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In one of the costliest punishments ever imposed in Connecticut for discovery abuse, an international merchandise agent for World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. has been forced to forfeit his multimillion-dollar suit for unpaid fees, due to conduct that a judge said “defiled the judicial system.” Stamford Superior Court Judge Chase T. Rogers branded Stanley Shenker a “serial perjurer,” and dismissed with prejudice his action against Stamford-based WWE. Rogers ruled on Oct. 16 that Shenker lost his right to litigate when he “deliberately and repeatedly committed perjury and a fraud upon this court.” In addition, the WWE wins its counterclaims, with dollar amounts to be set after a hearing on damages, the judge declared. Rogers noted that Shenker even duped his own lawyers — Peter M. Nolin and others at Stamford’s Sandak, Hennessey & Greco — adding that she “does not believe that counsel for the plaintiff had any knowledge of the fraud upon the Court being perpetrated by their client.” In fact, it was Shenker’s legal team that delivered the “smoking gun” documents that made Dec. 11, 2002, a day of high drama at the Stamford offices of Day, Berry & Howard, where the elaborate kickback scheme began to unravel. The lead trial lawyer for the WWE is Jerry S. McDevitt, of Pittsburgh’s Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. He was assisted by Day, Berry partner Richard Colbert. The record reflects two years of uncooperative discovery, with four extensions, 12 orders to compel, and foot-dragging production of the 92,000 pages of documents. From the beginning, McDevitt said in an interview, Shenker was a plaintiff on the defensive. He was suing the WWE for ending his contract early, invoking a clause allowing one-sided termination if the company “changed direction.” Shenker alleged he had at least $6.5 million in fees due under his contract as the WWE’s worldwide licensing agent, which he valued at $25 million. It gave him 7 percent of net catalog or electronic sales, and 3.5 percent of sales at events, for merchandise he licensed. If a manufacturer contacted the WWE directly, James Bell, its senior vice president of licensing and marketing, was supposed to license products as part of his salaried duties. But Bell, according to the court record, found it more profitable to let Shenker do the licensing, secretly splitting the outside agent fee. The WWE at first had no clear proof Bell was steering licensing work to Shenker, under an illicit kickback scheme. Shenker only would admit paying “Bell Consulting” for $400,000 in Bell’s moonlighting “product development” services — supposedly separate from his WWE duties. But on Sept. 26, 2002, in a box of documents from Shenker’s accountant, there were two invoices paid directly to Bell, duplicating the same check numbers, dates and dollar amounts of “Bell Consulting” payments. On Dec. 11, 2002, after two full days of depositions, WWE lawyers confronted Shenker with “one of the authentic invoices,” as Judge Rogers put it. Confronted with the duplicity by McDevitt, Shenker stalled, claiming he didn’t recognize it. His body language told a different story, McDevitt said. “He looked like he’d just had a heart attack.” Shenker’s denials crumbled further on Jan. 16, when the WWE deposed the CEO of a California T-Shirt manufacturer, Trinity Products Inc., who said he was offered a secret exclusive right to sell WWE clothing to Wal-Mart for 2 percent kickbacks to Stanley Shenker & Associates Inc., a Norwalk, Conn.-based sole proprietorship. Initially, Shenker denied any fee splitting, swearing it was just a coincidence that his payments to Bell were precisely half Trinity’s secret payments to him. But after that deposition, Shenker hired James W. Bergenn, a criminal defense lawyer at Hartford, Conn.-based Shipman & Goodwin. In March, Shenker formally recanted, retracting and changing over 400 perjurious statements. Instead of paying Bell $400,000 for consulting work, Shenker admitted over $900,000 in fee-splitting payments. Bell was fired by the WWE and has hired white-collar criminal defender Harold J. Pickerstein, of Pepe & Hazard’s Southport, Conn., office. Rather than be deposed by Shenker, Bell has invoked his Fifth Amendment right to silence. McDevitt said Rogers’ decision was correct and courageous. “Perjury is one of the most under-prosecuted crimes in America, and there’s a lot of talk about too much of it going on in civil litigation these days,” McDevitt said, noting that both Shenker and Bell were fiduciaries, in trusted roles. “Everybody who comes into court takes an oath that has three parts to it, and Stanley Shenker violated every part of that oath. He still hasn’t come clean — and he’s violating not only civil laws but criminal laws when he does that stuff,” McDevitt asserted. In an Oct. 3 affidavit, Shenker said he’d long been troubled by his deception and was about to correct his testimony even before the December deposition. Nolin, his lawyer, contends that the forfeiture of Shenker’s entire case against the WWE, worth millions, is unduly harsh, and gives Shenker no credit for his candor. Rogers was unsympathetic on that point. She wrote that Shenker “only attempted to ‘correct’ the record after being caught red-handed [when] the scheme began to unravel through third-party testimony and production of records.” Bergenn, Shenker’s criminal defense lawyer, said his client was na�ve, uncounseled, and believed he had no choice than to pay kickbacks as a cost of doing business with WWE exec Bell. “This case,” said Bergenn, “suggests a horrible tragedy, that the WWE takes in over $100 million in fees from over a billion in product sales that resulted from Shenker’s work — without paying him anything for it.”

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