Criminal Sentencing for Price Fixing by Sotheby's


The federal civil case against Sotheby's and Christie's for price fixing was settled for over half a billion dollars.  And the heads of Sotheby's were found criminally guilty of price fixing.

(The federal criminal case for price fixing against the chairman of Christie's, Sir Anthony Tennant, could not proceed because he would not return to the U.S. for trial.)

The articles in this Tab report on the criminal sentencing of Sotheby's officials for price fixing.


The High Cost of Collusion, New York Times, 12/08/2001.

Sotheby's Ex-Chief to Appeal, Daily News, 12/15/2001.

Tennant Condemned by Jury of His Peers, New York Post, 04/25/2002.
Taubman's Bidder End.  Sotheby's Big Prison-bound as Appeal is Nixed, New York Post, 07/26/2002.
DeDe's 'Secret' Escape'.  Auction Queen Under House Arrest on the Loose, New York Post, 09/01/2002, p. 3.

Big Al on Ice, The Daily News, 09/08/2002.

DeDe Selling Her Co-op — Through Christie's, New York Post, 10/31/2002.
Sotheby's Convict is Sprung, New York Post, 11/10/2002.
Society Column on Taubman in Prison, New York Post, 11/15/2002.
Judge's Ruling Does Little to Resolve Battle for Mall Empire, New York Times, 05/02/2003.



The High Cost of Collusion, Editorial, New York Times, 12/8/2001, , p. A22.

In reporting further on the conviction of A. Alfred Taubman, the former head of the international auction house Sotheby's, for his part in a price-fixing scheme, the Times noted that his counterpart in crime at Christie's, Sir Anthony Tennant, lives in England and cannot be extradited.

The Times then quoted a handwritten memo by Sir Anthony, in which was found "a graceful, self-forgiving, but ultimately arrogant phrase for price-fixing."  Sir Anthony called it "intervening from on high."

Reflecting upon the disclosures of the long investigation and trial, the Times editorial dramatically wrote:  "The question now is what impact this trial will have on the ethics of the auction world.  The trap that Sotheby's and Christie's created for themselves arose when they ceased being merely auctioneers and became, in effect, financiers for both buyers and sellers.  The auction business has always had to confront allegations of shady dealings simply because it can be so easy to rig bidding, to create the illusion of openness where none actually exists.  Trying to leverage these businesses outward into the realms of finance and real estate seems, so far, to have done little more than create more room for corruption.  But there is really no excuse to be made for Mr. Taubman, any more than there is for his subordinate Diana Brooks, who will face a lesser sentence for her cooperation with prosecutors.  The auction business did not make them break the law.  That was a path they chose for themselves."

Top of Page . . . . .

Sotheby's Ex-Chief to Appeal, Robert Gearty and Dave Goldiner, Daily News, 12/15/2001, p. 39.

This article reported that "Alfred Taubman, the disgraced chairman of Sotheby's, plans to appeal his conviction for price-fixing, his lawyer said yesterday."

Now convicted, Taubman faces up to three years in prison and millions in fines upon sentencing on April 2.

Then the Daily News reported that "Meanwhile, Taubman's high-powered legal team succeeded yesterday in an unusual effort to keep 'embarrassing' secret discussions held during the trial under wraps."  And that "The judge did not immediately give a reason for his order, and media lawyers said they would not decide whether to appeal until they see the text of the order."

Top of Page . . . . .

Tennant Condemned by Jury of His Peers, Paul Tharp, The New York Post, 04/25/2002.

Here the Post reported that while Alfred Taubman faces prison in the art action price-fixing scandal, "In Sir Anthony's blue-blood world in Britain, he might as well be locked up because he's been ostracized from his upper-class peers and booted from prestigious boards."

Mr. Tharp wrote that as a "member of Britain's rarefied ruling class, public disgrace is a lifelong punishment likely more painful that the one-year prison sentence given to Taubman."  Referring first to Mr. Taubman's intent to appeal, the Post writes, "But Sir Anthony has no appeals available to him within this country's rigid class system."

