The Latest Patricia Cornwell Mystery: Who Lost the Author's Millions?

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Patricia CornwellA master of the forensic medicine mystery genre, Patricia Cornwell can take a reader from unsolved crime to resolution in 500 pages or fewer. But it's taken four years for Cornwell to solve her own personal financial mystery: the case of who stole the author's money.

On Tuesday, a jury in Massachusetts federal court awarded Ms. Cornwell $51 million in a lawsuit against money managers Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, accused of bilking Cornwell of millions of dollars she'd entrusted to them.

Alleging various financial improprieties, from spending money on bat mitzvah gifts to interfering with the author's ability to meet a deadline on a new novel to simple improper accounting, Cornwell sued Anchin, Block in federal court in 2009 after discovering that they had reduced her net worth to only $13 million, despite having control over an income stream that ran to as much as $15 million annually over the previous four years -- call it $60 million in total.

In response, Anchin, Block cited its 90-year history of handling money for high-net-worth individuals as evidence of its "reputation for honesty and integrity." The firm blamed Cornwell's own extravagant living expenses, including the lease of a temporary New York apartment for $40,000 a month, and a generally poor stock market for the losses, denying any financial shenanigans on their own part.

It wasn't an impossible argument to make. After all, during the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the stock market did lose close to half its value. Now subtract a few years' worth of $500,000-a-year apartment living, and presumably similar extravagances on restaurants, haute couture, and entertainment. It's actually conceivable that a fund being diligently drained by its beneficiary on the one hand and eroded by a falling stock market on the other could lose 75 percent of its value without any need to infer foul play.

Still, such a loss wouldn't speak very well to the financial acumen of the money managers.

According to a statement from Anchin, Block, the firm is "exploring its legal options," and contemplating an appeal. It makes you wonder, though: Even if the money managers succeed on appeal and prove they're not crooks, will the net effect just be to prove themselves guilty of being really bad at managing money?

Rich Smith is a contributor to The Motley Fool.

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11 Comments

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pattiqq

Love her books! They used her money without her consent, political contributions, paying off her money manager's American Express card and much much more without her knowledge! They should of gone to prison instead of paying $$. Wrong!

February 06 2014 at 7:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jstjuls

Money. Managers. Not a good combination.

February 21 2013 at 11:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
welcome Richard

Sorry for double post. Site said it was having problem and it would not post. try again later.
Bad site, bad site! Stop that! :-)

February 21 2013 at 5:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
welcome Richard

Wouldn't you sit down with your money managers at least once a year to ask about your money? See how and what it is doing. This would be like sending a child off to school then years later find out the kid is in jail and has been for 2 years.

February 21 2013 at 4:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
vallontina

I would never trust so called 'money managers' to do what is in my best interest. They will do what is in their best interest and if the fund they put my money in loses money, you can bet they still collect their commissions.
Split you money up into several FDIC bank accounts in numerous banks and manage it yourself.

February 21 2013 at 4:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
slarsit

These people who do this only feed the stereotypical image of Jews being dishonest and driven by greed. The Jew take one step in changing the negative image of Jews and something like this takes them two steps back. And these people will not be punished and they know that going in.

February 21 2013 at 4:08 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
pj512

When I win the lottery, I will build a big built-in safe in my basement and keep all of my money down there. I don't know who is telling the truth in this story, but I know that trusting someone else with your money is a risk any day of the week.

February 21 2013 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
streufjm

Sorry for Ms. Cornwell's problems, but... maybe it's just me, but I tried reading one of her books and could not read very far as her characters were so two dimensional. Her hero was all good and great, and her bad guys were so bad and evil. Nothing like real human beings. Maybe it was just the one book I happened to read, or maybe I expect too much in a novel. Give me Steinbeck or Hemingway or any number of others who manage to put at least a smidgen of that third dimension, depth, into the characters they invent.

February 21 2013 at 1:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to streufjm's comment
mary

No, it is not just you! I am an avid mystery novel reader and while I quite enjoyed a few of her earlier novels I never thought she remotely deserved the popularity she attained. In the past decade I have tried a few of her books and found I lost interest quickly for the precise reason you mention - cardboard like characters. I now give her a wide berth.

February 21 2013 at 6:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
up.yours

Gee, too trusting of others who controlled her funds? Should have paid attention when the first $10,000 went missing...

February 21 2013 at 1:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Nanarina

Pay her. Forget the appeal.

February 21 2013 at 1:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply