The following article by Kevin McCoy was posted on the USA Today website March 21, 2017:
Employees of Ivanka Trump Marks LLC have promoted the company “by exploiting the power and prestige of the White House for personal gain,” including “piggy-backing promotion” of the firm’s products at governmental events, according to a lawsuit filed last week in California Superior Court.
The legal challenge by Modern Appealing Clothing cited President Trump’s recent criticism of Nordstrom and other retailers that dropped or downplayed the company’s products as an example of the unique advantages the firm enjoys. The lawsuit also cited presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway’s televised endorsement of Ivanka Trump products “with the White House insignia visible behind her.”
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary and communications director, similarly “has used his positions” to support the first daughter’s business, the lawsuit also charged.
The alleged unfair competition violates a constitutional provision, as well as federal and state laws, the lawsuit charged. Arguing that any losses are “subtle and difficult to quantify,” the lawsuit seeks a court order barring Trump’s company “from continuing to compete unfairly.”
Trump’s business declined to comment on the case Tuesday. The White House press office referred questions to the company.
The lawsuit marks the latest court challenge alleging unfair competitive advantages afforded by the White House. Operators of a Washington, D.C., wine bar filed a separate lawsuit earlier this month that said they can’t compete with the nearby multi-million dollar hotel and restaurant owned by President Trump.
Trump has moved away from his business empire, resigning from company posts and transferring authority to Eric Trump and other son Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump, an informal presidential adviser, recently transferred day-to-day authority at her company to Abigal Klem, a top executive. According to a report by The New York Times, Trump also placed the firm’s assets in a trust overseen by relatives of her husband, Jared Kushner, a top White House adviser, but still holds power over her brand.
The lawsuit by Modern Appealing Clothing’ seeks class-action status on behalf of other women’s clothing and accessories businesses in California that have competed with Trump’s fashion firm.
A 2016 San Francisco Chronicle report described the company’s two boutiques as featuring “high-concept fantasy,” featuring fashions by designers Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Junya Watanabe, Comme des Garcons and others.
The lawsuit represents a back-door attempt to use the U.S. Constitution’s “emoluments clause” to support the unfair competition claim, said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School in New York City. The clause bars federal officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments.
While the clause applies to President Trump, it does not necessarily apply to his daughter, said Coffee. It’s also unclear whether the San Francisco firm can establish the required legal jurisdiction to sue Trump’s company, said Coffee. Business records show the company was formed in Delaware in 2006.
“This is a lawsuit against political correctness,” said Coffee. “I’m all for being a pain in the butt for President Trump. But I’ve got to tell you, as a law professor, the case isn’t very strong.”
View the post here.