Stripped of his equity partnership at Atlanta’s Fisher & Phillips, Claud “Tex” McIver’s financial situation was dire when he shot and killed his wife, a forensic accounting expert testified Wednesday at McIver’s ongoing murder trial.
Dean Driskell, managing partner at FTI Consulting an adjunct professor at Georgia State University, testified that, after reviewing more than 20,000 pages of McIver’s financial records, he determined that McIver was “cash poor” when he shot Diane McIver in the back as they traveled through the streets of downtown Atlanta on their way home from a weekend at their 85-acre ranch.
Driskell also testified about several financial anomalies: That McIver substantially overstated his net worth after his wife’s death, that he claimed a greater financial interest in a kaolin mining operation than he actually had and that he reported a one-time $250,000 consulting fee in 2012 as income derived from the couple’s Putnam County ranch that may have allowed him to continue to use the property as a tax write-off.
Fulton County prosecutors have contended from the beginning of the trial that McIver’s increasingly desperate financial situation, his hunger for what he told one witness was his “rich as shit” lifestyle and his growing indebtedness to his wife, who held the mortgage to his share of the ranch, drove him to shoot her in the back in front of a family friend who was driving the couple home.
McIver, his attorneys and his public relations spokesmen have always contended his wife’s shooting was an accident that may have been precipitated by a sleep disorder. The defense has argued that the couple were amorous “lovebirds.”
During her cross-examination of Driskell, defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer suggested that McIver’s “cash problems were not as bad if she [Diane McIver] was alive.”
According to Driskell, from 2013—the last year McIver was an equity partner at Fisher & Phillips—until his wife’s death on Sept. 26, 2016, “Mr. McIver’s cash position significantly worsened. … More money was going out than was coming in.”
From 2013 to the day his wife died, “There was a 69 percent decrease in [McIver’s] sources of cash” Driskell said. In 2016, McIver’s net earnings from the firm dropped to $182,600, down from $395,000 in 2013.
McIver had no savings or investment accounts, and the ranch expenses alone were about $200,000 a year, Driskell said.
“It seemed like all the cash coming in was being spent on his normal living expenses and the ranch,” Driskell said.
Driskell said McIver’s financial records showed that his wife was also annually infusing tens of thousands of dollars into her husband’s bank accounts and that McIver was only partially repaying her or her companies. He was also paying interest on a $350,000 loan he borrowed from his wife, which he secured with a mortgage on his interest in the couple’s farm.
McIver was reimbursing his wife for the ranch payroll, which she was paying, Driskell said. Witnesses have testified that the McIvers kept their finances separate and that Diane McIver paid all the expenses associated with their Atlanta condominium. Tex McIver paid expenses for the ranch, which he bought years before the couple met and married.
Driskell also said McIver “understood that his tenure at Fisher Phillips was going to end in the near future. He had limited assets to live off of when that went away.”
The forensic accountant also testified that McIver’s tax returns indicated he had written off the considerable expenses associated with the ranch and its upkeep as a loss that offset the taxes he paid on his income from the law firm for years. But Driskell suggested McIver’s continued ability to do that “would come to an end at some point” because the IRS would likely interpret the ranch as a hobby rather than a business.
When Diane McIver died, her husband had $24,567 cash on hand, Driskell said, but that included nearly $30,000 in cash infusions by his wife. Without her cash deposits, Driskell said Tex McIver’s bank accounts when he shot his wife would have been more than $5,000 in the red. From 2013 to 2016, Diane McIver bolstered her husband’s bank account by 25 percent, he said, not including the outstanding loan on the farm.
Diane McIver’s assets that were available to her husband, who was named as executor and a major beneficiary of her 2006 will, included more than $280,000 in cash in two bank accounts, her 401(k) fund containing more than $238,000 and a life insurance policy valued at more than $600,000, Driskell said—a total of more than $1.2 million.
Driskell said McIver also would have been the beneficiary of his wife’s personal business assets, which he estimated at between $3.6 million and $4.6 million.
Driskell said emails the McIvers exchanged during 2016 reflected Tex McIver’s financial stress.
“I am seriously trying to reduce my monthly expenses,” he said in a June 15, 2016, email. “Debt is my biggest obstacle right now. Plan on hitting the lotto sometime this week.”
Diane McIver replied a short time later: “Make sure you read Javier’s job description,” a reference to ranch general manager Javier Hernandez. “That is your next life chapter. Save you lots of moolah. You will be standing there with your hand out when I get in the door every Friday.”
“Oh, well,” McIver responded. “Back to gigoloing.”
When McIver overstated his net worth in a financial statement he submitted to the court in February 2017, he included assets that were attributable to his wife, such as claims to life insurance benefits McIver had yet to collect, Driskell said.
McIver, claimed his net worth was $3.7 million, but his actual net worth was about $1.7 million, Driskell said. More than $1.2 million of that was listed as “retirement plans” on which McIver would eventually have to pay taxes.
“There was a lot wrong with the documentation related to the retirement plans,” he said.
Driskell also said that, although McIver’s partner in the kaolin mining operation stated in a letter that McIver’s share was worth between $1.5 million and $2.5 million, McIver no longer owned 10 percent of the operation, and his payout over five years amounted to $73,000 a year.