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Judge grants Leonard Cohen multimillion-dollar judgment against ex-manager

A judge with Los Angeles County Superior Court has granted Leonard Cohen a default judgment of $9-million (U.S.) against the Canadian singer-songwriter's former manager.

Judge Kenneth Freeman made the ruling earlier this week in response to a civil suit Cohen filed last August alleging fraud, negligence and breaches of contract and fiduciary duty on the part of Kelley Lynch, who served as his business manager from early 1988 through October, 2004.

Meanwhile, another defendant named in the suit, investment adviser and tax lawyer Richard Westin, reached an out-of-court settlement with Cohen last month, details of which are subject to a confidentiality agreement.

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Cohen's legal difficulties made international headlines last year after the creator of Suzanne became tangled in a web of claims and counterclaims that had him lashing out against Lynch, who'd briefly been his lover in 1990, for mismanaging his financial affairs. At the time, another previously trusted adviser, Neal Greenberg, was suing Cohen for conspiracy, extortion and defamation of character.

The Montreal-born Cohen, 71, has alleged that Lynch over eight years had siphoned off more than $5-million of his savings, so that by late 2004 his retirement nest egg had been reduced to about $150,000. Westin, now teaching law at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, was named in the claim because Cohen alleged that Westin helped Lynch with the $12-million sale of both Cohen's music-publishing company and artist royalties. Most of these proceeds went into a Lynch-created company, Traditional Holdings, of which Lynch had 99.5 per cent ownership.

Cohen alleged Lynch and Westin "misled [him]into believing Traditional was owned and controlled 99 per cent by Cohen's children," Adam, now 34, and Lorca, 32.

To pay his legal bills and replenish his accounts, Cohen has been in the public eye in an unprecedented way lately, visiting Toronto last month to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame; publishing, this coming May, his first collection of new poetry in 22 years; serving as producer and lyricist for a new CD in April by his current muse, Anjani Thomas; appearing in a feature-length documentary, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, to be released later this year, and returning to the studio for a new set of Cohen songs that could be issued later this year or in 2007.

He's even taped a 30-second TV commercial for Book of Mercy, the new poetry collection. And there's serious talk of a singing tour later this year.

In the meantime, Cohen has to find a way to collect on the default judgment. Lynch neither responded to Cohen's suit of last summer nor filed any counterclaim. A subpoena of her financial records last fall was ignored.

Last August, she claimed her phone had been disconnected because she didn't have enough money to pay her bill. "We're still trying to figure out where all the money went," said Scott Edelman, one of Cohen's lawyers, this week. Nevertheless, he said he was "glad this chapter has ended successfully. Now we'll continue to focus our efforts on recovery from Mr. Greenberg."

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An investment banker who lives in Boulder, Colo., Greenberg sued Cohen and Lynch in June last year (amended in August) claiming, on the one hand, that Lynch pilfered money from Cohen and, on the other, that the singer-songwriter and his lawyer (and ex-husband of Anjani Thomas) Robert Kory were plotting to make him the "fall guy" for Cohen's woes.

Lynch hired Greenberg as a money manager for Cohen in 1996. Over the years, according to Greenberg's statement of claim, he attempted to keep Cohen informed of his accounts, eventually warning Cohen that both his and Lynch's spending and borrowing habits were seriously harming Cohen's investments.

Greenberg alleges that, after Cohen realized the extent of his financial predicament in late 2004, the singer-songwriter and Kory informed Lynch that they'd be willing to "forgive" her failings if she joined them in a conspiracy to extort funds from Greenberg. If Greenberg didn't co-operate, according to Greenberg's filing, "Cohen would go out on tour . . . and give interviews to reporters in which he would insinuate that he was touring because he had been bankrupted" by Greenberg and others.

As a result, said Greenberg, his "spotless professional reputation" would be besmirched.

Cohen attempted to block or stall Greenberg's suit by trying to get Greenberg's complaints heard before an arbitration panel of the U.S. National Association of Securities Dealers.

Appearing in court in Colorado on Dec. 16 last year, Cohen's lawyers argued that an agreement their client inked in 1997 with Greenberg provides that "any dispute or controversy" had to be considered first via arbitration, not in court. However, the judge ruled that agreements signed in 2002 superseded the 1997 accord, with the result that Greenberg's suit still stands.

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Yesterday, Edelman said he wasn't planning to appeal that ruling. Instead, he'll be proceeding with his own action against Greenberg "either in district court or arbitration court."

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James More

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