Donald Trump is a deadbeat boss who regards paying workers and contracting companies as optional, according to a USA Today review of some of the 3,500 or so lawsuits from the last 30 years involving Trump. Scores of lawsuits and hundreds of liens came from waiters, bartenders, plumbers, real estate brokers, and even lawyers who say Trump never paid them for their work. On a single project, Atlantic City's Taj Mahal casino, records show 253 subcontractors didn't receive full payment on time. Trump—who told Reuters last year that he "renegotiates" with around 15% of contractors—says that's just how he operates. "Let's say that they do a job that's not good, or a job that they didn't finish, or a job that was way late. I'll deduct from their contract, absolutely," he says. "That's what the country should be doing."
USA Today, however, notes that the volume of lawsuits suggests that either Trump and his businesses are being unscrupulous, or he's terrible at choosing contractors. In many cases, Trump organizations appear to have used their legal might to overpower those claiming they were stiffed, sometimes leaving them bankrupt. One firm to go bust was that of cabinetmaker Edward J. Friel, which never received the $83,600 it billed Trump for work at the Harrah's at Trump Plaza casino in 1984. "That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company," says Friel's son Paul, who was the company's accountant. He says Trump told his father he wouldn't be getting paid because the work was inferior—and then, bizarrely, told him that he could work on future Trump projects. (Step aside, Jesus toast, here comes the Trump tile.)