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Audubon quartet in court


Keith Rogers
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I just saw this - not brand new news, but didn't see any other threads. Anyone care to comment? Quartet members are losing their instruments due to a suit brought by an ousted, former member. Yikes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12...arts/music/15audu.html

(You'll need a NY Times login account - there might be another summary somewhere else - I didn't look.)

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This link provides more detail and a good history of the dispute:

http://www.geocities.com/audub...ition/audubon_comment

...this link provides some info about Ehrlich:

http://www.redrocksmusicfestival.com/id22.htm

...a casual study of the case suggests that because Tom Shaw was one of the original founders of the quartet he believed his seniority gave him ownership of the quartet...the judge didn't agree...Shaw's summary dismissal of Ehrlich after 16 years as well as the terms of the dismissal lead me to believe there were deeper differences than simply musical ones...Ehrlich's victory looks appropriate...too bad they couldn't have found a more reasonable settlement earlier and perhaps spared their finances and their instruments.

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If there's a lesson here, it might be that any professional ensemble needs to have clearly stated, in some legally binding document, how membership in the ensemble will be determined and terminated. And then, of course, the defined procedures need to be followed.

I wonder how many small, professional ensembles have such legally binding documentation?

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How any one person's stake in a quartet can include the instruments (and thus the entire value and playing worth of the tools used by the other musicians) is beyond me.

Differences aside, Ehrlich appears to have not only regained his job at Virginia Tech, but as a result of the legal wrangling will have managed to completely destroy his former quartet in liquidating their instruments AND even one of their homes.

Is this the kind of colleague we want to work with and send our students to?

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gwie,  the instruments owned by those 3 members are considered

assets.  to come up with money to satisfy the judgment

rendered against them, it is their option to liquidate the

instruments if they do not have enough cash.  it sounds like

they indeed do not have enough money or other resources and have to

sell off the violins etc.  Sad, but that is how civil justice

system works.  If you have problem understanding this, try to

imagine the most beautiful wedding ceremony followed years later by

a not so beautiful divorce fight. they go after

 each other's  throat and they have many children

together. you really think playing together in a

quartet will create a holier bond?

On one hand, one can argue that the lawyers representing the three

should have anticipated this dreadful outcome with regards to their

violins in case the verdict goes against them.  But for

lawyers, as long as you have enough fund in the retainer, what do

they care?

On the other hand, one can also argue that those musicians can

still make music with less expensive and less desirable

instruments. do we really  think those 3 players

each  have only one instrument in their possession?

It is a high stake gamble.  they lost and they have to pay.

 

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D A: you said "the only one's who won were the lawyers"

I think he won. They were trying to take away his job, his reputation and his instrument. He was their first violinist. They had tried others before him. He got all that back. As skiingfiddler points out, if the lawyers had gotten involved before, maybe this would not have happend.

(please excuse me, but as a retired attorney-CPA I had to reply to that statement)

Ben

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i am not sure if many will envy his position even though he has won

in court.  he must have endured years of anguish, just like

the other 3 on the other side,  since the beginning of the

conflict.  His reputation? I am not sure if he is a clear

winner in the arena of public opinion.  

and on his lawyers, it is very likely that with expense included,

close to half of his "winning" will go into the pocket of his

lawyers.  

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quote:


I think he won. They were trying to take away his job, his reputation and his instrument. He was their first violinist. They had tried others before him. He got all that back.

Strictly speaking, you are right Ben, and I meant no slam on lawyers (honest!). I guess I am thinking of the years of stress and anguish for all parties as this has been going on. It IS too bad that it had to happen at all, and possibly getting lawyers involved before could have prevented it. Hindsight is always 20/20. They were a great quartet and it is very sad that they were not able to amicably settle their differences.

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Ehrlich's victory does not look appropriate to me at all.

The former second violinist left in part due to problems with Ehrlich. The new second violinist also had problems with Ehrlich and agreed with the violist and cellist on his dismissal.

