Rudy Giuliani has filed for bankruptcy just days after a jury ruled that he owed $148 million in damages for defaming two former Fulton County election workers.
Giuliani listed debts of as much as $500 million and assets of up to $10 million. The filing was made in bankruptcy court in New York and comes a day after a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that the election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, can expedite their efforts to collect on a defamation judgment against him.
Legal experts have said the bankruptcy is unlikely to have much impact on the money he owes the two women.
“The filing should be a surprise to no one,” Giuliani political advisor Ted Goodman said in a statement released Thursday. “No person could have reasonably believed that Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be able to pay such a high punitive amount.
“Chapter 11 will afford Mayor Giuliani the opportunity and time to pursue an appeal, while providing transparency for his finances under the supervision of the bankruptcy court, to ensure all creditors are treated equally and fairly throughout the process,” Goodman said.
“This maneuver is unsurprising, and it will not succeed in discharging Mr. Giuliani’s debt to Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss,” said their attorney, Michael Gottlieb.
In a ruling late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell cited Giuliani’s financial problems and concerns that he could hide assets in an attempt to avoid paying Freeman and Moss. Giuliani has already failed to pay more than $200,000 in court-ordered attorneys fees to Freeman and Moss, Howell noted.
Federal court rules grant an automatic 30-day delay in enforcing such judgments pending resolution of any appeal. Earlier this week, the election workers asked Howell to let them enforce the judgment immediately.
They argued Giuliani’s mounting legal and financial difficulties could make it harder to collect what he owes them. They wanted to immediately register the judgment in jurisdictions where Giuliani has substantial assets, including New York and Florida.
Giuliani’s bankruptcy filing shows he owes about $990,000 in federal and state income taxes, plus millions of dollars to law firms and other creditors. Freeman and Moss are, by far, his largest creditors.
But he also faces numerous outstanding lawsuits for which his debts are undetermined. Among the are defamation claims filed by voting machine companies U.S. Dominion and Smartmatic USA. Giuliani falsely claimed their machines or technology were used to commit voting fraud in 2020. He also faces lawsuits filed by Hunter Biden, who has accused Giuliani of hacking his electronic devices, Noelle Dunphy, who has accused Giuliani of sexual assault and harassment.
Ishaq Kundawala, an associate dean at the Mercer University School of Law, said Giuliani will not be able to avoid “the vast majority” of his debt to Freeman and Moss by filing for bankruptcy. That’s because the judgment resulted from Giuliani’s “malicious and willful” conduct, he said.
“He’s really only using this to buy some time,” Kundawala said. “That’s really all he can do.”
The bankruptcy is the latest chapter in a stunning turnabout for the man once dubbed “America’s mayor” for his leadership in New York City after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Giuliani’s efforts to aid Donald Trump in overturning the results of the 2020 election have led to multiple civil lawsuits and criminal charges in Fulton County.
Asked about the bankruptcy at a holiday event on Thursday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis — who has charged Giuliani with 13 felony counts — shifted the conversation to Freeman and Moss.
“Those are two beautiful human beings. Really, really beautiful human beings,” she said. “No one should ever suffer abuse.”
Giuliani’s trouble in Georgia began three years ago, when he accused Freeman and Moss of double-counting ballots and other illegal activities, citing security footage of ballot counting from State Farm Arena.
Investigators with the FBI, the GBI and the secretary of state’s office reviewed the video and interviewed witnesses and determined nothing improper happened. But Giuliani and Trump continued to spread the false allegations. In fact, Giuliani continued to claim the allegations were true in comments to reporters during the trial last week — even after he had stipulated in court documents that they were false.
Freeman and Moss filed a defamation lawsuit against Giuliani and OAN two years ago. They reached a settlement with OAN last year.
In a default judgment last summer, Howell found Giuliani liable for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. Last week, a Washington, D.C., jury awarded Freeman and Moss more than $148 million in damages.
On Monday Freeman and Moss filed a second lawsuit against Giuliani, noting that he continues to falsely accuse them of voting fraud. The latest lawsuit does not seek additional damages, but it does seek an injunction prohibiting Giuliani from repeating the false claims.
On Wednesday, Howell also approved an agreement between the parties to reduce the amount Giuliani owes by about $2 million to account for a previous settlement between the election workers and One America News Network. That leaves Giuliani owing about $146 million in compensatory and punitive damages for spreading false voting fraud allegations against Freeman and Moss.
AJC reporters Bill Rankin and Greg Bluestein contributed to this story.