A federal complaint against Christie’s was filed on Tuesday by Elizabeth Taylor’s Southern Trust. The claim alleges that the auction house mismanaged the sales of Taylor’s “most prized and valuable possessions” (including her jewelry, wardrobe, and art collection) and stole proceeds earmarked for her AIDS foundation, The Courthouse News Service reports today.
In the 25-page complaint suing Christie’s for breach of contract and fiduciary duty, the trustees claim that following the auctions, Christie’s cancelled sales, refused to return unsold items, and owed money to the trust. They are requesting an explanation for the canceled sales, the return of missing items, $2.9 million for the sale of one of Taylor’s Bulgari rings, and proceeds from autographed books. All monies were set to benefit Taylor’s aforementioned AIDS foundation.
After the cancellation of the sales, which included Taylor’s famous 17th century “Taj Mahal” diamond necklace—which came about when an anonymous buyer demanded a return after deciding the piece hadn’t really belonged to a Mughal emperor—Christie’s requested that the trustees return money paid for the necklace. After the trustees balked, they claim that Christie’s withheld monies from the sale of one of Taylor’s rings as a retaliatory measure.
“Pursuant to the consignment agreement, Christie’s had an obligation to the trust not to cancel the sale of any property, including the diamond, unless it reasonably believed that the sale has subjected, or would subject, Christie’s or the trust to liability. Despite facing no credible threat of legal liability, Christie’s nonetheless rescinded the sale of the diamond. In doing so, Christie’s not only deviated from its usual business practices and its own established policies, but it violated its obligations to the trust, all in an effort to appease the buyer,” the complaint says.