High profile, high asset divorces are often much more complex than others. When it comes to the division of marital assets, there can be a breakdown of trust and transparency, where some spouses may act unlawfully in order to maximise their settlement. Last week the news broke that an ex-city banker attempted to hack into his ex-wife’s e-mail account during an argument over their £1.2 million divorce. Mr Arbili, the former £120,000-a-year head of derivatives at JB Drax, gained unauthorised access to Mrs Arbili’s e-mails and found that she could have been in line for a windfall from the sale of her parents’ £2.1 million home in the French Alps.
The assets were divided equally in 2013, but Mr Arbili has now appealed and claims new evidence suggests his ex-wife is richer than was first thought. But at the Court of Appeal, her barrister argued that the evidence was illicit because it was obtained in a “gross invasion” of her privacy.
This incident is not uncommon and speaks volumes about the need for an experienced security advisor when personal privacy, reputation and assets are most vulnerable. It’s crucial that both parties are aware of the increased threats they are exposed to when going through a divorce, and that these threats increase with wealth. In high net worth divorces there are often complex financial affairs, multiple businesses, investments, property, shares and other liquid and fixed assets to consider, with each spouse fighting for their share. As this incident shows, foul play is not uncommon as each party fights for what they believe is theirs. Virtus Risk Management CEO Frank Morey says:
“From working in an advisory capacity to clients going through a high value divorce, I have seen everything from husbands paying household staff to plant and retrieve bugs, phone and email hacking, tracking vehicles and a spouses being put under covert surveillance.”
Many individuals going through a high net worth divorce continue to hold their most sensitive information on devices from where it can be easily accessed by their spouse. Passwords, answers to security questions and other personal information are likely to be known by the other party assuming they have spent a reasonable amount of time in the marriage together. It is therefore essential that these are updated immediately.
It’s also important to pro-actively seek out any covert surveillance devices or “bugs” that might be used to eavesdrop on conversations. Finding active and inactive bugs is not something to be carried out by the victim, but should achieved using experienced technicians who undertake a visual inspection and the use of specialist technology.
Personal and residential security should also be considered as part of the wider security plan. Much of a high net worth couple’s wealth is tied up in physical assets including jewellery, antiques, art and vehicles that cannot physically be divided. If these assets are stored at a property, appropriate protection should be considered to prevent theft or damage by the other party.
The important thing to consider when going through a high net worth divorce is to be prepared for any eventuality. When relationships go sour, people can act in unethical and criminal ways to fight for what they believe is theirs. Working with an experienced security advisor who can advise on the risks and develop a robust security plan can help to limit the potential damage. It’s better to be prepared than fight the fire after it starts.