Thursday, August 22, 2002

French Wallop, the newly divorced wife of Malcolm Wallop, the former Republican senator from Wyoming, has filed suit in Houston against him and William A. Wise, chairman of the Houston-based El Paso Corp., seeking damages for their having conspired “to cause [her] financial harm.”
Mr. Wallop retired in 1994 after 18 years in the Senate and joined the board of El Paso, receiving $95,000 in annual retainer fees and stock options from the energy company. Since he left the Senate he has been a writer and director of High Frontier, a think tank.
A preliminary hearing will be held in Houston Sept. 5, with depositions and a trial to follow. “I anticipate it’s going to be at least 18 months in court,” her lawyer, Tom Bousquet of Houston, said.
Mrs. Wallop sued for divorce two years ago, charging her husband of 18 years with adultery, and a dissolution of the marriage was ordered last month. She was dissatisfied with the financial settlement ordered by the Wyoming court, and filed an appeal.
Her Houston lawsuit contends that an El Paso Corp. lawyer sent a letter July 3 directly to the Wyoming judge presiding over the divorce suit, which ultimately “caused him to reverse his previous position that would have awarded her a substantial part of the generous El Paso deferred compensation plan.”
Mrs. Wallop charged that Mr. Wise had once agreed to pay her $120,000 to stay silent about “certain embarrassing facts” about the company, and reneged on the agreement. She was not happy with having accepted what she calls “hush money,” she said in a prepared statement, but legal fees and other expenses had placed her in an unfortunate position.
“The days of corporate executives and directors involved in self-dealing and greed at the expense of shareholders and employees must end,” she said. She told the Houston Chronicle: “It is outrageous for a multibillion-dollar company to meddle in something that has been a private matter in the state of Wyoming.”
A spokeswoman for El Paso called the suit without merit. Efforts to reach Mr. Wallop were not successful.
The separation of the Wallops, once one of the capital’s most glamorous power couples, was a bitter one. When they separated Mrs. Wallop sent an engraved announcement to their friends, announcing: “French Wallop regrets to inform you that due to a significant indiscretion on the part of her husband of 16 years, he may now be reached at the following address “
Said a friend familiar with the situation: “This is all just sad, sad, sad. It is sad for him, it is sad for her. And it is sad for the company involved.”
El Paso, under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for suspect trading practices, has had a rough summer. A senior vice president committed suicide at his home in early June and the company’s common stock declined sharply.

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