Fairness may not be the point in pre-nup battle, p. 2

| Nov 4, 2015 | Divorce |

About 18 months ago, Illinois hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin filed for divorce from his wife Anne Dias Griffin. According to reports at the time, the move came as a surprise to Dias Griffin, but the couple had been living apart for a while. In fact, the Daily Mail reported that Griffin had moved out in 2012 when Dias Griffin was pregnant with their youngest child.

The Griffins were known for their charitable work and their connections to the art world. Not only did they amass a large private collection of masterpieces, but they also funded a wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dias Griffin, who also runs a hedge fund, sits on the boards of several museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Most early reports about the split mentioned that the couple had a prenuptial agreement, suggesting that there would be no prolonged disputes over property, including the art collection. When Dias Griffin responded to the divorce petition, though, she claimed that she had been forced to sign the pre-nup and asked that it be set aside.

The crux of Dias Griffin’s argument was that Griffin’s assets were so much greater than hers that he had a distinct edge in crafting the pre-nup. He had superior bargaining power, the argument goes, so she had no choice but to sign. In theory, a pre-nup should be the product of negotiation, with terms that are fair to both parties. This one, it seems, read like what lawyers call a contract of adhesion: Like an insurance policy, the pre-nup was a “take it or leave it” deal imposed on the weaker party.

A prenuptial agreement is a contract, and courts look at them as such. Generally, a complainant must prove more than that the terms were unfair or lopsided. Rather, someone must prove there was a technical error. For example, the validity of the document was questionable, that a signature didn’t match or key information was incorrect or missing. Or, the parties missed a critical step in the pre-nup’s execution, like, say, insufficient time to review disclosures for accuracy.

While the filings are open for review, the settlement is sealed. The parties would have to share the terms of the agreement, and that seems unlikely.

Sources:

The New York Times, “A Divorce That Thrusts Ken Griffin and Anne Dias Griffin Into the Spotlight,” Michael J. de la Merced and Alexandra Stevenson, July 24, 2014

The Daily Mail, “Hedge fund billionaire ‘bullied wife into signing prenup’ that would leave her with 1 percent of her husband’s $5.6billion fortune,” Pete D’amato and Louise Boyle, Sept. 3, 2014

Vanity Fair, “Billionaire Ken Griffin Is Back in Court Fighting Over His Pre-nup,” Emily Jane Fox, Oct. 5, 2015

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