Car loan financier who put up $175m bond for Trump was ‘happy to do it’

The California auto loan king behind Donald Trump’s $175m bond to stave collections while he appeals a $454m civil fraud judgment has said he was “happy to do it”.

Don Hankey, chair and majority shareholder of Knight Specialty Insurance, told CNN that his underwriting of Trump’s loan was “what we do”.

“I’m happy to do it. We would have done it for anybody else,” the 80-year-old said. “It was an easy transaction. It was put together very quickly.”

The bond filing to the court came three days ahead of a deadline on Trump and his company imposed by a New York appeals court. Hankey told the network that Knight Specialty Insurance Company used a combination of cash and investment-grade bonds to pay the fee.

Hankey noted to CNN and other outlets that his company had initiated the deal, reaching out to Trump before the appeals court reduced the amount the former president would have to pay while his appeal was heard.

The billionaire, who the network reported is worth more than $7.4bn, also confirmed to Forbes that he and his wife, as well as their two sons, supported Trump’s past political campaigns and would do so again.

“I’d never met Donald Trump,” he told Forbes. “I’d never talked to him on the phone. I heard that he needed a loan or a bond, and this is what we do. So, we reached out, and he responded.”

The $175m bond holds the New York attorney general, Letitia James, at bay while Trump takes the judgment to appeal. James said as the initial deadline approached last month that she was ready to start seizing properties.

Trump’s lawyers previously said that he could not meet the full $464m judgment, with his son Eric Trump saying it had been “impossible” to raise because bond underwriters would not accept property as collateral.

Notably, Hankey, a resident of Malibu, is a leading shareholder of Axos Financial, a company that lent $100m in a refinancing deal of the former president’s New York Trump Tower and $125m refinancing of his Miami golf resort Doral two years ago.

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Hankey is best known as the “king of subprime auto loans” through his Westlake Financial Services, which specializes in high-interest car loans for consumers with weaker credit scores, typically below 600, or have bankruptcies or repossessions on their histories.

Some financial analysts have warned that subprime auto loans are an area primed for trouble as consumers find it harder to make repayments. Westlake has previously faced fines from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for deceptive collection tactics.

Hankey told Forbes in 2015 that without subprime lenders like Westlake willing to take the risk on credit-challenged borrowers, they might not be able to buy cars at all.

“I think we help a large number of people get financing for the car that they need to make it to work,” says Hankey. “The alternative is to wait several years and pay cash for the car, or take the bus.”

The Guardian