Former Sotheby’s chief gets probation

Former Sotheby’s chief executive Diana “Dede” Brooks, once considered the most powerful woman in the art industry, was sentenced Monday to three years probation for her role in a scheme with rival auction house Christie’s to fix commission fees, Reuters reported.

Although U.S. District Judge George Daniels granted Brooks, 51, a light sentence, he harshly criticized her as a criminal in a business suit who had traded “fame for shame” in the six-year scam that cost Sotheby’s and Christie’s customers more than $100 million.

“You have allowed yourself to go from a successful respected executive to being ridiculed as a caricature for melodrama,” he reportedly said. “The notoriety you have gained will outlive you.”

As part of her probation, Daniels ordered Brooks to serve six months of home detention, perform 1,000 hours of community service and pay a $350,000 fine, Reuters reported.

The case rocked the rarefied art world with accusations of deceit, backstabbing, and shady deal making between the two houses, which together control about 90% of the world’s live auctions of art, jewelry and furniture.

Brooks avoided a prison term of up to three years by pleading guilty to an antitrust charge and cooperating with the authorities. She was a key witness against her former boss, A. Alfred Taubman, 78, a wealthy real estate mogul and philanthropist, who was convicted of spearheading the scheme and sentenced last week to one year and one day in prison.

Federal prosecutors urged the court to be lenient with Brooks, Reuters reported. They would not have been able to convict Taubman, Sotheby’s former chairman, without her help, they said.

> While recognizing the value of her cooperation, Daniels slammed Brooks for coming forward only after “the finger of guilt pointed in your direction.”

Her decision to help the government “was not a noble gesture motivated by a guilty conscience” and was “self-saving not self-sacrificing,” he said. “The debt you owe society will never be repaid.”