Shortly before or after March 20, Donald Trump gives a stock brokerage firm an ugly ultimatum: either fire your top casino industry stock analyst or be sued.
The analyst, Marvin Roffman, had just been quoted in the Wall Street Journal telling reporter Neil Barsky that Trump Taj Mahal might go under. Trump retaliates by calling Roffman’s boss at Janney Montgomery Scott and threatening to sue the company.
To avoid the lawsuit, they either have to fire Roffman or force him to publish a letter accusing “that son-of-a-bitch reporter” of misquoting him and stating that “the Taj Mahal was going to be the greatest success ever.” What happens next has varied over the years.
According to reports at the time, Roffman initially agrees to sign an apology to Trump, but he regrets it. When his bosses find out that he’s writing a second letter to refute his apology, they fire him. Years later, Roffman says he never agreed to the first letter and was fired the day after Trump’s threat.
His firing sends shock waves through Wall Street. Stock analysts are afraid to report honestly on Trump’s properties for decades to come.
“After I got fired, analysts weren’t able to speak freely,” Roffman recalls. It “sent a message to others in our business. . . . ‘Keep your mouth shut or you’ll never work in this industry again.’ After that I could not get a job as an analyst.” He sums up that period this way: “Telling the truth about Trump was dangerous to your career.” It was also a perilous time for investors, who, over the next 14 years, would lose more than $1.5 billion on Trump’s stocks and bonds as the public casino company went bankrupt twice…
the firing didn’t go unnoticed on Wall Street, and other observers began to moderate what they told investors about Trump’s stocks and bonds, even though they were clearly terrible investments.Jonathan Greenberg, The Washington Post
Trump and Trump Taj Mahal file for bankruptcy a year later.
Photo: Mark Lennihan / AP