MLA Platinum Award Press Release

A billion-dollar scandal turns the ‘King of Manuscripts’ into the ‘Madoff of France’

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A billion-dollar scandal turns the ‘King of Manuscripts’ into the ‘Madoff of France’

Feb 21 2020

A November sale of literary items belonging to the now-defunct French company Aristophil generated $4.2 million, which is a tiny fraction of the price paid by the many investors who purchased shares in these documents through what is being described as a literary Ponzi scheme. Over about a dozen years, Gérard Lhéritier conned about $1 billion from more than 18,000 people (many of modest means). His scheme unraveled six years ago when the now 71-year-old was arrested and charged with fraud.

Starting in 2002, Lhéritier built up a huge collection of rare books which he then sold off as if they were stock in a company with hugely inflated valuations. For example, a set of Einstein documents bought for $560,000 was divided into hundreds of shares and sold at at a valuation of $13 million.

The seized collection is being auctioned off in a process that will take years in the hope of returning as much money to investors as possible. At best, this is expected to amount to about 10% of their original investment.

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