Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2018 Issue

David Hall of National Book Auction Arrested

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David Hall, the long established  auctioneer who runs National Book Auctions and Worth Auctions in Freeville, New York near Ithaca, has been arrested and charged with second degree grand larceny.  This comes on the heels of persistent reports over the past several years of non-payment to consignors.  On Ithaca.com a story on this development describes the indictment as “adding credence to the growing number of people in Tompkins County and across the country who say they’ve been cheated by his business.”

 

Such issues are hardly front page news as auction houses in every generation encounter such disputes as they maneuver between consignors and buyers,  changing markets and occasional problems collecting from winning bidders.  Almost all such issues are settled privately.  It is rare for auctioneers and auction principals to be arrested.

 

Mr. Hall was taken into custody on November 19th on the charge that he handled the sale of an estate valued at over $500,000 and subsequently failed to fully pay the consignor.

 

He was remanded to the Tompkins County jail after arraignment and held on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 property bond.

 

 The investigation into Hall by the New York State Police began late last year, in which he was accused of selling an estate valued at over $500,000, but failed to pay what was owed to the original owner after the auction sale. Eventually, he began to pay back the money but by Monday afternoon [November 19th], when he turned himself in, he still allegedly owed the consignor over $200,000.

 

Although it is the single charge that has ensnared Mr. Hall, there have been other complaints.  On Yelp complaints have been lodged and the Better Business Bureau lists many complaints, with the majority of them posted during the past year.

 

The auction business relies on trust on both sides.  When there is a breach it can be difficult to recover.

 


Posted On: 2018-12-03 09:53
User Name: fxtrader

I have been preaching this for some years to anyone who will listen (and nobody does because it's boring), but this situation seems like a good time to once again express why it is important to consign with auctioneers who operate in states where auctioneers are required to be licensed. New York, California, and around 18 other states do not license and regulate auctioneers as most states do.

Consignors have greater protections in license-required states, and auctioneers in those states are held to rather strict standards (especially in terms of paying consignors.) For example, if this had happened in Georgia (where we operate), after even one complaint of non-payment (whether for $1 or $100,000), the Secretary of State's office would immediately send an inspector. If the auctioneer could not show that full payment had been made, then his or her license would be immediately suspended or revoked, and the auctioneer would be barred from continuing to conduct business. Not only that, the state could immediately freeze the auctioneer's bank account and protect consignor's funds. So, a year (or several years) would not just go by while other people are cheated and the money disappeared.

Trust is important, but proper oversight is also important. I don't trust my bank to do the right thing out of the goodness of their heart, but I trust the regulations by which they must abide. I would not deposit my money in a bank where there was no FDIC insurance and no government regulation. In the same manner, I would not consign property to an auctioneer in a state that does not regulate and license auctioneers.

As for us, our consignors are paid every time, and they're paid on time. And nobody has to take our word for it. In our state, if we didn't pay our consignors and pay them within the agreed upon time-frame, then we'd be shut down in less than a week.

None of this is to say that there are not fine and trustworthy auction houses in no-license-required states (because there are), but consignors should be aware that their recourse in those states is limited if there is a problem. This story involving National Book Auctions is a perfect illustration of that.

Michael Addison
Principal Auctioneer
Addison & Sarova Auctioneers


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