Valeri Williams doesn't want to talk about why her client -- Arnold Leon Schroeder Jr., the only son of Wendy Russell Reves -- filed suit in Dallas federal court Friday, alleging that the Dallas Museum of Art and former UT Southwestern president Kern Wildenthal took part in an "intricate pattern of conspiracy and fraud to wrongfully steer hundreds of millions of dollars in assets" away from Wendy's estate before and after her death in March 2007. Williams, the former Channel 8 reporter-turned-attorney, tells Unfair Park that, for now, at least, "the pleadings speak for themselves."
But the DMA and UT Southwestern don't see it that way, which is why both have sent statements insisting that the federal suit is "untrue in many significant respects," per the DMA's lengthy rebuttal that follows. The statement from Tim Doke, spokesman for UT Southwestern Medical Center, is shorter and says, in full:
It is important to note that UT Southwestern is not named as a defendant in this civil lawsuit. Any reference to the University or to the suit's attempt to have UT Southwestern relinquish "ill-gotten" funds is simply inaccurate. In fact, UT Southwestern has received no funds from the Reves estate or from Emery Reves' foundations, directly or indirectly through the Southwestern Medical Foundation, and has received only one personal gift of $6,000 in 1993 from Mrs. Reves.
Dr. Wildenthal is not in the office and has yet to be served with this lawsuit. He has served and continues to serve UT Southwestern with the highest integrity and undoubtedly he will strongly refute the unsubstantiated claims in this lawsuit. Neither UT Southwestern nor Dr. Wildenthal will comment further on pending litigation.
The DMA's statement-slash-history lesson follows, also in full. I see the story behind the suit, first posted Monday morning on Unfair Park, has also made its way into the pages of The New York Times.
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Statement from the Dallas Museum of Art Regarding Schroeder Lawsuit
A lawsuit was filed in Dallas on March 11, 2011, against several prominent individuals and the Dallas Museum of Art seeking the return of donations made through charitable trusts created by philanthropist Emery Reves of funds, artwork, and other assets acquired by Mr. Reves mostly prior to 1964. The suit has been filed by Arnold Léon Schroeder, the estranged and only son of Wendy Reves from her first marriage. In 1964, Wendy Reves married her third husband, Emery Reves, when Mr. Schroeder was nearly 30 years old.
This lawsuit follows several other suits that Mr. Schroeder filed in recent years in his ongoing attempt to claim an inheritance significantly larger than the $500,000 Wendy Reves chose to leave him in her will. Put most simply, Mr. Schroeder's lawsuit seeks to enrich Mr. Schroeder and his lawyers at the expense of charitable organizations. On behalf of the citizens of Dallas as well as the public at large, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of donations from the Emery Reves trusts, the Dallas Museum of Art not only has a legal responsibility to stand up to these unfounded claims, but a moral one, as well.
In the current lawsuit, Mr. Schroeder and his legal counsel have put forth a dramatic story that is untrue in many significant respects. They depict Wendy Reves as an ailing old woman who was manipulated into supporting charities in Dallas against her will. In fact, anyone who knew Wendy Reves is well aware that she was very clear, direct, and in charge of her life, including her intentions for her own estate and for the trusts created by Emery Reves that she directed. These donations followed the wishes of her late husband, and many of them were made decades before she passed away, including the 1983 gift to the Dallas Museum of Art of the Reves Collection.
Mr. Schroeder, an American citizen living in California, is hoping that French "forced heirship" laws will be applied to Wendy Reves's estate, thus entitling him to one-half of her assets, rather than the $500,000 left to him in her will. This lawsuit further contends that Wendy Reves's estate should include not only the personal assets inherited from her husband but also the Reves Collection and other assets of her husband's charitable trusts -- assets and artwork that were acquired by Emery Reves mostly before he and Wendy married and that were placed into charitable trusts by him. The suit argues that these gifts should be taken back in order that Mr. Schroeder can lay claim to them for his personal benefit.
Following the death of Emery Reves, Mrs. Reves acted as president of the charitable trusts and foundations established by him, which included overseeing the Reves Collection. She was therefore responsible for the donations of money and art made by his trusts, but she did not own their assets. These trusts and foundations were never part of Mrs. Reves's estate, and the current lawsuit seeking to claim their assets is clearly without merit. Mrs. Reves entrusted the Reves Collection to the Dallas Museum of Art nearly 30 years ago, and the courts should ensure that Mrs. Reves's generous wishes of public benefit, rather than Mr. Schroeder's desires for private gain, are respected.