It then reported that "more public humiliation" came for Sir Anthony when he was recently ousted from his last remaining directorship, a seat as chairman of the Royal Academy of Arts in London after the artists who run the academy demanded that Sir Anthony do the 'honorable thing' and resign.

This is a particularly interesting report in light of the relative silence of the U.S. art community to this and other serious ethical questions arising in its art world.

The article noted that "Sir Anthony, 71, was indicted for helping mastermind the price-fixing scheme with Taubman, and faces arrest if he sets foot on U.S. soil."

Top of Page . . . . .

A Taubman's Bidder End.  Sotheby's Big Prison-Bound as Appeal is Nixed, John Lehmann, New York Post, 07/26/2002, p. 16.

The Post reported here that "Convicted Sotheby's price-fixer Alfred Taubman has consigned himself to becoming a multimillionaire inmate next week after his appeal was thrown out yesterday."

A three-judge appeals panel in Manhattan heard his appeal and ruled that any errors in his price-fixing trial were "harmless."

Mr. Taubman was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and fined $7.5 million. Apparently the extra day made the sentence just long enough to qualify for early release.

At the hearing before the appeals panel, Mr. Taubman's lawyers brought yet another name to the attention of the public.  They accused another ex-Sotheby's board member, Lord Thomas Camoys, of conspiring with Christie's chief Sir Anthony Tennant in April 1995.

Mr. Taubman's lawyers also objected to a quotation used by the prosecution in summing up the case to the jury.  The quote was from the economic classic, "The Wealth of Nations" written by the 18th-century economist Adam Smith. The quote said, "People in the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment or diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public and in some contrivance to raise prices."

The Post then reported that in their decision not to grant the appeal, the Court ruled that the government had relied on 'the overwhelming direct evidence of Taubman's knowledge of and participation in the conspiracy."

Top of Page . . . . .

DeDe's 'Secret' Escape.  Auction Queen Under House Arrest on the Loose, Daniel Schiff and Adam Miller, New York Post, 09/01/2002, p. 3.

In this report the Post asked if Ms. Brooks looks like a woman under house arrest?

It advised that under her six months' home-confinement sentence for price fixing, "disgraced auction empress Diana 'DeDe' Brooks" is allowed two hours each Friday "to go grocery shopping at any store selling food or products related to food preparation."

The article included the Post's photos revealing that Ms. Brooks did "a lot more than food shopping during last Friday afternoon's jaunt."

The Post wrote that "After a little grocery shopping at a Food Emporium near her posh Upper East Side co-op, Brooks browsed for some sexy lingerie at Victoria's Secret maybe something that coordinates with the electronic ankle bracelet that monitors her every movement."

It also reported that Ms. Brooks was "also slapped with three years' probation" in addition to being fined $350,000 and obligated to serve 1,000 hours of community service by the judge who called her "a thief and a convict."  She also agreed to return stock options worth $10 million, plus the $3.25 million in salary she received as Sotheby's CEO.

The article writes that Mr. Taubman was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and a $7.5 million fine, and that Ms. Brooks is also "allowed out of the house for work, doctor or lawyer visits, and one church service a week.  Even then, she must ask officials for permission."

It concludes that a Hollywood movie about the price fixing is in the works and that actress Sigourney Weaver will play Brooks.

Top of Page . . . . .

Big Al on Ice, The Daily News, 09/08/2002.

The Daily News writes here, "If Jack Welch's memoirs were worth $7 million, what are A. Alfred Taubman's worth?  We may soon find out."

The article reports that "The mega-rich former chairman of Sotheby's has languished for the last six weeks as Prisoner No. 50444-054 in a 10-by-12 foot prison cell in the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, convicted of colluding to fix fees and commissions with his company's supposed competitor, Christie's."

The News continues that Mr. Taubman's sentence runs another 47 weeks.  "Though his prison has its charms an ice rink, a pool table and a big-screen TV it's still stir, 53 acres surrounded by a concertina wire-topped fence. And the tycoon who once attended parties with the crowned heads of Europe now shares mess-hall meals with the likes of Justin Volpe, Abner Louima's sodomizer, and endures regular cell inspections and head counts."

