(Bloomberg) -- A prominent New York University accounting professor who is being paid to testify in Donald Trump’s defense in a civil fraud trial heaped praise on the former president’s financial records for hours under oath while blasting as “absurd” the suit brought by the state attorney general.
Eli Bartov, who’s making $1,350 an hour working on the case for Trump, testified Thursday in Manhattan that he did not believe Deutsche Bank AG or other Trump lenders would have made decisions on hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to the former president based solely on his allegedly inflated financial statements.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who filed the suit last year, claims Trump exaggerated the value of his assets by billions of dollars a year to get better interest rates from banks. But Bartov argues Trump’s higher valuations in annual records from 2011 to 2021 were based in reality and that banks do their own due diligence anyway when deciding if a potential client is too risky.
“Deutsche Bank, they knew what they were doing,” Bartov said during questioning by Trump lawyer Jesus Suarez that drew frequent objections from the state. It’s “absurd to argue that Deutsche Bank or any bank or any lender would make lending decision based on a statement of financial condition,” the professor said.
Bartov is set to return to the stand Friday for cross-examination by lawyers for the state.
The trial is wrapping up after 10 weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses, including the former president, who was in the courtroom Thursday and is scheduled to take the stand again Monday in his own defense. The trial is one of six Trump faces as he campaigns to return to the White House.
During a break in the trial, Trump stepped outside the courtroom and told the gathered reporters that he thought the day was “going very well.”
“He reviewed fully the documents that this horrendous attorney general put forth, and he found absolutely no fraud, accounting fraud of any kind,” Trump said of Bartov. “This is a highly respected man.”
Bartov confirmed during a deposition taken in late July that Trump had already paid him at least $520,000 for work as an expert.
Bartov testified that banks would have done their own analysis of Trump’s net worth rather than take his financial statements at face value. The defense previously presented evidence that Deutsche Bank slashed Trump’s claimed net worth from about $4 billion to $2 billion and loaned to him the money anyway.
“The credit reports of Deutsche Bank really tell you the whole story,” Bartov said. “Everything is there.”
While Bartov’s testimony may boost Trump’s argument that no banks were victimized by his financial records, lawyers for James have previously said the state doesn’t need to prove lenders were harmed — only that Trump knowingly provided them with false documents. The judge held Trump liable for fraud before the trial started, ruling he had wildly inflated the value of his properties.
Read More: Deutsche Bank Executive Testifies Loan to Trump Not Unusual
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the state, objected to Bartov’s testimony from the outset, saying the professor isn’t qualified to discuss what Deutsche Bank may have done with Trump’s financial documents. He said Bartov’s expertise is with financial statements of publicly-traded companies, not banking and credit and what information Trump may or may not have provided to lenders.
Trump attorney Christopher Kise jumped up to defend Bartov.
“They’re terrified of this witness,” Kise said.
“Oh, come on!” Wallace said in response, slamming his hand on a table.
It was one of several heated exchanges in court, including when Wallace complained Bartov’s testimony should be stricken because he strayed beyond his expertise. “This is pure speculation from someone hired to say whatever it is they want,” the state lawyer said.
“You should be ashamed of yourself talking to me like that!” Bartov shouted. “I’m here to tell the truth. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”
Justice Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the trial, overruled the state’s objections about the witness and allowed him to testify as an expert on topics including credit analysis and valuation.
Bartov, who notably testified as a paid expert for the New York attorney general in an unrelated case against Exxon Mobil Corp. in 2019, delivered withering testimony against the Trump case. He said James’s complaint fails to back up its allegations, particularly around the former president’s alleged failure to follow generally accepted accounting principles, known as GAAP. Some of the claims “border on the absurd,” Bartov said.
“I feel so bad I had to spend so much time on this engagement,” Bartov testified. “There was no justification for any of these allegations.”
(Updates to note cross-examination on Friday. A previous version of this story corrected a misspelling of Bartov.)
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