"His share" of the quartet is causing the other three members to go bankrupt. The loss of reputation he has suffered has been magnified by his own lawsuit, not many people knew about his dismissal and now everyone knows about it, not to mention the scores of people of now despise him for his legal actions. The quartet no longer has a residency, however, he was re-hired by the university. Yet they owe him hundreds of thousands of dollars? Ehrlich recently made comments to the effect that it was unfortunate that his former colleagues were losing their instruments but that he needs the money to pay his lawyer. Justice, my arse.

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Which all goes to support "skiingfiddler"'s point -- if there had been a signed contract clearly specifying all the terms of the "business" then a lot of misery could have been avoided...most such groups form happenstance by virtue of membership in the same orchestra or participants in some camp, etc...the transition from a "social arrangement" to an operating business is often neglected.

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According to the article the "business" was set up as a nonprofit coporation, which is fine for a community orchestra but very bad for any kind of business. It is almost as bad as a quartet of physicians setting up their practice as a nonprofit coporation. Rules for setting up a nonprofit and filing are very loose in most states.

For any business organization governance is one of the most important considerations. Enron and Worldcom are examples of breakdowns of gevernance. In the Audubon quartet case there never was any governance in the first place.

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i do not think it is a matter of profit vs non profit setup.

 i know of many for profit set- ups that ran into the ground

and many non profit set- ups that are world class

organizations.

further, you can have the best lawyers representing each member

from day one and come up with the best contract,,,,,,,,,still,

things can go wrong and they will.  It is human

nature.

contracts, like promises, are meant to be broken.

it is just a matter of when, how, by whom, etc.

the real take home message here is not who is a good guy, who is a

bad guy.

not how to set up a corporation, a legal entity.

IT IS ABOUT HOW TO PROTECT YOUR OWN INTEREST, HOW TO PROTECT

YOURSELF FROM POTENTIAL CREDITORS, HOW TO ANTICIPATE THE

UNEXPECTED.

anyone any time can be sued for anything, and darn, usually when

you least expects it.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE ABOUT YOUR ASSET WHILE YOU ARE NOT SUED YET?

can arrangement be made prior to the verdict so that the members

give up ownership of the instruments to a family limited

partnership but has control over the use of the violins?  

Huh?

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quote:


IT IS ABOUT HOW TO PROTECT YOUR OWN INTEREST, HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM POTENTIAL CREDITORS, HOW TO ANTICIPATE THE UNEXPECTED.

Won't work in all cases, since there are crazy people out there, but how about following the Golden Rule?

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

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i am not convinced if  your denial of the asset protecting

measures in this litigious society is a personal opinion or based

on some precedents.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

---we aspire to do that because grandma told us. try to

be nice guys. however, as sick as it may sound, nice

guys are easy picking by bad guys, lol. nice guys with

no defense learn afterwards. certain lessons are too

costly to take. Case in point,,,,

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quote:


Originally posted by:
MrLucky

can arrangement be made prior to the verdict so that the members

give up ownership of the instruments to a family limited

partnership but has control over the use of the violins?  

Huh?

I'm not a lawyer, but you don't need to be one to recognize a fraudulent conveyance when you see one.

Once things start going badly for defendant, they start transferring assets to relatives. If the plaintiff's attorney is any good at all, the transfer won't work.

Without going into detail, the IRS has been hitting family corporations and trusts very hard and has been very succesful in having them recognized as an artifice by the courts.

Also, having a contract is usually better for both parties involved since both know the ground rules and can't change rules later on. It isn't a matter of being a good guy or a bad guy. It is just a matter of determining the ground rules, deciding who is in charge and how policy is made.

I don't know any of the parties involved in this case and wouldn't hazard a guess as to who is a bad guy and who is a good guy. I just think it is a good idea to know what the rules are before you start playing a game.

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finpro, thanks for a level headed post.

Let me clarify one of my statements in which i said things should

be done to protect one's assets prior to the "verdict".  i

have used that "verdict" too loosely.  i mean before one

is served, dragged to court and found liable.

certainly any illegal moves should not be

attempted.

still, back to the issue about asset protection.  agree that

IRS has cracked down on some partnerships....but, name something

that IRS has not cracked down before?  in any situation there

will be abuses of the system.  there are many ways to legally

protect one's asset and they are protected under the law and

recognized by the IRS.

but to go deeper is inappropriate for this forum.  a starving

artist with 99% of his net worth tied up on one instrument reading

this post may want to think about things...

good guys and bad guys?  gee, let me have some liberty with

words, ok?

