$18 Million Judgment Entered Against Art Dealer for Theft Claims (NY)

Plaintiff George Ball is a renowned art collector, and retained R. Scott Cook, his wife Soussan, and Cook Fine Art as his exclusive art advisor and dealer.  The relationship started off well, and between 1997 and 2000, at Cook’s advice Ball purchased about $10 million in paintings, which were held in storage by Cook or at the gallery.    Eventually, the parties entered into an agreement allowing Cook to sell some of Ball’s collection.

In 2011, Cook persuaded Ball to list eleven notable works at auction with Christie’s, afterwards telling Ball that nine of the works had been sold.  However, Cook never listed the works and instead sold them without Ball’s knowledge or consent.  When Cook admitted he had no auction proceeds to deliver, Ball demanded the return of all of his works.  To date, Cook has still not complied.

Ball filed suit in the Southern District of New York.  Cook invoked Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in response to all discovery demands, and Ball eventually moved for summary judgment.  Cook, incarcerated in France and under indictment in New York, advised the Court that he would not oppose the motion.  The Court thus ruled in favor of Ball on breach of contract, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and replevin claims.  The judgment, including interest and punitive damages, is in excess of $18 million.  As often is the case under these circumstances, collectabilty of the judgment is sure to be an issue.

If you would like further information about this post, please write to Mike Bono at mbono@wcmlaw.com.