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Late artist's trustees seeking $60 million in fees

By Tamara Lush

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 6 2014 9:47 a.m. MST

"While I have yet to form an opinion about the reasonable fees for administration of the trust," wrote James Myers, a Palm Beach attorney who provided his expert opinion in a court document for the case, "I can state unequivocally that a trustee's fee based on an hourly rate is not reasonable and is not fair to the trustees and would not be customary under these circumstances."

One expert hired by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation said the trustees' fee request is "unconscionable."

Laird Lile, a Naples, Fla.-based probate and trust attorney who is also on the Board of Governors for the Florida Bar, said in a May 16, 2013, court document that his analysis showed that the three trustees have paid themselves $5.7 million in fees from the trust — a sum Lile called "grossly disproportionate" to the services required of the trustees.

There was no fee agreement between the trustees and the foundation. And the trustees did not keep records of their time served, Lile said, adding that there was little in the way of annual accounting to the foundation.

"The net result of this improper administration is to allow the unbridled expenditure of trust funds with no checks or balances among the three trustees," Lile said.

Rauschenberg's son, Christopher Rauschenberg — who is a Seattle-based photographer — said in a statement that his father wanted to help artists and others after he died. The younger Rauschenberg, who is chairman of the board of trustees for the foundation, said that the organization has given grants to cultural institutions, supported artists impacted by Superstorm Sandy and donated more than 100 works of art to museums across the United States. In the fall of 2013, the foundation supported a citywide dialogue on climate change in New York.

"Our goal in this matter is to ensure that my dad's legacy is protected and that the foundation he created can succeed and make an impact," Christopher Rauschenberg wrote in the statement. "We do not think his philanthropic intentions should be eroded through the payment of tens of millions of dollars to the people he entrusted to implement his wishes. We are confident that the Florida court will make a ruling that is fair and consistent with my dad's intent to promote his foundation and better the world."

Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

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