Ex Sotheby’s chair gets prison time

Former Sotheby’s Chairman A. Alfred Taubman was sentenced Monday to a year in prison and fined $7.5 million for taking part in a price-fixing scheme that scandalized the auction industry, the Associated Press reported.

Taubman, 78, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels in Manhattan for overcharging Sotheby’s sellers $43.8 million over six years.

Prosecutors had asked that Taubman be sentenced to three years in prison, the AP reported. His lawyers had sought probation.

“No one is above the law,” the judge reportedly said. Taubman was convicted Dec. 5 of conspiracy to violate antitrust laws in the scheme that prosecutors said involved his counterpart, Anthony Tennant, at rival Christie’s auction house.

The Justice Department said the men colluded on how much to charge, depriving the sellers of the opportunity to bargain for a lower price. The two auction houses control more than 90 percent of the world’s art auctions.

Tennant, 71, of Andover, England, has said he will not come to the United States to face trial. He cannot be extradited on antitrust charges.

Taubman’s lawyers had claimed prison would worsen the health of their 78-year-old client, who has heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and renal failure.

“Mr. Taubman’s once stellar reputation, which took him decades of incredibly hard work and humanity to build, has been shattered, literally overnight. The humiliation he has endured is simply indescribable,” his lawyers reportedly wrote in pre-sentencing papers.

The government acknowledged that Taubman’s charitable and civic contributions were generous and substantial, but said they were not unusual for a man worth more than $640 million, the AP reported.