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High-Asset Divorce Case Spotlights Importance of Legal Drafting

The divorce case featuring Credit Suisse Group AG chief executive Brady Dougan and his ex-wife Tomoko Hamada Dougan contains many of the standard elements that one might expect to find in a truly high-asset divorce matter. It also goes far toward demonstrating that a diligent and careful divorce attorney with experience in high-asset dissolutions and relevant contract drafting can make a material difference in the outcome of any future dispute.

The Dougans divorced in 2005, a time during which Brady Dougan was making about $385,000 each week at his job. They executed a divorce settlement that called for Mr. Dougan to pay his ex-spouse $15.3 million in two installments, with the agreement specifying that any late payment would require interest that would accrue at 10 percent back to the date the settlement was executed.

Mr. Dougan made the first payment in a timely matter, but was late by 12 days on the second installment a year later. He voluntarily included an interest payment of 10 percent for the 12 days he was late. That amounted to $25,000.

That brought the ire of his ex-wife and an immediate legal response demanding back interest to the date the couple signed their divorce agreement. The amount demanded for the 12 days: $750,000.

The matter is now before the Connecticut Supreme Court on appeal after a court of first instance ruled that the interest was a penalty and thus void for being against public policy, with an appellate court reversing that judgment and finding that the government has an interest in enforcing private divorce agreements.

Although the Supreme Court hasn't yet ruled, an early indication of its leanings might be inferred from the comment from one its justices that Dougan is now arguing against what he has already agreed to and signed.

Related Resource: "Credit Suisse CEO's Divorce Heard by Connecticut Supreme Court" March 15, 2011

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