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In the CNN's Republican debate broadcasted in Sept 2015, Carly Fiorina said the following to Donald Trump:

There are a lot of us Americans who believe that we're going to have trouble someday paying back the interest on our debt. Because politicians have run up mountains of debt using other people's money. That is, in fact, precisely the way you ran your casinos. You ran up mountains of debt, as well as losses, using other people's money, and you were forced to file for bankruptcy not once, not twice — four times.

Trump protested against Fiorina's claim, and said:

I never filed for bankruptcy.

Is there any evidence showing that Trump filed for bankruptcy?

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    As an individual Trump has never filed for bankruptcy, but businesses that he has ownership in have. To technically Trump can say that, but so can Fiorina. It was on NPR recently. – Mark Rogers Sep 20 '15 at 0:22
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    "He is right when he says he never filed for personal bankruptcy. But Fiorina's also correct when she says Trump corporations turned to bankruptcy court on four different times to reorganize their debts. Trump has defended that as perfectly legal under the law and, of course, it is. Most of those bankruptcies were tied to Trump casinos in Atlantic City. The debts were restructured. Trump's ownership stake was whittled down." and "...Just about every casino operator in Atlantic City has struggled, and those bankruptcies represent a small fraction of the many business deals he's done." – Mark Rogers Sep 20 '15 at 0:25
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    @MarkRogers: for that matter, filing for personal bankruptcy is also perfectly legal. It's solely a matter of reputation, what the voters would think of someone who is a bankrupt himself vs someone who benefited from his limited liability as owner of an insolvent company. – Steve Jessop Sep 20 '15 at 12:41
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    @SteveJessop - Ah, good and interesting point, I didn't think about that. Nice catch – Mark Rogers Sep 20 '15 at 15:24
  • Something I've not yet seen in the topic is how much control Trump had over the decision by the rest of the owners to file, or even over operations. It could be the case he wasn't involved in some or all, or that he made the call or voted in favor. Personally to truly answer the question we'd have to know. I do know that many of his properties are "name and investor" only affairs, so it raises to me the question of how much he was involved. Hypothetically if he wasn't involved in the decision and/operations Fiorina's satay meant would be wrong and deceptive. Researching tomorrow. – The Real Bill Sep 22 '15 at 2:46
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Technically, no Donald Trump himself has not filed for personal bankruptcy, but companies he has ownership stake in have. So both statements are true, at least, in a legally defensible sense.

This was covered on NPR's All Things Considered recently, Scott Horsley analyzed the statements thusly, from "Fact Check: Fiorina's HP Record; Trump's Bankruptcies; Vaccines And Autism":

Well, you can hear Trump saying in the background, I never filed for bankruptcy. He is right when he says he never filed for personal bankruptcy. But Fiorina's also correct when she says Trump corporations turned to bankruptcy court on four different times to reorganize their debts. Trump has defended that as perfectly legal under the law and, of course, it is. Most of those bankruptcies were tied to Trump casinos in Atlantic City. The debts were restructured. Trump's ownership stake was whittled down. And like Fiorina, he says, look, context matters here. Just about every casino operator in Atlantic City has struggled, and those bankruptcies represent a small fraction of the many business deals he's done.

From "What Trump didn’t say about his four big business bankruptcies", Washington Post

The 69-year-old real estate tycoon has never filed for personal bankruptcy and has for years portrayed the Chapter 11 bankruptcies of his glittering hotels and casinos as calculated, even shrewd maneuvers, and facts of life in the high-stakes worlds of mega-development and commercial finance.

According to one estimate, Trump's bankruptcies have accrued around $4.7 billion worth of debt. I'm not sure if there is enough information to calculate exact total losses. In some cases he still owns a limited amount of stock in some of the entities.

From "By the Numbers: Donald Trump’s $4.7 Billion in Bankruptcies", Dividend Reference
Trump Corporate Debt in Millions

  • So is there any resource that gives a clue as to how much Trump's creditors lost in these deals? – Daniel R Hicks Sep 20 '15 at 12:40
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    @DanielRHicks - I tried to add some more detail, but I'm not sure if I can find accurate numbers. – Mark Rogers Sep 20 '15 at 14:59
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    @nomenagentis: Compared to buying a time machine and not loaning money to TrumpCo or whatever it was called in the first place. Their initial decision to invest in TrumpCo (or whatever) turned out to be a loss. Sure, it's a sunk cost now, but it's still an economic loss. OTOH, it's not clear to me that you can necessarily blame Trump for TrumpCo going bankrupt. The market does weird things and so on. – Kevin Sep 21 '15 at 2:24
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    @Kevin re: "loss vis-a-vis opportunity costs" That may be the way 'financial' economics work in the very narrow sense of the term economics but not the way 'real' economics work. By extending credit at what you perceive as "below market interest rates" the lender necessarily received something that he deemed worthy of extending credit below rate or he would have refused those terms (or he was coerced, as the government does when it steals the resources it uses to make up its budget) – K. Alan Bates Jan 20 '16 at 14:19
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    Fiorina's statement is also false in another sense. Trump didn't cause four companies to become bankrupt, he caused SIX - nbcnews.com/news/us-news/… – slebetman Aug 11 '16 at 7:37
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Depends on the interpretation. Common one would be interpreting that as any of business that he owns has filed for bankruptcy. That is undisputed fact. But Trump says that he has never filled for bankruptcy it is technically true as he never filed for personal bankruptcy. This is however misleading.

Trump himself has never filed for personal bankruptcy. But he has filed four business bankruptcies -- Trump Taj Mahal, 1991; Trump Castle Associates, 1992; Trump Hotel & Casino Resort, 2004; and Trump Entertainment Resorts, 2009 -- which Bankruptcy.com says makes Trump the top filer in recent decades. All of them were centered around casinos he used to own in Atlantic City. They were all Chapter 11 restructurings, which lets a company stay in business while shedding debt it owes to banks, employees and suppliers.

Source: CNN's debate fact-check

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    @nomenagentis The magic of limited liability firms is that just because they go bankrupt doesn't mean you go bankrupt. – matt_black Sep 20 '15 at 15:18
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    It is inconceivable, and silly, that you would describe "Bill Gates as 'filing' the bankruptcy once MSFT goes bankrupt". OF COURSE Trump did not "file" the bankruptcy when those businesses filed for bankruptcy; and it's absurd to look for that sort of meaning ("did he walk the papers to the office"). – Fattie Sep 21 '15 at 17:05
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    @JoeBlow - silly, how? Trump describes them as "his" companies, ones that he personally runs with his awesome business acumen. I realize some courts claim that corporations are people, but are you saying that they filed bankruptcy by themselves, without his input or direction? If so, what does that say about his claims to run businesses or to be responsible for their successes? Also, Microsoft is a publicly traded company. Is that true for the various Trump enterprises, or were they privately held by a very limited number of investors/owners? – PoloHoleSet Sep 13 '16 at 21:47
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    The real "trick" is to try to spin the story as anything else than Trump running away from unpaid creditors. Other less fortunate American contractors (read: Joe Blow Construction) lost very substantial amounts of money and will never be paid. Trump tries to spin this as "business acumen" or "being smart", but in reality it's really just him cheating countless smaller businesses out of owed money. Trump is nothing more than a prolific thief in a suit. – Drunken Code Monkey Sep 30 '16 at 22:12
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    Yes, some would say "Gates files for bankruptcy" if Gates Software had filed for bankruptcy at a time when Bill Gates owned 56% of Gates Software. But Microsoft was a partnership that went public, not something mostly owned by, named after, and identified with one person. – prosfilaes Dec 4 '16 at 0:58

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