Two of the Hunt brothers who once shared one of the world's wealthiest legacies have filed for personal bankruptcy protection, their latest attempt to recover from an alleged scheme to corner the world silver market.
Nelson Bunker and William Herbert Hunt filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Wednesday because of a court's requirement that they post a $225 million bond to appeal their loss in a New York federal court, said Tom Whitaker, a spokesman for the brothers.A federal jury decided Aug. 20 that the two Hunts and brother Lamar Hunt must pay more than $130 million in damages to Minpeco SA, the Peruvian government's mineral marketing company.
The company charged in its civil suit that the brothers conspired in the late 1970s with Middle Eastern businessmen in a failed attempt to corner the silver market, ruining Minpeco's investments.
A U.S. District Court judge has temporarily stayed the bond.
"Given that Bunker Hunt was at one time one of the wealthiest men in the world, it's absurd to imagine they've come to this point," Thomas Gorman, trial attorney for Minpeco, told The Dallas Morning News.
The Hunts also face class-action suits in New York on behalf of more than 17,000 silver futures traders who lost money when silver prices crashed in early 1980.
The brothers' separate bankruptcy filings, which could have the effect of blocking such lawsuits, list substantial assets but no dollar figures.
The Hunts said raising $225 million in the Minpeco case would force a "fire sale" of assets, and would result in non-payment to business and personal creditors.
The Hunts also said they chose bankruptcy to keep Minpeco attorneys from beginning foreclosure on their assets until their appeal can be made.
Hunt attorney Bob Wolin said the case may not even reach the appeal stage. He said he has "six or seven separate motions" that could either reduce the damages substantially, bring about a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or force a new trial.
"It's very winnable," Wolin said.