Melinda Gates' divorce lawyer joins the Connecticut legislature battle with Morgan Stanley's govt husband
Senator Alex Bergstein
Source: ALEX for the Senate | Youtube
An already controversial divorce case between a Connecticut Senator and her top Morgan Stanley husband has gotten even hotter with the arrival of a senior new attorney – who also represents Melinda Gates in her multi-billion dollar collapse with Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
The new divorce attorney, Robert Cohen, also restored former President Donald Trump's first two wives, Ivana Trump and Marla Maples.
Cohen is now working on the newly expanded legal team of Senator Alex Kasser, D-Greenwich, who this week fired a legal shot that threatens to drag other Morgan Stanley employees and the firm itself into divorce cases.
Kasser's attorneys asked a judge to allow them to question three sworn employees of Morgan Stanley, which they point to the investment bank's recent inappropriate efforts to obtain personal financial information from her, even if her estranged husband, Seth Bergstein, remains there as a senior Managing Director and is Head of Global Services.
"The plaintiff [Kasser] has evidence that the defendant [Bergstein] abused his authority at Morgan Stanley … against these subordinates," read a new file penned by Cohen's legal partner, John Farley.
"He also appears to have encouraged MS staff to use false and coercive communications to the plaintiff to induce her to disclose personal financial information to which he was not entitled and, apparently, to take an undue advantage in ongoing controversial divorce proceedings in this court attain "said the filing says.
Morgan Stanley's private wealth management and risk management staff at the end of April gave Kasser "false information" about FINRA regulations, court orders, and Connecticut law as part of that effort.
The investigation referred to a joint report at Morgan Stanley that Kasser has shared with Bergstein for two decades. Permanent employees claim it has been "marked in red" and excluded from Kasser's tax refund check "until we can confirm the account holder's total net worth."
Kasser's attorneys also suggest that Bergstein may have acted illegally in July 2016 by asking a notary public at Morgan Stanley to certify an executed document for him for one of his trusts without him or his brother actually signing that document.
"As a result, the accused appears to have committed a crime by giving a knowing instruction to a subordinate to commit an illegal act," Farley wrote on the file.
This request to the notary is documented in an email attached to a new Stamford, Connecticut, Superior Court motion to begin divorce proceedings against Bergstein and Kasser in August.
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Other emails that Kasser's attorneys have filed in court indicate the changing explanations Morgan Stanley employees have given her for her inquiries about her assets and the lack of direct responses to questions Kasser asked them about those inquiries has asked.
In one of those emails from Howard Gofstein, Executive Director of Private Wealth, Kasser was told that the query of her net worth was based on FINRA's anti-money laundering regulations and for the knowledge of your clients. The message added that "we need to update when we know, but at least every three years. [Sic]"
Farley's court record states, "There is also no regulatory requirement that a bank" update … at least every three years "."
"The Court should also be aware that misapplication of securities laws can have serious regulatory consequences for financial institutions and their employees," Farley wrote.
A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley and Bergstein's attorney Janet Battey declined to speak to CNBC.
Kasser, who previously worked as a lawyer for the white shoe company Skadden Arps, also declined to comment.
A bitter breakup
The new allegations have reinforced what was a bitter case from the start, filed more than two years ago when Kasser split up with Bergstein, with whom she has three children.
After that, she began a romantic relationship with another woman – Nichola Samponaro – who also happened to be the campaign manager for her 2018 Senate race.
CNBC detailed in 2019 how court records showed Bergstein, before his wife left him, proposed in 2018 that Samponaro, as a member of Kasser's legislative staff, be paid with money he was willing to provide. Bergstein suggested running the money through a private company, which at one point belonged to Kasser's mother, or through a Shell company, records show.
Bergstein never paid the money, the files say.
Samponaro left Kasser's employees in her Senate office shortly after the Senator took her seat when questions were asked about Samponaro's salary, which was paid directly by Kasser.
Kasser has since changed her last name, which used to be Bergstein, and continued her relationship with Samponaro.
Kasser also made headlines for citing a bill in Connecticut legislation known as Jennifer's Law to add the concept of "coercive control" to the legal definition of domestic violence.
Obsessional control is defined as a partner who does things like withholding money or engaging in threatening behavior to prevent the other partner from leaving the relationship.
Kasser's bill was passed almost unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday.
Kasser completed the re-election for her seat last autumn with a lead of only 0.8%. Their borough includes Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan. Before she won for the first time in 2018, that seat hadn't been occupied by a Democrat in nearly 90 years.
Meanwhile, Kasser's divorce case has flown largely under the media's radar for the past two years.
That could change, however, with the recent unreported arrival of New York marriage lawyers Cohen and Farley as new members of Kasser's legal team. The group included veteran Connecticut divorce lawyers.
Cohen's marriage clients included Trump's first wife, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, KKR & Co. co-founder Henry Kravis, and supermodel Christie Brinkley. He currently represents Melinda Gates, who jointly announced their split from Bill Gates earlier this month after 27 years of marriage. Bill Gates' net worth is estimated at north of $ 134 billion.
Central Islip, NY: Christie Brinkley and Attorney Robert Cohen speak to the media following a divorce settlement settlement with Peter Cook during the press conference at the Courthouse in Central Islip, New York on July 10, 2008.
Alan Raia | Newsday LLC | Newsday | Getty Images
Cohen declined to comment on this article.
However, another well-known New York City divorce attorney suggested Kasser made a wise decision to hire Cohen.
"He's a fantastic lawyer," said Marilyn Chinitz, whose celebrity married clients included actors Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas. "He's talented, he's aggressive."
Chinitz is currently involved in four marriage cases in which Cohen is representing the other party.
"A case with Bob can be challenging, but it's good to have a case with someone who knows the law and he's a good trial attorney," said Chinitz.
"He's creative in solving a case."