Prince Andrew’s Costly U.S. Court Battle Puts Strain on Finances

Prince Andrew’s Costly U.S. Court Battle Puts Strain on Finances

Prince Andrew is approaching the toughest legal fight of his life and one thing is sure: it won’t be cheap, whatever the outcome. 

The disgraced royal is facing seven-figure legal fees -- at least -- if Virginia Giuffre’s sexual abuse suit goes to trial, according to two lawyers surveyed by Bloomberg, while the cost of settling is expected to be well in excess of $5 million. With a personal fortune estimated by his private bank at 5 million pounds ($6.8 million) in 2017, funding the fight will be a challenge. 

“He has no good options in front of him,” Mitchell Epner, a former U.S. federal prosecutor who’s now an attorney at Rottenberg Lipman Rich and not involved in the case, said. “He only has bad options, and he has to decide which is the best bad option.”

Prince Andrew’s Costly U.S. Court Battle Puts Strain on Finances

After a failed attempt to halt the suit, Andrew requested last week that the case be decided by a jury rather than a judge. There’s also a chance that his team raise legal defenses that get him out of the case before trial. 

They have until late July to file summary judgment motions that might see a judge throw the case out, saving Andrew millions in trial costs although his legal fees up to that point could be between $200,000 to $300,000 per month, Epner estimates.

If it goes all the way to trial, fighting the claims that he sexually assaulted Giuffre two decades ago at the London home of Jeffrey Epstein’s girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, will cost Andrew between $4 million and $6 million, Epner estimated. And it could go higher.

This kind of litigation can take an extended period of time, and Andrew is looking at a “significant amount of fees, at least seven figures if not eight depending on how long the litigation goes,” said Jerome “Joe” Studer, the founder and director of Chicago-based Legal Fee Analytics LLC and an expert on attorneys’ fees.

Lavely & Singer PC, which is representing Andrew, is an expensive firm that is “no stranger to this kind of news breaking litigation,” Studer said. The firm “has a reputation of being a bulldog and I would think that given the reputational issues at stake, they’re going to fight this really hard.”

A representative for Andrew declined to comment. Lawyers for Andrew at Lavely & Singer didn’t respond to emails and voice messages seeking comment.

If Andrew loses he could have to cover damages for Giuffre’s pain and suffering, including medical bills, as well as punitive damages for his alleged wrongful acts if the jury finds he did abuse her. Even if he wins, he will still have to cover his legal costs.

Prince Andrew’s Costly U.S. Court Battle Puts Strain on Finances

Whatever the outcome, it isn’t clear how he’s going to do that. His bankers at Luxembourg-based Banque Havilland in 2017 put his wealth at 5 million pounds, according to an internal document seen by Bloomberg News. But the royal was already using short-term loans from Banque Havilland, owned by the family of his friend and top U.K. Conservative Party donor David Rowland, to cover some of his living expenses.

A Banque Havilland spokesman declined to comment.

Even if the Banque Havilland net worth estimate is too low, there’s signs that Andrew’s finances are under strain from the legal fight. The Daily Mail reported this month that the prince is planning to sell his luxury 18-million-pound Swiss chalet after paying off a 6.6 million pound debt he still owed its former owner. There is still a large mortgage on the property, according to the newspaper, and it isn’t clear how much cash any sale will free up.

Andrew’s only known income is a Royal Navy pension of 20,000 pounds and an annual stipend from his mother, Queen Elizabeth, of 250,000 pounds. It isn’t known whether the Queen would be willing to use her own fortune to pay for his legal costs.

Still, Andrew’s been pictured in a brand new hybrid-electric Range Rover sporting personalized plates that was registered in December, U.K. filings show. Another luxury car, a Bentley, was registered in late 2020. Together the two cars have a combined list price of more than 200,000 pounds.

Prince Andrew’s Costly U.S. Court Battle Puts Strain on Finances

Back in 2017 Andrew took out a 1.5-million-pound personal unsecured loan from Banque Havilland, 1.25 million pounds of which was used to repay an existing debt facility with the firm that had been increased or extended 10 times in two years, Bloomberg reported in November. The additional 250,000 pounds borrowed by Andrew was earmarked for “general working capital and living expenses.”

The loan was due in March 2018 but was repaid early using 1.5 million pounds transferred to the prince from a Guernsey-registered company controlled by the Rowland family, according to interviews with people familiar with the transactions and bank documents seen by Bloomberg.

The New York ruling that the case should proceed to discovery means that Andrew will have to provide evidence demanded by Giuffre’s legal team, a process that is likely to take around six months, according to Epner. On top of that there will likely be as much as $500,000 in pre-trial costs, plus an estimated $2 million to $4 million if it reaches court, he said. 

And at this point it is far too late for Andrew to indemnify himself against such costs. “You can’t insure a house that’s already on fire,” Epner says.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.