Bestselling crime novelist Patricia Cornwell has filed a lawsuit against a New York City wealth management firm that claims she lost multimillions because it mismanaged her income, business and investments.
Cornwell, her firm CEI Enterprises Inc. and her spouse, Harvard neuroscientist Staci Gruber, filed the lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts against Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, a financial advisory and accounting firm that serves high-net-worth individuals.
Among other things, the suit charges Anchin, Block & Anchin with breach of contract and fiduciary duty. It also alleges the firm was negligent in performing professional services and did not provide a full accounting of revenue, expenses and investments that affected the plaintiffs' net worth.
"Obviously, we are reluctant to comment on any case in court, but we are disappointed by the lawsuit," said Thomas Manisero, attorney for the firm, when asked for comment. "Anchin, Block & Anchin is an 87-year-old firm with a fine reputation. We think at the end of day we will be vindicated. There's no merit to this and we intend to contest it. The firm has an untarnished reputation and this is unfortunate."
Joan A. Lukey, an attorney with Ropes & Gray in Boston who represents Cornwell, said in an e-mail she could not comment beyond the amended complaint, filed Wednesday.
The lawsuit details a relationship that goes back to 2005 between Cornwell and Anchin, Block & Anchin for full-service concierge business management, including accounting and investment management services. The suit also says the firm mishandled personal matters for Cornwell and Gruber that included managing cars, motorcycles, rare book sales, apartment rentals and home renovations.
Cornwell's net worth was less than $10 million when she fired Anchin on August 31 of this year, despite the fact she had "high eight-figure total earnings" during the time the firm was responsible for CEI and Cornwell's business, the suit says.
Cornwell, who lives with Gruber in eastern Massachusetts, is well known around the world for her crime novels, particularly those with character Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a forensic analyst. Her most recent novel, The Scarpetta Factor, went on sale Tuesday.
Cornwell's relationship with Anchin began in 2005, after Yohalem Gillman & Co., the certified public accounting firm that handled her investment management since the late-1990s, was merged into Anchin. Cornwell says in the suit that Anchin principal Evan Snapper told her that Anchin would "do everything for its clients including buying and delivering their toilet paper." Snapper encouraged her to transition all of her business needs to Anchin following the merger, which she did, the suit says.
Cornwell felt it was prudent to have someone manage all of her business affairs to avoid distractions from writing and because she has been diagnosis with bipolar disorder, the suit says. By 2006, Anchin held full powers of attorney for CEI, Cornwell and her mother, and all incoming revenues to CEI and Cornwell, including those attributable to her books, were sent to Anchin, which paid all her bills, says the suit.
Anchin selected all investments for Cornwell, Gruber and CEI without input from them, according to the suit. When Cornwell learned the extent of her investment losses, she insisted that the investments be transferred to bonds, the suit says. She says no one at the firm ever discussed with Cornwell or Gruber "their risk tolerance or investment objectives and Ms. Cornwell never revoked personally or for CEI the directive that their funds be invested conservatively."
Cornwell, Gruber and CEI are seeking punitive damages, attorneys' fees and other relief, the suit says.