Non-profit advocacy group Free Speech for People has asked New York’s attorney general to investigate whether to file a lawsuit to revoke the charter of The Trump Organization for violating state business laws.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the group and four attorneys said that the attorney general’s office has the power to revoke the corporate charter from Trump’s organization, which has violated laws that prohibit the president from receiving payments from foreign governments.
Schneiderman’s press secretary Amy Spitalnick told ThinkProgress that the attorney general’s office will review the letter.
In an FAQ document, Free Speech for People and attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Ben T. Clements, and Fordham University School of Law Professor Jed Shugerman explain how Schneiderman could bring about a lawsuit.
“Under Section 1101 of New York’s Business Corporation Law, the attorney general can ‘bring an action for the dissolution of a corporation . . . [if] the corporation has exceeded the authority conferred upon it by law, or has violated any provision of law whereby it has forfeited its charter, or carried on, conducted or transacted its business in a persistently fraudulent or illegal manner, or by the abuse of its powers contrary to the public policy of the state has become liable to be dissolved.’
As ThinkProgress reported earlier this week, it’s unlikely that the Republican Congress will impeach Trump for his violations of the Emoluments Clause. However, state attorneys general could hold Trump accountable through the legal system by filing lawsuits like the one Free Speech for People suggests.
This lawsuit, known as a “Quo Warranto” proceeding, would allow a judge to determine whether the corporation is a conduit for illegal activity.
New York is the ideal venue for such a lawsuit, as The Trump Organization is incorporated in the state. If Schneiderman were to succeed, the remedies under New York law could include “revoking or dissolving the corporate charter, enjoining it from exercising the illegal activity, and/or imposing a financial penalty on the corporation.”
Shugerman, who helped write the letter to Schneiderman and who explained the legal concept to ThinkProgress, said that state attorneys general have rarely brought Quo Warranto lawsuits against corporation since 1950, but noted that The Trump Organization’s situation is unique.
Schneiderman has also not shied away from holding Trump accountable for illegal activity.
In their document explaining the letter to Schneiderman, Shugerman and the advocacy group contend that The Trump Organization “flagrantly abuses its state-granted powers.” While the Office of Government Ethics told Trump in November that the only way to avoid conflicts of interest was to divest from his companies, Trump took no such action.
“The nearly ten-week transition period between the presidential election and the presidential inauguration gave Mr. Trump sufficient opportunity to sell or otherwise divest all conflict-producing interests in the Trump Organization in numerous ways,” the document says. “But despite every opportunity, the Trump Organization did not do anything remotely adequate to address these serious concerns.”
The attorneys also point to other illegal activity conducted by The Trump Organization’s holdings, including housing discrimination, fraud against investors, and violations of labor and campaign finance laws.
“The company’s history, and that of its namesake, give every reason to expect that illegal activities will increase, not decrease, the longer that President Trump remains in the White House,” they wrote.