Attorneys argue over whether Scaife children's wealth should've been disclosed
An Allegheny County judge is considering whether the private fortunes of late Tribune-Review Publisher Dick Scaife's daughter and son are relevant in a dispute over a trust fund their father depleted.
William Pietragallo, lawyer for Jennie Scaife, 51, of Palm Beach, Fla., argued Thursday that Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Durkin should strike from the court record claims that Jennie and her brother, David Scaife, are paid about $1 million a month from a trust their grandmother set up for them.
Disclosing the trust, which Scaife's longtime lawyer H. Yale Gutnick said is worth about $560 million, “put a target on Jennie Scaife's back,” Pietragallo said. He said the value is inaccurate and irrelevant.
Gutnick's lawyer, E. J. Strassburger, a partner in their Downtown law firm, said after the hearing that her wealth wasn't a secret.
“She's got a lot of money. Everybody knew that,” Strassburger said.
The court case centers on a trust that Sarah Mellon Scaife, Dick Scaife's mother, established for her son in 1935. Jennie and David Scaife, 49, of Shadyside, argue they should have inherited money from that trust. They claim the trustees — Gutnick, who is chairman of the Tribune-Review's board of directors, Scaife relative James Walton, and PNC Bank — violated their fiduciary duty by allowing their father to spend all the money in the account.
The Scaife children sued in November to get the court to force the trustees to provide an accounting of the spending. The trustees agreed to provide that accounting by June 1. That should have made Thursday's court hearing moot, said Thomas Frampton, Walton's lawyer.
“As of right now, there is nothing before the court,” Frampton told Durkin. “...The petitioners have received what they want.”
Details of Jennie and David Scaife's wealth can't be taken out of the public record, but striking them from court records would help eliminate “bad behavior” as the case progresses, Pietragallo said.
David Strassburger told Durkin that Pietragallo wanted to strike the 1963 trust from the record so the trustees couldn't use it later to show Sarah Mellon Scaife wanted the 1935 trust to benefit only her son. The trustees argue that Jennie and David Scaife's trust, set up shortly before Jennie Scaife's birth in 1963, shows that their grandmother never intended her grandchildren to inherit the 1935 trust.
“She provided handsomely for them because she knew the assets of the other trust would not be available to them,” said David Strassburger, another Gutnick lawyer from their law firm.
Gutnick and E. J. Strassburger knew details about the other trust because Gutnick used to serve as a trustee and Strassburger still does, Pietragallo said.
He accused Strassburger and Gutnick of “violating the standards of professional lawyers” by making “statements that ridicule people to whom you have a fiduciary duty.”
Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.