Since 2015, Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev has been embroiled in a legal battle with his former art dealer Yves Bouvier, whom Rybolovlev believes to have artificially inflated the prices of works he was encouraged to buy. Now, Rybolovlev has also begun to involve the auction house Sotheby』s, which he claims played a role in the alleged scheme.
At the strong suggestion of the Judge Jesse M. Furman, Rybolovlev and Sotheby』s have agreed to enter a mediation process.
「We can confirm that Plaintiffs and Sotheby』s have accepted the Court』s recommendation to engage in settlement talks, and have agreed to proceed by mediation with a magistrate judge,」 a Sotheby』s spokesperson wrote to ARTnews in an email.
In a recent decision by the court, Judge Furman decided to dismiss all claims for aiding and abetting Bouvier』s breach of fiduciary duty except in one transaction. However, the claims for aiding and abetting Bouvier』s alleged fraud in five transactions still stand.
This is not a judgement of guilt. If the suit continues to trial, however, these are the claims that will be investigated and discussed. The court has made the suggestion that both parties consider settling instead.
「In the meantime, the Court is of the view that the parties should try to settle this case without the need for a trial that would be expensive, risky, and potentially embarrassing to both sides,」 Judge Furman wrote in his opinion and order, which was submitted on March 1.
Rybolovlev』s lawyers agreed to confer about the prospect of a settlement with the mediation under a magistrate judge, but have requested a different judge to be assigned to the case.
「Out of an abundance of caution, however, the parties request assignment to a different magistrate judge than Magistrate Judge Lehrburger, whose niece is a lawyer at defendants』 law firm,」 Rybolovlev』s lawyers wrote. The request was approved.