Siblings Accuse Father Of Tapping Their Trust Fund
November 27, 2009
The Hartford Courant
Mention the name Buckley and most people think of the famous conservative columnist or perhaps the former Reagan cabinet member and federal judge.But long before the Buckley family name became synonymous with conservative politics, the family was striking it rich with oil, gas and mineral rights in places like Mexico and Venezuela.
Now six children of a Buckley clan from West Hartford are suing their father in Superior Court in Hartford claiming he has stolen money from a trust fund set up decades ago by their mother with proceeds from her share of the Buckley family fortune.
The children of Aloise Buckley Heath, the sister of famous columnist William F. Buckley Jr. and retired federal judge James L. Buckley, are suing their father, Benjamin Heath, for “self-dealing” money from their mother’s trust fund to a private one that they have no stake in.
The lawsuit doesn’t indicate how much money may be involved, but the few public records available about the Buckley family’s oil, gas and mineral rights show there’s likely still millions of dollars at stake.
Aloise Buckley Heath died in January 1967 of a cerebral hemorrhage. The West Hartford resident was 48.
She was known for trying to “out” communists at Smith College, her alma mater.
She created quite a stir when she sent a letter in 1954 to 3,200 Smith alumni asking them not to contribute to the school until administrators explained why they employed five professors she claimed were Communists.
The letter forced the school’s board of trustees to investigate, after which the board said that “there was no subversive” teaching at Smith.
Aloise Buckley Heath was a frequent contributor to magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, the National Review and Reader’s Digest. Her sense of humor showed through even in her will, which she signed in 1960.
In it she left $10,000 to her husband for the sole purpose of “unnecessary pleasures for my children and in no event to use said sum for anything which might be classed as a necessity in short provide for my children the frivolities which I would have provided for them had I lived.”
That will also named her husband, Benjamin Heath, as the executor of her estate. The couple had 10 children; six of them are now suing their father for misappropriating funds from a trust that Aloise Buckley Heath had established and was part of her estate. The other four have chosen not to be part of the lawsuit.
Financial records filed as part of the ongoing probate case show that a “marital trust” set up by Aloise Buckley Heath contained about $594,000 as of November 2008.
But it is a separate trust, not listed in the probate files, called the Hembt Trust, which consists of assets she had accrued from the Buckley family’s interests in oil, gas and mineral rights, that is at the heart of the lawsuit.
Back in the 1920s when William Buckley Sr. started accruing oil rights in several Latin American countries, including Venezuela, as well as in the Caribbean, he formed a company called Catawba Corp.
When he died in 1958, each of the surviving Buckley children got about 9.8 percent of Catawba’s assets.
While it is unclear how much that was worth, the company did pay an $800,000 fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1981 after the federal agency filed a lawsuit claiming companies controlled by the Buckley family defrauded stockholders of six other oil rights companies that the family was involved with to in effect pad the coffers of Catawba Corp.
In that SEC case Benjamin Heath was ordered to pay a $22,500 fine for his role in that scheme.
Now 28 years later his own children are accusing him of a similar plot.
The lawsuit accuses Benjamin Heath of transferring more than 50 percent of the original trust their mother had set up, to which they were heirs, to a second, private trust called the Westmont Royalty Trust, that they had no stake in.
Richard Weinstein, the attorney representing the six children, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
But in court filings Weinstein describes Heath as a “self-dealer.”
“The allegations work together in that the conduct of the various trustees was concerted and collaborative, one trust feeding the assets to another trust hence, involving the activities of the trustees,” the lawsuit states.
Heath, who now lives in California, has filed a motion to have the charges dismissed. His attorney, John Q. Gale, did not respond to repeated attempts to reach him for comment.
In court filings the 95-year-old Heath claims he hasn’t lived in Connecticut since 1979 and has had no contact with anyone in Connecticut since then. It is unclear if he also is referring to his children, many of whom live in Connecticut.
Heath also claims that the royalty interests from Aloise Buckley Heath’s trust fund aren’t cash but in property not located in Connecticut and therefore not subject to the lawsuit.
Lawsuit filed over Buckley family trust fund
Six children of the sister of the late conservative columnist William F. Buckley are accusing their father of stealing money from a trust fund their mother set up using some of the Buckley family fortune.
The Associated Press
November 27, 2009
The Seattle Times
HARTFORD, Conn. — Six children of the sister of the late conservative columnist William F. Buckley are accusing their father of stealing money from a trust fund their mother set up using some of the Buckley family fortune.
The children of Aloise Buckley Heath, a West Hartford resident who died in 1967, filed a lawsuit against 95-year-old Benjamin Heath in June in Hartford Superior Court. They accuse him of transferring more than half the money out of the trust.
It’s unclear how much money is in the trust, which Aloise Buckley Heath established with her share of assets from her family’s oil, gas and mineral rights. Some public records indicate that millions of dollars may still be at stake, The Hartford Courant reported Friday. The children are heirs to the trust.
Messages were left Friday for Benjamin Heath’s Hartford-based lawyer, John Gale.
Heath could not be reached for comment. The phone number for his home in Newport Beach, Calif., is unlisted.
Aloise Buckley Heath was 48 when she died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1967. In her will, she named Benjamin Heath as executor of her estate.
She gained notoriety for trying to “out” communists at her alma mater, Smith College, and she contributed frequently to Ladies Home Journal, the National Review, Reader’s Digest and other magazines.
Six of the couple’s 10 children are suing, while four have opted not to join the lawsuit. At issue is the “Hembt Trust.”
William Buckley Sr. began acquiring oil rights in several countries in the 1920s in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, as well as the Caribbean, and formed the Catawba Corp.
Each of the elder Buckley’s surviving children got nearly 10 percent of Catawba’s assets when he died in 1958.
In 1981, Catawba paid an $800,000 fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency had filed a lawsuit alleging that companies controlled by the Buckleys defrauded shareholders of six other oil rights companies in which the family had a stake to, in effect, pad Catawba’s coffers.
The SEC also ordered Benjamin Heath to pay a $22,500 fine for his role in that scheme, and he’s now facing similar allegations lodged by his children.
His children’s lawsuit accuses him of transferring more than 50 percent of their mother’s trust to a private account called the Westmont Royalty Trust, in which they have no stake.
“The allegations work together in that the conduct of the various trustees was concerted and collaborative, one trust feeding the assets to another trust hence, involving the activities of the trustees,” the lawsuit says.
Heath has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, and a decision is pending.
Court documents say Heath hasn’t lived in Connecticut for 30 years and he hasn’t had any contact with anyone in Connecticut since he left.
Heath also says in court filings that the royalty interests from Aloise Buckley Heath’s trust fund are not subject to the lawsuit, because they are in property that is not in Connecticut.
Information from: The Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com