Judge in TCW trial admonishes Gundlach for talking to jurors
Jeffrey Gundlach, the star L.A. bond fund manager on trial for allegedly plotting against his former employer, spoke to two jurors in the case while outside the courtroom on Tuesday.
Gundlach reported the interaction to his lawyers, who then went to presiding Judge Carl J. West with the information.
The judge admonished Gundlach but decided that the brief conversation did no harm in the case, according to a transcript of meetings held in West’s chambers.
Gundlach said he was just responding to what he thought was a pleasantry from one of jurors. “I wasn’t going to say anything to him, but -- these guys [his former firm] say I’m the meanest weirdo in the world -- I don’t want to stonewall the guy,” he told the judge, according to the transcript.
Gundlach and his former employer, TCW Group Inc., are in a bitter legal battle with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in damages at stake. The civil trial began in Los Angeles County Superior Court on July 28.
TCW fired Gundlach in December 2009, then sued him, alleging that he and three lieutenants stole massive amounts of TCW's proprietary information and used it to launch a rival money manager, DoubleLine Capital.
Gundlach quickly countersued, alleging that TCW and its French bank parent, Societe Generale, terminated him to avoid sharing future fee income on the tens of billions of dollars in bond assets that he had managed at TCW.
Jurors in the case have to decide on both complaints.
In the meeting with the judge on Wednesday morning, Gundlach said he was in an elevator with two jurors. According to the transcript, Gundlach said that “I leaned against the elevator and one of the jurors said to me, ‘It must be tough getting through all this.’ And I said it must be tough sitting through all these days.”
After exiting the elevator, Gundlach said, he immediately told his lawyers what had happened.
The judge later requested that the juror who made the comment meet in the court chambers. The juror told West that he hadn’t made the comment to Gundlach, but to the other juror, who suffers from back pain. “I was really talking to him and I said, ‘I feel bad for you,’ and Mr. Gundlach turned around and said, ‘I feel bad for you guys,’ ” the juror said, according to the transcript.
Afterward, the juror said he thought, "Oh, my God I actually hope I don't get in trouble over this."
The judge told the juror that he believed the incident was “perfectly innocent.”
Steve Madison, an attorney for TCW, told the judge that he agreed that the situation didn’t warrant removal of the juror. But he said he was “really dismayed that the defendant would seek to make a comment to the juror like that.”
West reminded Gundlach that “even the most innocuous encounter seen from a distance can appear inappropriate. . . . You can’t have any encounter with a juror.”
-- Tom Petruno
Photo: DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach in court in L.A. Credit: Reuters, from video fee