April 25, 2024

It was not the first time Hankey came to Trump’s rescue. In 2022, Axos financial, an online-only bank in which Hankey was the largest noninstitutional shareholder, played fairy godmother to Trump on three properties, lending $100 million for Trump Tower, $125 million for the Doral Resort in Miami-Dade County, and an undisclosed portion of a $285 million loan that allowed Trump to unload the money-losing Trump International Hotel in D.C. at a price far in excess of its market value. Like Hankey’s Westlake Financial Services, Axos has lent money (in this instance, to small businesses) “that carried cripplingly high double- and triple-digit effective annual interest rates,” NBC News’s Gretchen Morgenson reported in 2022. Hankey told Bloomberg that his ties to Axos had nothing to do with his decision to back Trump’s $175 million bond.

Hankey has extensive experience lending money to high-risk borrowers, but Trump is his first high-risk ex-president. With an appeal bond, the lender doesn’t protect himself against risk by charging high interest, but rather by charging a large fee up front. We don’t know what Hankey charged Trump to help him meet bond, but it could easily be $10 million or more. Indeed, it would be risky for Hankey to charge Trump too little, because that might be construed as an illegal campaign contribution comparable to the hush-money payoffs for which Trump goes on trial later this month. That wrinkle is one of the many reasons most surety firms are telling Trump “thanks, but no thanks.” Hankey told Bloomberg that although he was willing to accept as collateral 20 percent cash and 80 percent investment-grade bonds, in the end Trump decided to put up cash only. If Trump tried to persuade Hankey to accept real estate as collateral (surety companies seldom do), he was unsuccessful.