawyers argued he would “suffer irreparable harm” if forced to pay the full sum up front.

That request was rejected by a judge.

Alternatively, the court could ask Mr Trump to sign a sworn statement saying he has assets in New York and understands they could be seized if he loses the appeal, Mr Thomas said.

Ultimately, if Mr Trump does not get a pause and the court offers no compromise option, he could appeal directly to New York’s Court of Appeals.

But with a deadline of 25 March to pay the judgement or post a bond, he is working on a tight timeline.

4) Mr Trump pays the penalty

Without a bond to cover the full amount, Mr Trump could attempt to pay the judgement with his own money.

He told a court last year that he had $400m in liquid assets.

To get cash quickly to cover the rest of the fine, experts said he could try to refinance his properties or quickly sell some of his assets – but selling real estate properties could take time.

He could also declare bankruptcy, which would allow him to avoid paying the judgement.

But bankruptcy could be costly – and prove a hit to Mr Trump’s reputation in an election year, Mr Thomas said. “Practically, it’s the most devastating thing that Donald Trump could ever do to his self image,” he said.

5) New York takes Trump’s assets

If Mr Trump cannot find a way to pay the fraud judgement or secure a bond by 25 March, the New York Attorney General Letitia James can begin to collect the fee and take his assets.

She has said she will do so if he fails to pay.

Experts say this is another worst case scenario for Mr Trump, as he could lose some of his most famous properties.

They can take any of his buildings – not just those in New York – including the 58-floor Trump Tower and his sprawling Florida club, Mar-a-Lago.

  • The glitzy New York buildings that Trump could lose

Ms James would likely not sell these assets until the appeals process is over, Mr Thomas said. This is because if she were to lose the appeal to Mr Trump, her office would have to pay him back after losing value on properties they sold quickly.

But if Ms James does eventually sell the assets, there would be a court-ordered process to do so, with the first $464m going to New York state to pay the judgement, and any money left over going to Mr Trump, said Mitchell Epner, an attorney who handles commercial litigation.

Mr Epner said the state could seize multiple assets, as none of Mr Trump’s properties on their own appear to be worth $450m.

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