Former Trump Land-Use Lawyer Ordered to Give Documents to N.Y. AG
(Bloomberg) -- A former land-use lawyer for Donald Trump’s company was ordered by a New York judge to hand over hundreds of documents to state officials investigating whether the president’s real-estate business falsely reported property values to get loans or tax benefits.
Charles Martabano went too far in asserting attorney-client privilege over documents relating to his past work for the Trump Organization, Justice Arthur Engoron ruled Oct. 30. The judge reviewed the documents before ordering Martabano to hand them over to New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Engoron agreed with James that some of the lawyer’s private communication lost their privilege after they were later revealed to third parties. The judge also said documents about business decisions aren’t automatically privileged just because a lawyer was involved.
“The mere presence of an attorney on an email chain amongst an organization’s employees does not trigger the cloak of attorney-client privilege,” Engoron wrote. “Moreover, a client waives the privilege if communications are made in the presence of a third party.”
The probe is one of several legal matters that could hinder Trump’s business in coming years, especially if he loses his bid for re-election this week.
James took legal action in August to enforce a half-dozen subpoenas for testimony and documents, culminating in a ruling in her favor that required Trump’s Manhattan-based company to start handing over more documents and forced the president’s son, Eric Trump, to sit for a sworn deposition last month.
Martabano’s lawyer, George Calcagnini, declined to comment.
The documents held by Martabano are likely to shed light on the Trump Organization’s effort to develop Seven Springs, an obscure property on 212 acres outside New York City that’s the centerpiece of the probe. The attorney general is examining whether the Trump Organization gave an accurate valuation for the property when it was used to claim about $21.1 million in tax deductions for donating a conservation easement for the 2015 tax year.
The probe was triggered by congressional testimony by the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who has fallen out with his ex-boss. Trump’s 40 Wall Street skyscraper and his Chicago hotel are among the properties that are part of the probe.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.