Crime Writer Patricia Cornwell Has Her Own Legal Drama

Novelist Patricia Cornwell is suing her former financial management firm.

ByABC News
January 10, 2013, 2:36 PM

Jan. 10, 2013 — -- Fiction crime-writer Patricia Cornwell is used to writing about a heroic medical examiner investigating complex mysteries, but now she is in the middle of a drama of her own, claiming her former financial management firm cost her tens of millions of dollars in lost money over four years.

Cornwell, 56, and her partner, Staci Gruber, a neuroscientist at Harvard University, have lived in the Boston area for the last six years. In October 2009, she filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts against her former accounting firm and business manager, Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP and its former principal, Evan Snapper.

A jury continued to hear the case on Thursday.

Cornwell has been sitting in the front row in the courtroom and is expected to testify, the Boston Globe reports. She may testify after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Cornwell's publicist said.

She's suing for negligent performance of professional services, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, equitable forfeiture, and other actions.

"This case is, at its core, about trust," her lawyer, Joan Lukey of Ropes and Gray, said in her opening statement Monday, as reported by the Boston Globe.

"There is no amount of money that is enough to properly compensate her for what Anchin, Block & Anchin did," Lukey said in the courtroom.

Cornwell has written 20 books in a series about the fictional Dr. Kay Scarpetta. The first book, "Postmortem," was published in 1990, and her most recent, "The Bone Bed," was published last year.

Read more: Patricia Cornwell on Blood and "Boundaries"

Cornwell first used the accounting firm of Yohalem Gillman & Company from the mid-1990s until it merged with Anchin in 2005. She said Anchin eventually became her full-service concierge business manager, with Snapper holding a "power of attorney" for Cornwell by December 2004.

Through her publicist, Cornwell and her attorney declined to comment.

Anchin and its attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.

Cornwell alleges she was charged far more than the $40,000-a-month rate she thought she would be paying the company for management of her money and the assets of her company, Cornwell Entertainment Inc., as first reported by the Globe.

"Ms. Cornwell is a best-selling crime novelist whose ability to write is dependent upon the ability to avoid distractions," her complaint states. "A quiet, uninterrupted environment, free of the distractions of managing her business and her assets, including her investments, is essential to her ability to write and to meet her deadlines."

Her lawsuit also says that she "openly acknowledges her diagnosis with a mood disorder known as bipolar disorder, which, although controlled without medication, has contributed to her belief that it is prudent for her to employ others to manage her business affairs and her investments."

She said she learned the extent of her investment losses in 2009, alleging Anchin selected investments without input from her or her partner.

"Notwithstanding eight figure earnings per year during that period, CEI and Ms. Cornwell learned that their net worth, while substantial, was the equivalent of only approximately one year's net income," the suit says.

She also learned Anchin "had borrowed on their behalf collectively several million dollars, comprised of mortgages for real property and a loan for the purchase of a helicopter," the suit claims.

Snapper admitted to violating campaign finance laws by using her money to buy $50,000 in tickets to an Elton John concert benefiting Hillary Clinton.

He also pled guilty to campaign finance violations and paid a fine.

An attorney for Anchin told the court on Tuesday that Cornwell was aware of what was happening, including the ticket purchase. Anchin also maintains that the $40,000 monthly payment was determined as a retainer, while the company billed by the hour.