Whistleblower Donald Trump retaliated against a director who refused to give shares to Melania



CNN

A former executive at Donald Trump’s media company says the former president retaliated against a board member who refused to give Melania Trump company stock, according to a report in The Washington Post.

According to the Washington Post, Will Wilkerson filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission in August against Trump’s media and has also provided a portion of internal documents to the SEC. The documents contained an email, which Wilkerson also shared with the Post, in which company founder Andy Litinsky claims the former president retaliated against the former first lady for refusing to gift stock.

The former president is the chairman and majority shareholder of TMTG, which is the parent company of social media platform Truth Social.

Litinsky, a 2004 contestant on Trump’s TV show “The Apprentice,” refused Trump’s requests and was removed from TMTG’s board a month later, according to the Post. Wilkerson told the Post that Litinsky believes his ouster was retaliation for not handing over his shares to Melania Trump. Litinsky did not respond to a request for comment.

Patrick Mincey, the attorney representing Wilkerson, confirmed that Wilkerson had been fired after speaking with Post reporters on Thursday. Wilkerson is also represented by attorneys Stephen Bell and Phil Brewster.

“Trump Media’s termination of the whistleblower after The Washington Post contacted the company for comment is retaliation against an SEC whistleblower,” Mincey, Bell and Brewster said jointly.

A spokesperson representing TMTG disputed the facts of the Post’s story.

“The Washington Post published a story full of false and defamatory statements and other fabricated psychodrama,” he said. “We will treat the republishing of these statements as legally actionable evidence, as evidence against negligence against the truth.”

Melania Trump and the SEC did not respond to a request for comment.

Since its inception, TMTG has been mired in controversy and red flags. “Strange and dark” was how Matthew Tuttle, CEO of Tuttle Capital Management LLC, described the financial deals behind Trump’s media to CNN.

Wilkerson told the Post that Trump refused to put his money into the company, despite his demand that he own 90% of its shares. Fundraising was difficult for the company due to Trump’s allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, so they decided on a different way to raise money to avoid investor scrutiny.

TMTG revealed late last year that it would exit through a merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp., a type of shell company known as a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company. SPACs raise money to be used to acquire and bring private companies public. They are essentially blank check companies that exist only to find suitable merger partners.

But the controversial merger has been stalled by legal controls. The Department of Justice is investigating, in addition to the SEC. In late June, Digital World reported that its board members had received subpoenas from a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York in connection with due diligence on the deal.

Digital World said federal probes have blocked its ability to complete the deal with TMTG. Digital World failed to receive shareholder approval last month to extend its merger agreement with TMTG. However, the shell company said it was able to buy extra time last month because its backer, ARC Global Investments II, put nearly $3 million into the company’s trust account to exercise an option to extend the merger agreement by three months.

If that hadn’t happened, the whole deal could have unraveled, forcing Digital World to return the roughly $300 million it raised. This money is to finance the merger with TMTG owner Truth Social. A settlement would also threaten the additional $1 trillion the Trump media company has raised.

Digital World shares fell 8% to $16.11 on Monday, down nearly 70% this year.

While SPACs have become popular on Wall Street in part because they can save time and money compared to traditional initial public offerings, regulators have also warned investors about companies that go public that way. For example, SPAC sponsors may have conflicts of interest that allow them to obtain more favorable investment terms than the public, giving them an incentive to proceed with the merger even if the deal is bad for ordinary investors.