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Defence against too much

Member: Nifa

Although by any standards a divorce settlement of more than £337m could be judged a good result, what is being hailed as the largest settlement ever seen in a British court is actually less than the wife’s initial claim thanks to forensic investigators determining the actual amount of assets in dispute.

The divorce of Sir Chris Hohn and his wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn was hotly contested, with lawyers for the wife claiming that her husband held assets worth $1.4bn (£890m). His legal team, however, insisted that his personal wealth amounted to only £64.3m.

The couple have been described as the UK’s most generous philanthropists and have both said they lead relatively modest lives, given their wealth. In fact, Hohn described their lifestyle as being more “Swatch” than jet set. Although describing himself as an “unbelievable money-maker”, he also said that he did not “really care about money” and that it did not bring happiness.

Meanwhile, his wife told the judge she worked long hours on behalf of their charitable foundation, saying that they had both wanted to “make the world a better place”.

He had argued that his former wife should receive a reduced settlement because he was the “key man” who had made a special contribution to the accumulated wealth, which was reiterated by his counsel, who said that he is the sole decision-maker in the enterprise, making all the investment decisions and that, without him, there would be no business. 

In cases like these, the forensic investigators would examine the provenance of all income and look at the couple’s lifestyle to see who makes and who spends the money in a bid to give the judge a clear picture of the assets and what would be a fair partition.

The judge has yet to deliver a detailed ruling, and no doubt both parties will examine whatever award is made carefully before deciding whether or not to appeal.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 2 December 2014

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