A. Alfred Taubman, former chairman of auction house Sotheby's Holdings Inc., was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $7.5 million in April 2002 for his role in a price-fixing scandal that rocked the art world. Taubman, 78, was convicted of price-fixing in December 2001 by an eight-man, four-woman jury that found him guilty after two days of deliberations. The criminal fine comes on top of more than $150 million in civil penalties he had already paid. While prosecutors had asked for a three-year sentence, Taubman's attorneys argued for probation, citing his ill health and his history of charitable giving. Taubman has suffered from a stroke and heart ailments. He served a year in prison and was released in June 2003.
Prosecutors charged that Sotheby's and London-based rival Christie's International PLC conspired to set prices and commissions for six years beginning in 1993. The prosecutors charged the scheme netted the auction houses about $43.8 million in additional commissions.
An active philanthropist, Taubman's name is on the college of architecture and urban planning and the health-care center at the University of Michigan as well as the Center for Public Policy and American Institutions at Brown University. More than 90 prominent people in business, politics and education had written letters on Taubman's behalf, including former President Gerald Ford, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Jordan's Queen Noor, and network anchor Barbara Walters. U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels acknowledged Taubman's accomplishments, but said that price fixing is a crime whether the victims are the poor or the rich and mighty. He said Taubman had acted with impunity and had shown no remorse for his actions. "No one is above the law," he said.