This is the last thing any author should have to deal with a new book coming out, as Patricia Cornwell is now doing while getting ready for today's publication of THE SCARPETTA FACTOR, her latest Kay Scarpetta novel. But Lloyd Grove at the Daily Beast reports that Cornwell (along with her partner, Staci Gruber) has filed suit against her former financial advisers Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, for mismanaging and losing up to $40 million worth of her total earnings:
“Patricia has found this process to be very distracting and upsetting, but I think she has some level of comfort knowing that the lawsuit has been filed and is now in the hands of the court,” Cornwell’s Boston attorney, Joan Lukey, told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview, noting that Cornwell has just launched a book tour for The Scarpetta Factor, her 17th novel in the hugely successful series. As for Cornwell and Gruber, “I think this has been a very difficult time for both of them.” Cornwell declined to comment.
Her complaint, filed in Boston federal court, singles out Anchin executives Ira Yohalem and Evan Snapper for special attention.
She claims Yohalem, who oversaw Cornwell’s investments at his previous business management and accounting firm, brought her along as a client in 2005 when his company merged with Anchin, where her assets have dropped significantly in value—just how much, she isn't sure. She alleges that Anchin’s financial managers apparently disregarded her stated wish to “invest conservatively.” Yohalem—who was sanctioned last December for “improper professional conduct” by the Securities & Exchange Comission for putting his own money in a restaurant that his accounting firm was auditing—didn’t respond to my detailed voicemail message.
Cornwell accuses Snapper—who once allegedly told her that Anchin would “do everything for its clients including buying and delivering their toilet paper”—of a variety of misdeeds. These apparently include everything from purchasing goods and services on her behalf from favored Anchin clients, to mishandling rental properties, construction jobs, and tax returns, to cutting a check for $5,000 as a bat mitzvah gift for his daughter (“whom Ms. Cornwell has never met,” the lawsuit notes dryly).
the 20-page complaint makes for pretty grim reading, as it goes through, line by line, just what sort of shenanigans Anchin was allegedly up to - the most egregious, to my mind, being that they went ahead and filed 2007 tax returns on behalf of Cornwell, Gruber and Cornwell's company, CEI, without actually getting their signatures (in other words, they never saw the return in question.) Then there's how Anchin handled New York City apartment rentals (as Cornwell stays in the city frequently for business, especially around book publication time), such as signing a lease for One Central Park West (aka Trump International Hotel & Tower) just as construction took place in adjoining apartments, making the place uninhabitable for a couple of years.
Sure, some might say that Cornwell could absorb such losses, and her net worth is still considerably greater than the average American. But when I interviewed her last year, I was struck by how ruthlessly self-made she was - no need for apologies or explanations, this was who she is, take her or leave her. She knew what her flaws were and had finally reached some level of stability, albeit at a fairly high tax bracket than most of us could ever hope for. But as those who lost money to Bernard Madoff found out, massive decreases in net worth play great psychological havoc on one's well-being. And now, just like other authors who took a massive financial hit, it seems likely the only way she can rebound is to write - at, perhaps, a far more rapid pace than she expected to maintain at this point in her career.