Large donation leads to accusations of property division fraud

Hidden assets are a major concern for divorce lawyers. Not only are they illegal, they can end up causing major headaches down the road.

That’s exactly what lies behind the troubles facing the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. The Institute was gifted a total of $63 million over the years by it’s largest benefactor — which certainly has earned him some significant accolades that he must value far more than the money.

Unfortunately, it seems like a portion of those funds were part of the marital assets that he actively hid from his wife at the time of their divorce. Now, she would like her portion paid back — which could put the Institute in a crunch if it has already spent or allocated the money to one of its programs. It will also likely tarnish the reputation of its benefactor permanently, despite the size of his donations.

The Institute’s benefactor and his wife of 50 years divorced in 2010. During the process, the benefactor stated that he did not have any offshore accounts — conveniently forgetting about a tidy $4.5 million tucked away in a Swiss Account. That $4.5 million became part of a larger donation — $40 million — transferred to the Institute in 2014.

The Institute’s benefactor may have thought that he was safe from his ex-wife’s scrutiny by then, or that the money would be able to transfer undetected, but that clearly wasn’t the case. Perhaps he thought that it was simply too late, now that his divorce case is closed.

Currently, the ex-wife in this case is seeking an injunction that will prevent the Institute from using any of the funds given to it by her ex-husband since 2011. She has also asked for a receiver to be appointed to control the money.

Experts caution that an injured ex-spouse can always bring a separate cause of action specifically for fraud, even if it is too late to reopen the divorce. They also warn would-be fraudsters that judges take a dim view of asset hiding, often awarding the injured spouse larger sums of money than they would otherwise be due.

Asset hiding is common among couples with complex financial holdings. If you suspect that your spouse is likely to play fast and loose with the rules of property division, discuss the situation with your divorce attorney early on.

Source:, “He donated $40M. Now His Ex Wants Some of It Back,” Arden Dier, March 08, 2017

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