Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

The prosecution’s version of that other legendary Chicago combination, Tinker to Evers to Chance (Burt to Kravis to Thompson), continues with the arrival today of Marie-Josée Kravis, who shared audit committee duties with Burt and Thompson. It’s clear that the prosecution is presenting the board members as a sort of praetorian guard, ensuring David Radler’s safe passage through a ferocious cross-examination. The prosecution’s mantra, no doubt, will be: “Yes, he’s a snitch. Yes, he’s a weasel. But look whose evidence he’s corroborating.” So far, so good. The silvery-maned Burt effectively parried Ed Genson’s efforts at tarnishing his sterling reputation. The Post’s Peter Brieger, whose reporting of courtroom dialogue is far and away the best among the daily press corps (what’s left of them), wrote:

In a series of heated exchanges, Eddie Genson asked the witness about why he hadn’t noticed references to controversial non-compete payments in company documents, which Burt signed in the late ’90s…“You didn’t read it?” the Chicago lawyer asked of the documents.“As I said several times, I missed it,” Burt shot back. “It was incumbent on management to bring those [payments] to the audit committee—not put it in a footnote in financial statements 12 or 18 months later.”“Is the fact that [Hollinger management] were told by lawyers that they didn’t have to, does that make a difference?” Genson continued, referring to mistaken disclosure advice the firm was given by its Toronto law firm, Torys LLP.“I don’t know what they were told,” the witness said.“You were being paid $5,000 a meeting and you didn’t read [the financial statements], did you sir?” Genson asked.Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffery Cramer leapt to his feet in objection.

My guess is that the key passage for the jury is: “It was incumbent on management to bring those [payments] to the audit committee—not put it in a footnote in financial statements 12 or 18 months later.” Radler no doubt will confirm that the dissembling was all part of a conspiracy to take money meant for the shareholders and slide it into the pockets of Black et al. Whether or not the jury believes him will, I suspect, have more to do with the perceived credibility of the audit committee than with Radler himself.

N.B. On-line magazine Slate yesterday published a summary piece by its legal reporter Scott Jacobs, which, besides that written by The Guardian’s Andrew Clark, is the toughest piece of sensible analysis on Black to date.

Black’s Former Board Begins To Turn on Him [Slate]Hollinger director ‘missed’ payment info, court hears [National Post]Black’s lawyer fails to score [Toronto Star]Ex-board member admits missing error [Chicago Sun-Times]Defense fires back at witness [Chicago Tribune]