MGM told to hand over Trump’s ‘Apprentice’ tapes in scam suit
A federal judge has ruled that unaired footage from President Trump‘s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality TV show should be handed over to investors who claim in a lawsuit that they were ripped off when Trump and his children repeatedly endorsed a troubled marketing company on the show.
It would be the first time outsiders would get a chance to see at least some parts of the show that weren’t publicly broadcast. There have been numerous unsuccessful efforts to get access to the footage, including actor Tom Arnold’s TV series “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes.”
U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan on Thursday advised Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to find a way for the plaintiffs to view hundreds of hours of recordings from two episodes in which the principals of the multilevel marketing company, ACN Opportunity, were on-set guests.
“It seems appropriate the tapes be made available,” Schofield said at the end of a hearing conducted over the phone. The judge asked the plaintiffs and MGM to negotiate a way to make it happen.
Trump and his three oldest children were sued in 2018 for their roles in promoting ACN from 2005 to 2015 with Trump suggesting people could invest in the company’s desktop video phone with little or no risk. The service was quickly eclipsed with the advent of smartphones and the plaintiffs claim they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by putting their faith in the Trumps.
From Walmart to Google, brands have had to adapt their advertising messages to convey more empathy with consumers during the coronavirus crisis.
The hearing took place a day after Schofield denied the Trumps’ attempt to move the case to arbitration, saying they couldn’t benefit from the arbitration clause in the plaintiffs’ contracts with ACN. The judge criticized the Trumps for seeking arbitration only after using the court system for months to gain access to documents from the plaintiffs.
“We look forward to continuing to gather the evidence to deliver justice for our brave clients, and thousands of others like them who were defrauded by the Trumps,” their lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said in a statement.
MGM, which took ownership of the popular program before Trump was elected, isn’t a party to the lawsuit, and it argued for months that complying with subpoenas from the plaintiffs would be burdensome because of the outdated technology and filing systems used for the episodes.
Television producer Mark Burnett again tried to distance himself from the TV personality who helped catapult his career: Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president.
Trump and his children have denied wrongdoing, while the president called his past endorsements of ACN “puffery” that no reasonable investor would have relied upon.
Joanna Hendon, the lawyer for the Trumps in the case, declined to comment on the dispute, which the Trump family hasn’t weighed in on. The lawyer said she planned to appeal the judge’s Wednesday ruling denying the family’s request to force arbitration.
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