6:35am PT by Eriq Gardner
Dick Wolf's Financial Advisers Beat Lawsuit Over 'Law & Order' Creator's Divorce
After more than a dozen years, the legal procedural arising from the divorce between Law & Order series creator Dick Wolf and second wife Christine Wolf has resulted in what looks to be a conclusion.
The two split in 2003 just before Wolf began new negotiations with NBC on the series. Thanks to a settlement agreement, she walked away with $17.5 million in cash, annual spousal support of as much as $2 million for eight years, the couple's Maine home and more. But she alleged that she didn't know about a looming NBC deal that would take Wolf's company from a deficit to holding assets potentially worth more than a billion dollars.
In 2004, Christine first tried to argue that her consent on a divorce settlement was procured by fraud, and after a Santa Barbara judge ruled and an appeals courts affirmed that she was having nothing more than "buyer's remorse," she shifted her sights to financial advisers whom she accused of committing professional negligence.
The targets of her latest lawsuit were the couple's late business manager, Bob Philpott, as well as the Canadian financial-services firm Assante Corp. (later known as Loring Ward), run by Martin Weinberg, which was affiliated with Philpott's own L.A.-based firm. She alleged that they were hoping to win her soon-to-be-ex's ongoing business, and so when it was agreed that the dispute would go into mediation, they weren't neutral and had failed to disclose the value of the Wolfs' community assets.
Last year, L.A. Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig ruled that Christine had approved the financial advisers, that evidence of their bias was based largely on speculation and, as such, she couldn't get past a "mediation privilege" that shielded documents and communications being sought from the 2003 split. In October, the California Supreme Court denied her petition to review the circumstances that must exist for a person to be truly "neutral" and thus capable of conducting a fair mediation.
Having struck out in her discovery demands, Christine has now experienced a summary judgment blow.
Christine had hoped to present evidence and arguments that the events leading up to the mediation and the mediation itself were unfair to her, but Kendig rules that confidentiality would hamper the defense. But for mediation privilege, the defendants say they would introduce evidence that her original divorce attorney advised that she retain a forensic accountant to value Wolf's company and that she decided to settle to avoid protracted litigation.
"Since the Defendants would [be precluded] from introducing any evidence to rebut the claim, it would be fundamentally unfair to allow the action to proceed against them," states the judge in the opinion, which adds that litigation privilege protects the actions of the financial advisers, too.
Philpott was represented by Richard Kendall at Kendall Brill & Kelly, who says, "It is gratifying, after 12 years of litigation, that the Court’s detailed and thorough ruling will give Mr. Philpott's family some relief from litigation."
Weinberg and all company entities were represented by Dale Kinsella, Kristen Spanier and Patti Millett at Kinsella Weitzman.