principals have a proven record of addressing and solving legal challenges and
exposures in an innovative way which have improved capabilities and added value
in a variety of contexts. Clients can depend upon BGH attorneys to address
their legal problems by seeking to solve problems efficiently and by expanding
the range of possible solutions. Examples of this type of thinking and problem
solving include the following:
Improving Techniques for Investigating Organized Crime in Greater Los Angeles
As an Assistant United States Attorney in
the Central District of California, Organized Crime Strike Force Unit, John Byrne pioneered a cooperative and
cost-effective investigative strategy for criminal gangs that were wreaking havoc in the greater Los Angeles
metropolitan area. This strategy entailed close collaboration in major cases
between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and
Firearms, and the Los Angeles Police Department. This innovative and collaborative
investigative strategy eradicated dangerous, predatory gang activity in
discrete areas of Los Angeles,
and curtailed gang activities in others.
Based on the
foregoing, his general work as a federal prosecutor convicting major organized crime figures in Southern California, his sensitivities to the
needs of both witnesses and victims of violent organized crime, Mr. Byrne
received letters of commendation from federal agencies and two prestigious
awards recognizing his contributions. Mr. Byrne brings the same personal
concerns for clients and innovative thinking to all BGH cases.
Investigative “Due Diligence” to Protect Superior Possessory Rights in Valuable Artworks
the 1990’s – and before the recovery of Nazi looted art became popular in the international
media -- Tom Hamilton
and Lloyd Goldenberg launched a company (Trans-Art International, LC.
(Trans-Art)) that introduced the concept of informed due diligence inquiry (which characterizes normative business transactions)
and international art collectors. This initiative responded to the global
epidemic of international stolen art and antiquities, as well as to the
increasing international awareness that vast quantities of artworks and other
collectibles looted during World War II and confiscated during the Nazi era
(1933-45) increasingly were appearing on the international market. Moreover,
many of these materials already were widely disseminated in both public and
private collections, and so in the possession of unsuspecting collectors as
well as their estates and trusts.
international art market historically has operated under lax commercial
conventions that characteristically fail to investigate the ownership
background or “provenance” of particular artworks offered for sale, untold
thousands of stolen artworks and cultural property contraband circulate
undetected in the art market. These materials pose risks to collectors and to
their estate and financial planning objectives because under the commercial law
that applies throughout the U.S. good title to stolen property never can be
conveyed -- regardless of the innocence or good faith of the acquirer or the
amount of time that has elapsed since the theft.
Accordingly, under U.S. commercial law stolen artworks
potentially can be recovered by former owners regardless when, where, or how
the artwork was stolen, or the innocence or good faith of the person in
mistaken possession. This commercial law principle exposes private collectors –
as well as their estates and trusts – to perpetual liability. Several leading
estate planning commentators pointed out that the recovery of a valuable
artwork in an estate or trust can sabotage planning objectives, and spawn
fiduciary and malpractice liability for attorneys and other professional
the title of a cover article that Hamilton and Goldenberg authored for the
November/December 2001 American Banker’s Association Trust & Investments Magazine cryptically noted “Art in an Estate or Trust: A Deal or a Steal?”
addressed this exposure by offering a comprehensive, informed, and
well-documented “due diligence” investigative service calculated to find out
whether a particular artwork was reported or reasonably indicated to have been
stolen. This service both diminished the risk that a particular art work in
fact was stolen, as well as helped preclude any judicial remedy that a former
owner or heir might have to recover this item. It did so by responding to the
discrete judicial criteria that courts throughout the U.S. invoke to
determine whether the applicable statute of limitations to recover a particular
artwork has expired, or whether the claim similarly is barred under relevant
equitable principles. This service thereby conferred upon the current possessor
of the artwork the functional equivalent of good title -- and the corresponding
assurance that this artwork could not be removed from an estate or trust where
it was designated to play a key role, such as providing liquidity for estate
taxes or as a special bequest.