The article adds that Mr. Taubman is allowed few visitors and that "it's natural that the idea of writing a book has come up if only to give Al a project to pass the time."

Top of Page . . . . .

DeDe Selling Her Co-op — Through Christie's, Branden Keil, New York Post, 10/31/2002.

"House-arrestee DeDe Brooks will soon be free to fly the co-op and she's ready to dump her gilded cage for a change of scenery," The Post wrote it had learned.

The article reported sources claiming that Ms. Brooks, who was sentenced to six months house arrest, was planning to sell her "12-room, 10th-floor pad on East 79th Street once her ankle monitor is removed."

The article writes that a broker says its ironic that she is using the real-estate division of rival Christie's auction house to sell her apartment.

The Post continues that "Greedy DeDe may make her Manhattan presence even less noticeable when she zips off to her multi-million-dollar oceanfront mansion in Hobe Sound, Fla., which she was barred from visiting during her comfy incarceration."

During her so-called house arrest, The Post tailed Ms. Brooks while on a shopping spree during the two hours of grocery shopping she was permitted every Friday.  "Her errands included a peek into a Victoria's Secret, a fine wine store, and chuckles with a friend on the street."

Top of Page . . . . .

Sotheby's Convict is Sprung, Adam Miller, New York Post, 11/10/2002.

Mr. Miller wrote here that "Disgraced auction empress Diana 'DeDe' Brooks laid low yesterday, a day after she completed her six months of house arrest for her role in a price-fixing scheme."

He explained that the former president of Sotheby's was sentenced earlier in the year after pleading guilty to fixing commissions and fees with rival art auction house, Christie's, and testifying against Alfred Taubman, her boss, who was sentenced to a year and a day for his role in the conspiracy.

He also wrote that "the deposed auction queen" also received three years probation, a $350,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community sentence and that the judge called her "a thief and a convict."

Top of Page . . . . .

Society Column on Taubman in Prison, New York Post, 11/15/2002.

The Post wrote:  "AND NOW, let's get to the dirty dishes! Super-tycoon Alfred Taubman, age 76, seems to be flourishing in prison (actually, he is in a federal medical hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, in spite of his general poor health.)"

The column advises that while Mr. Taubman's wife says he is depressed, he seems to be thriving while incarcerated, and doing better than the woman who testified against him, Dede Brooks.  The column continues that "Dominick Dunne reports this month in Vanity Fair that the popular and trendy thing to do for the so-called jet set is to fly up to Minnesota 'to visit Alfred!'  Everyone who is anyone seems to believe that when Mr. Taubman emerges from his enforced time away, he'll pick right up where he left off, living the high life and enjoying the heck out of his rallied-around pals and wife, the onetime beauty queen."

It concludes that Mr. Taubman is "said to be writing a book."

Top of Page . . . . .

Judge's Ruling Does Little to Resolve Battle for Mall Empire, Andrew Ross Sorking, The New York Times, 05/02/2003, p. C4.

In this article the Times reported on a major legal battle regarding Taubman Centers, the shopping mall empire founded by A. Alfred Taubman.  This article on the real estate industry imparted an idea of the dimension of the art business compared with the real estate development industry.  It depicted similar "clubbiness" in the two industries.

Referring to an important court action in the dispute, Mr. Sorking wrote, "The ruling, which both sides said would most likely have to be clarified, will determine the outcome of a fight that has pitted two of the nation's most storied real estate families and has created a rift in the clubby world of real estate investors.  The takeover battle has taken place while Mr. Taubman has been serving a prison sentence for conspiring to fix prices when he was chairman of Sotheby's.  He is expected to be released to a halfway house in two weeks."

[The attention contemporary art receives in academic and curatorial research seems to have significant parallels with commercial market prices.

The next Tab includes articles on financial influences in the curatorial selection processes at major research museums enjoying significant public funding.]