Trump has been unusually aggressive in withholding payments and fighting contractors in court.
Donald Trump, deadbeat? Stories have circulated for years that Trump routinely stiffs contractors who work on his projects, in some cases supposedly telling them that, though he’s not paying them, they’ll make money just by being able to say they worked on a Trump building.
Those stories had gone largely unreported because no news organization had done the necessary voluminous reporting. Now, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today have documented hundreds of such cases – lawsuits, liens, judgments, and other filings. Many involve contractors trying to get paid, while many others involve Trump company employees seeking overtime or other forms of pay they say they were denied.
USA Today reports that Trump companies have “been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005,” a potential problem for him in presenting himself as the working person’s friend. While billing disputes are hardly unusual, especially in construction, both the WSJ and USA Today quote sources saying Trump has been unusually aggressive in withholding payments and fighting contractors in court. In his 1987 book The Art of the Deal, Trump wrote, “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off your back.”
Trump responds that when contractors don’t do their work satisfactorily or on time, he docks their pay – “and that’s what the country should do.” But in several cases, the newspapers show, the general contractor had approved subcontractors’ work for which Trump refused to pay. In some cases, Trump later rehired or tried to rehire contractors who had sued him for non-payment.
USA Today reports that Trump has been involved in an extraordinary 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades. That’s a lot of publicly available documents. Expect them to be a rich trove of material for the media and for Hillary Clinton.
A version of this essay appeared in Power Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on leaders and leadership. Sign up here.