Former Christie's boss steps down at Paribas after Taubman is convicted

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The Independent Online

Sir Anthony Tennant, the former chairman of Christie's, is to stand down from the board of the UK arm of BNP Paribas in the wake of the conviction of Alfred Taubman, his opposite number at Sotheby's, for commission fixing.

A New York court found that Taubman had colluded with Sir Anthony to set sales duties on art auctions in a market where Sotheby's and Christie's are the dominant players. Diana "DeDe" Brooks, Sotheby's then chief executive, and Christopher Davidge, who held the same post at Christie's, both gave evidence against their former bosses in the trial that finished last week.

Taubman faces a potential jail sentence, though US legal experts believe that his age, 76, and his history of charitable works may help him to avoid incarceration. Taubman is also expected to appeal.

However, Sir Anthony, a former chairman of Guinness and director of US bank Morgan Stanley, refused to travel to the US to face the charges against him.

He famously ran away from a legal official who tried to serve summons upon him and has said he will not answer the charges. He cannot be extradited to the US as there is no equivalent offence in the UK. But he cannot now travel to the US or to more than 40 countries where Justice Department officials would be able to arrest him and take him to face trial.

When the scandal broke, Sir Anthony started resigning from his high-profile directorships, notably his position on the advisory board of Morgan Stanley, the blue-blooded Wall Street investment bank.

But he remained as chairman of the trustees at the Royal Academy and became a director of the UK arm of BNP Paribas, the French banking giant.

BNP Paribas stood by him throughout the trial, saying he was innocent until proven guilty. Now Taubman has been convicted, it is understood he will quietly resign from the BNP Paribas board. The bank had hoped little notice would be taken of his departure.

Taubman and Sir Anthony are alleged to have met on a number of occasions between 1993 and 1996 to agree price- fixing arrangements.

The details were then thrashed out by their chief executives and other senior staff at the two auction houses. Many of these have been given immunity from prosecution in exchange for giving evidence, though there is a question about whether further executives from Christie's could face legal proceedings.

The case has received wide attention and a film may be made of the scandal. Hollywood star Sigourney Weaver was in court watching evidence, raising the suspicion that she might play DeDe Brooks in any movie.