Melanie Gerlis reports for the Art Loss Newspaper on a competition claim filed against the Art Loss Register. The claim was filed by Chris Marinello, founder of the Art Recovery Group, and former employee of the Art Loss Register:
ARG’s letter to the competition authority accuses ALR of “systemic breaches of competition law”, citing seven examples of “abusive behaviour”. ALR, according to the letter, “is implementing a persistent, pervasive and systematic plan to eliminate ARG fr om the market”.
Heading the list of complaints is what ARG describes as “vexatious litigation”, a reference to a civil claim that ALR took to the UK’s High Court in July. This claim accuses Marinello and others of “the unlawful establishment and operation” of ARG, citing breach of contract, breach of confidence and “infringement of database rights”, among other things. ALR’s claim demands the handover of any confidential information the defendants may have that belongs to ALR.
Marinello and the other defendants filed a counterclaim in November, in which “each and every allegation contained in the particulars of claim is denied”. A subsequent reply and defence was lodged by ALR in December, which also denied all allegations.
James Ratcliffe, ALR’s director of recoveries, lawyer and near-namesake of the company’s founder, says that, while he has not seen ARG’s letter to the competition authority, ALR’s legal actions are “certainly not vexatious” and that there is “no systematic plan” to eliminate its competitor. He says the claim had to be issued to protect the interests of ALR’s stakeholders because Marinello “took confidential information from our business and we don’t know the full extent of it”.
Marinello says: “The ALR knows exactly the extent of information in my possession because it was obtained openly, transparently and with express permission pursuant to an agreement signed by Julian Radcliffe in 2012.”
Julian Radcliffe is ALR’s majority shareholder, although Sotheby’s also has a stake (around 11%), as does Christie’s (around 3%), and Marinello himself (10%).
Both companies are positioned to fill an important function in the art market, and to help recover lost and stolen works of art. Hopefully they can find a way forward to coexist.