Wednesday, November 21, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) The disgraced former chief executive of Sotheby’s auction house admitted yesterday that she willingly participated in a price-fixing scheme with rival Christie’s.
“I was nervous about it, but I agreed to do it anyway,” Diana Brooks testified in the federal conspiracy trial of former Sotheby’s Chairman A. Alfred Taubman.
Brooks returned to the stand yesterday for cross-examination by Taubman attorney Robert Fiske, who has sought to portray her as a publicity seeker and the sole orchestrator of the scheme for Sotheby’s.
As the first woman to head a major auction house, Brooks, 51, was the subject of several magazine and television profiles.
“You enjoyed the publicity didn’t you?” Mr. Fiske asked her at one point yesterday, in the second week of the trial.
“I didn’t think of myself as a celebrity,” Brooks responded. “Mr. Fiske, I had much negative publicity in my career and I had some positive publicity.”
Mr. Taubman, 76, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., has denied charges he and Christie’s Chairman Anthony Tennant stole as much as $400 million in commissions from sellers from 1993 to 1999. Mr. Tennant, 71, of Andover, England, has refused to come to the United States to face charges and the purported crime is not covered by extradition treaties.
Brooks pleaded guilty in October 2000 to price-fixing charges and agreed to testify against Mr. Taubman, hoping to avoid a three-year prison sentence.
On Monday, Brooks testified that Mr. Taubman and Mr. Tennant agreed behind closed doors they “were killing each other on the bottom line, and that it was time to do something about it.”
Brooks said Mr. Taubman ordered her to meet with her counterpart at Christie’s and end the costly rivalry by eliminating discounts and by fixing commissions a violation of antitrust laws.
He also warned her to keep quiet about it, she testified.
“I said, ‘Fine, I wouldn’t tell anyone,’” she said.
Sotheby’s pleaded guilty last year to price-fixing charges and was sentenced to pay $45 million.

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