defeat the plaintiff's attempt to recover money allegedly due" and a "sham." Id. at 771-72.
Plaintiffs have not sufficiently established that there exists a real threat to their ability to enforce a judgment against Harriman and Clifford and that "drastic action" is required. As noted above, counsel for plaintiffs conceded that there is no evidence of any fraudulent intent on the part of either Clifford or Harriman with respect to their assets in New York.
See Transcript of Sept. 19, 1994 Hearing, at 5. Nonetheless, plaintiffs contend there exists a real danger that Clifford or Harriman will not be able to satisfy any potential judgment plaintiffs might obtain. The Court will address plaintiffs' arguments regarding Clifford and Harriman separately.
Plaintiffs contend that none of Clifford's assets will be available to satisfy a judgment against him in this action due to the fact that Clifford is also the subject of numerous other civil actions seeking upwards of $ 100 millon in damages. See Ames Affidavit P 14. Plaintiffs further contend that there is evidence that Clifford has transferred significant amounts of his assets to his family as gifts in the past and that he loaned $ 1 million to a plastics firm in which his family has invested. See Ames Affidavit P 15.
If plaintiffs' first argument were factually accurate, they would be seeking to utilize the attachment procedure as a means of obtaining priority over other creditors of Clifford. This is simply not the intended purpose of § 6201. Speculation that Clifford may, as a result of the numerous civil actions against him, be in shaky financial condition by the time plaintiffs obtain a judgment against him will not justify an order of attachment. See The Philatelic Foundation v. Kaplan, LEXIS GENFED Library, DIST File, 1986 WL 5629, *5 (S.D.N.Y. May 9, 1986).
Further, the fact that Clifford has transferred assets to family members and channelled funds into family investments, without any evidence from which fraudulent intent or other impropriety may be reasonably inferred, is not enough of a showing to warrant the harsh remedy of attachment. See Computer Strategies, Inc. v. Commodore Business Machines, Inc., 105 A.D.2d 167, 483 N.Y.S.2d 716, 721 (A.D. 2d Dept. 1984) (mere removal or other disposition of property is not in itself grounds for attachment), appeal denied, 110 A.D.2d 743, 488 N.Y.S.2d 616 (1985); Maitrejean v. Levon Properties Corp., 45 A.D.2d 1020, 358 N.Y.S.2d 203, 205 (A.D. 2d Dept. 1974).
Plaintiffs contend that there is reason to believe that Harriman is presently liquidating her real property assets, giving them away, and transferring them overseas. Plaintiffs allege that several pieces of Harriman's substantial real estate holdings have been sold recently or are up for sale, including Harriman's home in Barbados and two homes in Washington, D.C. See Ames Affidavit P 23. Plaintiffs further point to the fact that Harriman has transferred much of her art collection to the United States Embassy in Paris, France and that she has donated a twenty percent interest in an extremely valuable Van Gogh painting from her collection to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. See Ames Affidavit P 24. Plaintiffs further allege that Harriman has expressed interest in purchasing a residence in Paris, see Ames Affidavit P 25, suggesting that such an interest is evidence of the need to secure a potential judgment. As further support for their contention that an order of attachment is warranted, plaintiffs also point to statements Harriman purportedly made to several of plaintiffs to the effect that she was in shaky financial condition. See Ames Affidavit P 26.
The Court finds plaintiffs' reliance on this evidence to be wholly unpersuasive. Harriman is the United States Ambassador to France and has been residing at the U.S. Embassy in Paris since her appointment. None of the purported "transfers" of assets plaintiffs have highlighted raise any inference of an attempt to evade potential judgments and Harriman has provided reasonable explanations for all of them. See Helfer Affidavit PP 4-7. Given Harriman's status as Ambassador to France, her desire to purchase a residence in France, sell her homes in Washington and transfer much of her valuable art collection to France for purposes of public display at the U.S. Embassy are understandable and, without more evidence, suggest no impropriety justifying attachment. Similarly, there is no evidence suggesting that the motive behind Harriman's gift to the National Gallery was to evade a potential judgment. As stated above, the mere transfer of assets, without some showing of fraudulent intent, will not justify attachment. See Computer Strategies, 483 N.Y.S.2d at 721. Moreover, plaintiffs have not produced anything other than hearsay statements that Harriman is in an uncertain financial position. Indeed, it appears that Harriman has assets worth over $ 30 million and would be more than able to satisfy any judgment plaintiffs may obtain in their favor. See Helfer Affidavit P 2.
Finally, Harriman, as a public figure and official of the United States government, with substantial tangible assets in New York, presents little risk of secreting her assets and fleeing the jurisdiction in order to evade a judgment against her. Thus, attachment is not necessary for plaintiffs' security. despite the fact that Harriman is a nondomiciliary. See Merrill Lynch Futures, Inc. v. Kelly, 585 F. Supp. 1245, 1984 WL 217, *6 (S.D.N.Y. April 1984); Maitrejean, 358 N.Y.S.2d at 205 (no attachment warranted where defendant's parent company was "nationally prominent" firm listed on New York Stock Exchange with extensive assets in New York).
The application for an order of attachment is denied. SO ORDERED.
Dated: New York, New York
September 27, 1994
JOHN S. MARTIN, JR., U.S.D.J.