David Bergstein endured another intense interrogation at the hands of his creditors and an attorney for his court-appointed trustee Ronald Durkin on Thursday afternoon.
The embattled film financier chomped away on gum while continually deflecting questions about the ownership of his web of shell companies and his relationship with construction magnate Ronald Tutor.
"All I can do is provide time to answer questions to help provide clarity," Bergstein told Leonard Gumport, Durkin’s attorney, at one point during a three-hour hearing at the Los Angeles offices of his trustee.
But clarity was one thing that was lacking during the often contentious questioning. Bergstein repeatedly said he was uncertain about the extent of his companies' assets and the particulars about how his businesses moved money around.
Five of Bergstein’s companies — R2D2, CT-1 Holdings, ThinkFilm, Capitol Films and Capco — have been forced into bankruptcy, and the ongoing legal fight centers on discovering how their remaining assets will be auctioned off to pay off creditors ranging from film companies to industry guilds and talent.
Bergstein, who has been accused by creditors of running an elaborate Ponzi scheme to mask millions of dollars in losses, continued to blame any wrongdoing on his former attorney, Susan Tregub. He maintains that Tregub falsified documents and has been preventing his cooperation with an investigation into his companies’ tangled finances by withholding records.
“I have been trying to find out. I have been telling you for a year and a half that these documents are under the control of Susan Tregub," Bergstein said.
On one point, Bergstein remained firm — he did not backdate an agreement with Tutor by a year to make it appear that the billionaire had sold his stake in one of Bergstein’s companies for $10 before it went into bankruptcy.
According to a report by the trustee, Tutor later contradicted himself in deposition after he had reportedly sold his stake by stating that he owned 50 percent of one of the Bergstein managed entities.
Tutor, who led a successful bid for Miramax last summer, reportedly invested over $80 million in the film industry, primarily in partnership with Bergstein.
(Photograph of Bergstein by the Los Angeles Times)