Expert witnesses get paid. Fair enough. No one should have to work for free. But at some point, you have to wonder if the money they get is ‘shading’ their testimony — or perhaps just flat-out buying it. When the amount is nearly $900,000, those questions become particularly pertinent.
Bearing that in mind, consider the case of Eli Bartov. On Thursday, the New York University Stern School of Business research professor testified as an expert witness for the defense in Trump’s civil fraud case in New York. His conclusion? He found “no evidence here of concealment” in the financial statements at the heart of the case.
The accuracy of this statement is questionable. However, I suspect Bartov, on the advice of counsel (hopefully his own), testified in a manner that shields him from perjury charges — especially as his opinion flies in the face of the consensus that Trump is a life-long liar about his net worth. The claims on his financial disclosures were as inflated as an oversized lawn Santa. And he lied to defraud banks of the higher interest they would have charged for loans had he told the truth.
It is not an insignificant amount. According to a prosecution witness, Michiel McCarthy, Chairman & CEO of MM Dillon & Co., Trump’s fraud cost banks a total of $168,040,168 in potential interest from loans related to four of Trump properties in Miami, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
More importantly, Bartov’s testimony was irrelevant to establishing whether Trump had committed fraud. The decider of fact — in this case, Judge Arthur Engeron — has already adjudged that Trump’s financial statements were deliberately deceitful fantasies. But when a defense has little, what little they have goes on the stand. And thus, we had Bartov explaining that there was nothing to see here.
His blindness came at a substantial price.
In a deposition taken in July, Bartov disclosed that Trump's PACs were paying him $1,350 an hour to work on the case. In court, he said he had now worked about 650 hours on the case, which would total $877,500. In addition, he will make additional money for testifying, which typically costs the client a higher hourly rate. Call it the cherry on a substantial cake,
Of course, charging Trump for work done and getting paid for the same are two different things (ask Rudy). However, Bartov says he has already received $400,000. So when Trump welshes on the final bill, Bartov will have a comfortable cushion to break his fall.
For context, we can compare Bartov’s compensation with another professional testifier. According to ABC News, the prosecution’s sole expert witness, McCarty (see above), was paid about $350,000 for his testimony. Which again illustrates that Trump overpays for everything.
It also demonstrates that 'equal justice for all' is a myth. Most people have as much wherewithal to rent expert witnesses as they do to buy a Rolls Royce — as Bartov can now.