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quote:


"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

we aspire to do that because grandma told us. try to be nice guys. however, as sick as it may sound, nice guys are easy picking by bad guys, lol. nice guys with no defense learn afterwards. certain lessons are too costly to take. Case in point,,,,

No, we aspire to do that because it makes for smoother interactions with others. People generally are not taken to court by individuals whom they are treating well. (of course there are always the exceptions -- which usually involve a greedy someone wanting to get something for nothing (such as the finger in Wendy's chili case -- not this case, which was of someone protesting what he felt to be an unjust dismissal). I do not think that this situation would have happened if all parties had been talking and treating each other with respect -- granted, it's often easier said than done, but if I were losing my instrument or house, I would sure be wishing that I could go back to the beginning and talk things out this time around...

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On one hand, one can argue that the lawyers representing the three should have anticipated this dreadful outcome with regards to their violins in case the verdict goes against them. But for lawyers, as long as you have enough fund in the retainer, what do they care?

quote:


Text

The client can always dismiss his lawyer. The client is in charge, not the lawyer. This case was on for 6 years. If they go into bankruptcy court they may be able to keep their instuments in most states, I believe (Am not giving a legal opinion. I am retired). But I do think that the lawyers should not be blamed for the clients conduct.

Ben

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i respect your interpretation of "do unto others..."....essentially

we all have our own version but i think that is not the point

here.

"People generally are not taken to court by individuals whom they

are treating well. (of course there are always the exceptions --

which usually involve a greedy someone wanting to get something for

nothing (such as the finger in Wendy's chili case -- not

this case, which was of someone protesting what he felt to

be an unjust dismissal)."

--as you indicated, the key words here are "generally" and

"usually". generally and usually my neighborhood is

very safe, but still i lock my front door because...

"I do not think that this situation would have happened if all

parties had been talking and treating each other with respect --

granted, it's often easier said than done, but if I were losing my

instrument or house, I would sure be wishing that I could go back

to the beginning and talk things out this time around...


"

--now, imagine for one second, that one most difficult person in

your life to deal with, and ask yourself, if you and that person

"had been talking and treating each other with respect", would it

have been better?  often, as you can imagine, things are out

of your control, because you cannot control the other party.

We do not get sued everyday, thank god.  we are talking about

one in a million.  you buy car insurance even though you have

no intention to run people over (except in moments of weakness i

suppose).  However, if you accidentally hurt someone, no

matter how nice you are,  how well you play or make violin,

how sorry you are,  some people do not care. all they care is

this: does this guy have any asset?  Yes?  Bingo!

Now, one can argue that in this case, people are hurt and it is not

even accidental....what do you think?  kiss and hug and start

all over?  

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"The client can always dismiss his lawyer. The client is in charge,

not the lawyer. This case was on for 6 years. If they go into

bankruptcy court they may be able to keep their instuments in most

states, I believe (Am not giving a legal opinion. I am retired).

But I do think that the lawyers should not be blamed for the

clients conduct."

since you are a retired lawyer, i understand your position.

no one will think lawyers should be blamed for clients'

conduct prior to their relationship.  and also, of course, the

client can always dismiss his lawyer.  i am not very familiar

with keeping the instrument thru bankruptcy court, now.

i have many friends who are in the legal profession.  i know

how they look at things, and in particular, how much money is left

in the retainer.  i do not blame them; that is their

business.

i want to raise 2 points:

1. i wonder how informed the clients are in this case when it comes

to knowing through their lawyers all the potential outcomes and

their implications from day one, before the retainer is signed.

i wonder starting when do the clients realize that they

will lose their instruments if the verdict goes against them.

i wonder if on day one, the lawyers have told them

straight out of that possibility, will the clients have retained

their service.

2. i know of many musicians and doctors who know their craft very

well and know nothing else very well.  I have seen many

doctors become bitter after legal obstacles.  Thankfully, i

have not seen "many" legal problems confronting musicians.

i hope this case help musicians realize there are

indeed rainy days....

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