Friday, December 31, 2010

UPDATE: could the UK's new Bribery Act 2010 really capture finder's fees?

LONDON. In a previous post, I discussed the UK's new anti-bribery legislation and how according to several commentators, it could be applied to capture certain payments by or to art dealers. I've now had a look at the actual text of the Bribery Act 2010 (found here) and I'm not certain it could be applied to prosecute payments of finder's fees by art dealers. In a nutshell, for the payment to fall under the Act, the dealer must (i) either be expected to act in good faith and/or impartially or be considered a fiduciary of the collector (the Act says one or more of these three conditions but the first two are fiduciary duties already so really it's one or both of conditions 1 and 2 where the dealer is not considered a fiduciary) and (ii) the payment (i.e. the "relevant function or activity" for purposes of the Act) must breach the "relevant expectation" of the person to whom the duties are owed, meaning it was offered, promised or made in bad faith and/or partially or in breach of trust, depending on which condition/s brought the function or activity under the Act. If we look back at the example cited in The Art Newspaper about the dealer who pays a collector's decorator for having aided the sale of an artwork to said collector, not only do I remain sceptical about the dealer being considered a fiduciary, even if he were or, alternatively, one or both of the other two conditions were satisfied, would it really breach the "relevant expectation"? I would imagine these payments are quite frequent in the market and if I were a collector regularly operating in the art market, I don't think that the payment of a finder's fee or the failure to disclose such payment would be contrary to my expectations of the dealer. Pierre Valentin is a leader in the field so am I missing something here? I would be very grateful to hear your views on dealers as fiduciaries of collectors (that is, collectors buying from the dealer as opposed to a collector or artist who consigns art for sale), the prevalence of finder's fees in the market and the new Bribery Act generally in the context of the art market.

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