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$256 MILLLION SOTHEBY'S PAYMENT OK'D

The board of Sotheby's, moving to resolve claims that the auction house cheated buyers and sellers for years by fixing fees, approved payment of its half of a $512 million settlement, the New York Times reported Monday.

Sotheby's majority shareholder and former Chairman A. Alfred Taubman will pay $156 million of the auction house's $256 million portion, Sotheby's said. In exchange, the company settled all potential claims against him.

Of the remaining $100 million against Sotheby's, $50 million could be paid through transferable certificates that could be used by sellers to reduce future commission costs. Sotheby's said it could take financial action against former Chief Executive Diana Brooks to help pay the other $50 million.

Sotheby's and Christie's, the other paying party in the settlement, still are targets of a federal criminal antitrust investigation.

The $512 million deal was reached Thursday by lawyers for Sotheby's, Christie's and the 120,000 buyers and sellers who filed suit in March, accusing the companies of cooperating to fix fees as far back as 1992.

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