Recently, Bloomberg reported that Abdul Taib Mahmud, the former ruler of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, retired in February with a billion-dollar family fortune.  Although not much has been known about Mahumud’s family fortune, some details have recently surfaced as a result of Mahmud’s son’s divorce.  The court handling the divorce was presented with a forensic accounting of the son’s assets, which included stakes in 49 companies.  His ex-wife also claims he may have interests in 85 additional companies abroad.

We usually blog here about how to find assets during your divorce.  Today, we’re writing about how looking at divorce (and other) records can provide a picture of financial wealth outside of the divorce context.  Abdul Taib Mahmud’s case is a great example as to why, for most all of our clients, we propose to conduct fairly extensive litigation searches.   This does not mean a search conducted solely online.  Sure, litigation records are sometimes available online, but most times, you have to look for them in person in order to do a thorough search.

Divorce records are rarely available online and are sometimes fully or partially sealed.  That said, when you do hit upon them, they can have very probative information about a person’s finances and character and are, more times than not, worth retrieving.

In addition, housing court records are usually not available online.  Our clients are sometimes hesitant to retrieve records pertaining to landlord/tenant disputes thinking they won’t be relevant to their case.  However, we’ve fetched housing court records in the past and have found that, on occasion, exhibits to filings include photocopies of personal checks used to pay rent.  Our clients may not care that their adversary wound up in housing court, but, in an asset search, knowing where your subject banks is invaluable.

Finally, while litigation records themselves tend to have a lot of useful information, you should also view them as gateways to further information.  Some of our favorite people to interview are our subject’s past litigation opponents.  They often tell you information that is not in the court records and know what it is like to have been through a lawsuit against that person.   If they obtained a judgment, they might even have important information regarding your opponent’s assets.