Leading academic and estate planning commentators
applauded Trans-Art’s due diligence investigative initiative as a resourceful
and cost effective way to mitigate risk, as well as to secure the functional
equivalent of good title to potentially problematic materials.
The service thereby enabled attorneys, trustees and other professional advisors
to discharge fiduciary and other professional responsibilities for an otherwise
highly problematic category of assets.
and Goldenberg lectured extensively to leading national bar, banking and other
professional groups about the several benefits of informed due diligence for
artworks and other valuable collectibles.
Expanding Theories of Recovery for
Holocaust Art Victims and Their Heirs
principals also have developed landmark recovery opportunities in the now
notoriously problematic field of Holocaust art restitution that have expanded capabilities
for Holocaust victims and their heirs to recover Nazi-era artworks.
During the Nazi reign (1933-1945), the
official discriminatory policies of the Nazi government to exclude Jews from
the economy of Germany
forced countless thousands of Jews to relinquish valuable paintings, sculptures
and other artworks at deeply discounted prices. Excluded from professions and
businesses such as banking, Jewish collectors no longer could earn a living and
were confronted with escalating taxes and expenses. Only by selling their
personal property and liquidating other assets could Jews who remained in Germany survive
in this rapidly deteriorating economic environment. Valuable artworks and other collectibles were
an early casualty of Nazi predatory policies.
Jewish collectors were forced to
auction or consign artworks to dealers at increasingly diminished prices as the
market became saturated with materials that other persecuted collectors were forced to abandon. In Schoeps
v. Moma, BGH
attorneys Byrne and Hamilton secured a court ruling that recognized the legal
right under U.S.
law of a Holocaust victim or heir to recover artworks lost as a consequence of
Nazi policies and predation, even if the persecuted collector had consigned the
item to a fellow persecuted Jewish art dealer. This ruling expanded the
capability of Holocaust victims and their heirs to recover artworks forfeited
as a consequence of Nazi duress because in many instances persecuted Jewish
collectors continued to deal with their established art dealers, many of whom
themselves were persecuted Jews.
A June 25, 2015 World Jewish Restitution
Organization (WJRO) Report Concerning
Current Approaches of United States Museums to Holocaust-Era Claims, Annex 1 (prepared
by the national law firm Dickstein Shapiro LLP), identifies BGH’s case of Schoeps v. Museum of Modern Art, 594 F.
Supp. 2d 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2009), as the only reported case against a U.S. museum seeking
the recovery of a Nazi-confiscated artwork to survive a motion to dismiss or
summary judgment. (WJRO Report, p. 32).
After surveying the reported judicial decisions in which Holocaust
victims or their heirs sought to recover a Nazi-era artwork from a U.S. museum,
the memorandum concluded that “[a]ll of these case demonstrate that it is
nearly impossible for victims of the
Holocaust and their heirs to have their restitution claims heard on the
facts and merits.” (WJRO Report, p. 37).
narratives show that BGH attorneys practice law with an innovative, problem solving
mentality. They will address your legal
problems not only with superior credentials and extensive experience, but also by
seeking to solve your problems efficiently and in a way that advances your best
 Several leading estate planning commentators
underscored the exposure that stolen art poses to the estate and financial
plans of art collectors. See, e.g.
Robert E. Madden, Steps to Take When
Stolen Art Work is Found in an Estate, 24 EST. P. 459, 464 (Dec. 1997);
Peter Spero, Asset Protection Aspects of Art, 3 J. Asset Protection 58, 60
(Jan./Feb. 1998); Leigh-Alexandra Basha,
Stolen Art: What Estate Planners
and Trustees Need to Know, 137 TR. & EST. 459, 464 (Dec. 1998).
Also see Marilyn E. Phelan, Scope of Due Diligence Investigation in Obtaining Title to Valuable
Artworks , 23 Seattle U. L. Rev.
631, 733 (2000).
 594 F. Supp.2d 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2009).