In a dramatic divorce case unfolding in Southern California this week, Hydee Feldstein, a retired partner at a large law firm, accused her ex-husband Peter Gregora of stealing $20 million of the couple’s money over the course of their marriage. Feldstein claims Gregora hid the money in secret offshore companies, investment funds, and, in by far the most straightforward method, stuffing cash into envelopes and leaving the money off of the couple’s tax returns.
Before she retired, Feldstein’s practice focused on finance and bankruptcy law. She was the primary breadwinner in the family, and she stated in divorce documents that she entrusted her husband to handle their financial affairs. She claimed that Gregora used this as an opportunity to drain the couple’s joint accounts.
Commentators have been incredulous that a partner who specialized in finance law at a major law firm could be so out of touch with her own finances that she lost track of $20 million of her own money. As it turns out, research shows that Feldstein is not so unusual.
As we wrote about here, a study by Prudential explained that most women, including primary breadwinners, lack confidence in investing and tend to shy away from managing the family finances. No matter how successful women are, they still often leave the big financial decisions up to their husbands. In fact, 73% of men report being the primary financial decision-makers in their families. A dishonest husband combined with a lack of oversight can open the door to mismanagement and, as is alleged in this case, fraud.
We have seen this first-hand in countless cases. Smart, accomplished women come to us looking for money they earned, but which their husbands have magically made disappear. These women often admit to us that they left all of their financial decisions to their husbands, and have never so much as glanced at a bank statement or tax return.
Even in these cases, all hope is not lost. Our clients often have far more valuable information than they realize when it comes to tracking down hidden assets, even if they did not control the family finances. For example, a client may tell us that her husband loves skiing in Colorado, which would lead us to look for a vacation property in that state. Or she may know the name and address of one of her husband’s companies, which could lead us to a dozen other LLC’s that he kept hidden from her. We are often able to find hidden companies, real property, stock holdings, and other assets through in-depth client interviews and our meticulous investigation process.