The details of the deeply private life that heiress Huguette Clark so fiercely protected are being exposed in an ugly legal fight over her $500 million fortune.
The reclusive Clark, who inherited riches amassed by her father in Montana's mining industry at the turn of last century, has spent the past 20 years living in a New York Hospital room.
The fragile 104-year-old has largely shunned visitors and has for years left decisions touching leaving every facet of her life in the hands of her longtime lawyer -- from bidding on vintage dolls at auction on her behalf to settling disputes among her personal nurses.
"Ms. Clark has always been a strong-willed individual with firm convictions about how her life should be led and who should be privy to her affairs," said in an affidavit filed in court from her lawyer, Wallace Bock, who finds himself embroiled in a legal dispute over the alleged mismanagement of Clark's fortune.
Though Clark has a 42-room apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and sprawling estates in California and Connecticut, she has lived quietly for decades in a hospital room, most recently at Beth Israel Medical Center. The legal wrangling over her fortune, meanwhile, has exposed snippets of her once shrouded life.
In a state court, two of Clark's nieces and a nephew last week asked a Manhattan judge to appoint a guardian to oversee her personal and financial affairs. The petition also asked the court to bar Bock and certified public accountant Irving Kamsler from visiting or representing Clark.
In federal lawsuit, two former trust officers accuse Citibank of costing the heiress up to $80 million by failing to properly invest her money. The bank has denied the allegation in the case, which is unrelated to the guardian petition filed by the relatives.
The former trust officers met Wednesday with Manhattan prosecutors, who are investigating whether Bock and Kamsler mishandled Clark's finances. No criminal charges have been filed.
Sources say prosecutors will likely look into the sale by Bock and Kamsler of Clark's Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting valued at $23 million.
In their Federal wrongful termination suit, former Citibank trust officers John Cullen and Veronica Juliano claim that more than 70 years after a $3 million fund was established for Clark, the value of the fund remained the essentially the same because it was never invested in stocks.
The fund was set up by the heiress's mother, Anna, one year after the death of Clark's father, U.S. Sen. William Clark of Montana, who died in 1925 at age 86 and was one of the richest men in the nation. Established with $3 million during one of America's periodic stock market booms, the money was invested entirely in bonds for decades, according to the lawsuit. Cullen said he was fired by Citibank after insisting that the bank look into the matter.
"She might be a private person but the bank as fiduciary has a higher duty," Cullen said. "I'm not saying at this moment that it was a fraud. I'm saying it should be investigated. The bank was unwilling to do it."
In a statement released through spokesman Michael McKeon, Bock said he "has and continues to act in the best interests of Ms. Clark. Any allegation to the contrary is without support."