A recent report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (headlined by Chairman Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Ranking Member Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware) has drawn widespread attention for its damning statements about the international art market. Focusing on purchases of art from major auction houses by Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, two Russian nationals described as “oligarchs” by the report, the Subcommittee makes a series of pronouncements about the supposed prevalence of money laundering in the art market, and the need for regulation to address this perceived problem. Yet upon closer read, the report is a recycling of clichés about the art market, a detailed description about the considerable diligence by the auction houses far beyond what any even theoretical regulation would require (thus begging the question of what lesser regulation would accomplish), and no discussion or empathy at all for the vast majority of small art businesses that could not possibly comply with such regulation and stay in business, let alone actually combat money laundering. In other words, in concluding that two men laundered money, the Senate committee deduces that the practice is rampant. This hardly follows as a matter of logic. Far from supporting the case for sweeping financial regulation of the art market, the report unintentionally makes the opposite point.
Topics: OFAC, Vladimir Putin, Uniform Commercial Code, House of Representatives, New York Times, Responsible Art Market initiative, Money laundering, FinCEN, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Boris Rotenberg, oligarch, shell companies, suspicious activity reports, Banking Secrecy Act, Politically Exposed Persons, Arkady Rotenberg, Treasury, ultimate beneficial owner, UBO, Corporate Transparency Act of 2019, Tom Carper, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Rob Portman
In Vino Veritas—Second Circuit Upholds Damages in Counterfeit Wine Koch Brother Case With Implications for Art Sales
Koch brothers David and William are as well known for their art patronage as certain parts of the family are for political activity, and a decision yesterday by the Second Circuit involving William Koch could extend that influence. While the case concerned two dozen bottles of allegedly counterfeit wine, the implications on terms of sale and disclaimers will be felt in sales of fine art in New York as well.
Topics: David Koch, Château Lafite Rothschild, Auctions, Eric Greenberg, Second Circuit, authentication, Zachys Wine & Liquor Auctions, wine, Pétrus, In Vino Veritas, Koch brothers, Zachys Wine & Liquor Stores, Bordeaux, New York General Business Law § 349, Chateau Latour, punitive damages, fraud, New York General Business Law § 350, William Koch, Uniform Commercial Code, U.C.C.
Sullivan & Worcester LLP's Art and Museum Law Group has published an important new client advisory about Massachusetts's fine arts consignment statute, G.L. c. 104A. With the recent decision in Plumb v. Casey et al. by the Supreme Judicial Court, it is more important than ever to understand what the law requires and provides. Certainly if a transaction has any connection to Massachusetts (whether through buyer, seller, agent, estate executor, etc.), or even if it is just in a state with a consignment statute whose courts may look to this opinion for guidance, we hope our readers will find the advisory helpful.
Topics: Legislation, consignment, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Supreme Judicial Court, SJC, Bankruptcy Court, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, consignor, G.L. c. 104A § 2, Art and Museum Law Group, G.L. c. 104A § 1, U.C.C.-1 statement, U.C.C. Secretary of State, Plumb v. Casey, Chapter 7, Uniform Commercial Code
Massachusetts High Court Clarifies: Written Agreement Not Required to Create Consignment of Fine Art and its Resulting Trust Duties
The Supreme Judicial Court, the high court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has answered a certified question from the Bankruptcy Court about the interpretation of Massachusetts’s fine art consignment law, G.L. c. 104A. The case, Eve Plumb et al. v. Debra Casey, SJC-11519, originated with an art dealer’s bankruptcy and the claim by the trustee in that bankruptcy that the artwork in the dealer’s possession belonged to that bankrupt dealer, not the artists. The SJC has interpreted the 2006 amendments to the law for the first time and clarified the roles of everyone involved. In full disclosure, I did some work for two of the artists (Dylan Stark and Robert Stark) at an early phase of the Bankruptcy Court proceedings. Eve Plumb, now an artist but also well known as the actress who played Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch, was another of the artist-claimants. In sum, once an artist delivers a work of art for sale for the purpose of exhibition or sale, it is a consignment, and the seller/consignee holds it in trust for the artist, regardless of the consignee’s own circumstances.
Topics: Legislation, consignment, United States Supreme Court, The Brady Bunch, Jan Brady, Allyson Wynne, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Debora Casey, Supreme Judicial Court, SJC, Bankruptcy, Wynne Fine Art Inc., Eve Plumb, Bankruptcy Court, consignor, G.L. c. 104A § 2, Kenneth Wynne III, G.L. c. 104A § 1, U.C.C.-1 statement, U.C.C. Secretary of State, Chatham, Chapter 7, Uniform Commercial Code, certified question, Dylan Stark, Robert Stark, Eve Plumb et al. v. Debra Casey, Jim Grace, SJC-11519, Arts and Business Council
The Auctioneer is the Agent of the Seller in Every Auction: Buyer Gets the Better of Argument in Jenack Appeal Oral Argument. Are Auction Houses Ready if Result Stands?
The New York Court of Appeals held oral argument last week in the appeal from the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court’s ruling in Jenack v. Rabizadeh that an auctioneer must disclose the name of any owner who has consigned the work for sale, or a sale against a successful bidder cannot be enforced consistent with New York General Obligations law § 5-701, the New York Statute of Frauds (video in Windows Player). The court actively questioned both sides before taking the case under advisement. The view here is that the buyer (Rabizadeh) got the better of the argument, but one has to wonder how the equities will weigh on the court in a case where the winning bidder simply repudiated a voluntary transaction.
Topics: Legislation, New York General Obligations Law § 5-701, § 5-701(a)(6), Auctions, Jenack v. Rabizadeh, New York Court of Appeals, Ivan Petrovich Khlebnikov, Fine Russian Silver/Enamel Covered Box with Gilt I, New York Supreme Court, Chester, Statute of Frauds, 12 Wend. 548, William J. Jenack, Uniform Commercial Code, Hicks v. Wigmore