So how much is Wendi going to get?

Ex-Murdoch files.

News arrived yesterday afternoon that the marriage between an 82-year old billionaire media tycoon and his 44-year old employee-wife (younger than two of his children) has, surprisingly, not worked out. Yes, Rupert Murdoch has filed for divorce from Wendi Deng, who bravely threw herself between her hubbie and a shaving-foam pie, citing "irretrievable breakdown".

Murdoch is worth a mere $12 bn - so how much of that does Deng stand to get? As Murdoch has filed in New York, we may never know - they are tight on the privacy of settlements. If Deng stars wearing diamond-studded solid-gold skirts, you can guess it's quite a lot.

But was he wise to file in New York? As Spear's reported late last year, "The courts of London and New York share reputations as being receptive to large divorce claims." If you look at the five legal cases which have shaped modern English divorce (the fifth of which was only delivered this week), English law definitely favours the poorer party, from using a 50/50 starting point to "piercing the corporate veil". English courts also take all assets into account.

By contrast, Suzanne Kingston and Michael Gouriet of Withers wrote, 'New York courts follow a different approach, identifying property of the parties as being either "marital property" (which generally includes assets earned during marriage) or "separate property." New York courts will "equitably distribute" the "marital property," but not the "separate property" (which generally includes pre-marital assets and inherited assets).

Always innovative, however, New York courts have expanded the traditional notion of "marital property" to include (and have placed very significant values on) various "intangible assets" such as educational degrees and professional licences, as well as business "enterprise value", and certain types of appreciation on "separate property".

So a New York settlement looks like it will have many more boxes to tick, rather than a "simple" pile-up of assets.

Finally, prenups are much longer established in America than in England, where they weren't given legal weight until the case of Radmacher v Granatino in 2010. In fact, they are not binding in England if their terms are felt too unfair (however a judge construes that), so their recent validity is susceptible to undermining.

Their two children will have to be taken into account, too: courts will ensure that they are provided for, even if (as is highly unlikely) they were ignored in a prenup.

It is probably easy to predict that Deng's settlement will be more than sufficient for most, but within that great range of millions-to-billions, there are an awful lot of points a judge might choose to stop at.

Update: Reuters reports on another billionaire tycoon divorce, of Harold Hamm (money from Continental Resources oil co) from Sue Ann. They do not, say Reuters, have a pre-nup, which means his $11 bn fortune is up for grabs. The piece is worth a read to see how things might have looked for the Murdochs.

This story first appeared on Spears magazine

In happier times. Photograph: Getty Images

Josh Spero is the editor of Spear's magazine.

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Donald Trump wants to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency - can he?

"Epa, Epa, Eeeepaaaaa" – Grampa Simpson.

 

There have been countless jokes about US President Donald Trump’s aversion to academic work, with many comparing him to an infant. The Daily Show created a browser extension aptly named “Make Trump Tweets Eight Again” that converts the font of Potus’ tweets to crayon scrawlings. Indeed, it is absurd that – even without the childish font – one particular bill that was introduced within the first month of Trump taking office looked just as puerile. Proposed by Matt Gaetz, a Republican who had been in Congress for barely a month, “H.R. 861” was only one sentence long:

“The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018”.

If this seems like a stunt, that is because Gaetz is unlikely to actually achieve his stated aim. Drafting such a short bill without any co-sponsors – and leaving it to a novice Congressman to present – is hardly the best strategy to ensure a bill will pass. 

Still, Republicans' distrust for environmental protections is well-known - long-running cartoon show The Simpsons even did a send up of the Epa where the agency had its own private army. So what else makes H.R. 861 implausible?

Well, the 10-word-long statement neglects to address the fact that many federal environmental laws assume the existence of or defer to the Epa. In the event that the Epa was abolished, all of these laws – from the 1946 Atomic Energy Act to the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – would need to be amended. Preferably, a way of doing this would be included in the bill itself.

Additionally, for the bill to be accepted in the Senate there would have to be eight Democratic senators who agreed with its premise. This is an awkward demand when not even all Republicans back Trump. The man Trum appointed to the helm of the Epa, Scott Pruitt, is particularly divisive because of his long opposition to the agency. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said that she was hostile to the appointment of a man who was “so manifestly opposed to the mission of the agency” that he had sued the Epa 14 times. Polls from 2016 and 2017 suggests that most Americans would be also be opposed to the agency’s termination.

But if Trump is incapable of entirely eliminating the Epa, he has other ways of rendering it futile. In January, Potus banned the Epa and National Park Services from “providing updates on social media or to reporters”, and this Friday, Trump plans to “switch off” the government’s largest citizen-linked data site – the Epa’s Open Data Web Service. This is vital not just for storing and displaying information on climate change, but also as an accessible way of civilians viewing details of local environmental changes – such as chemical spills. Given the administration’s recent announcement of his intention to repeal existing safeguards, such as those to stabilise the climate and protect the environment, defunding this public data tool is possibly an attempt to decrease awareness of Trump’s forthcoming actions.

There was also a recent update to the webpage of the Epa's Office of Science and Technology, which saw all references to “science-based” work removed, in favour of an emphasis on “national economically and technologically achievable standards”. 

Trump’s reshuffle of the Epa's priorities puts the onus on economic activity at the expense of public health and environmental safety. Pruitt, who is also eager to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, spoke in an interview of his desire to “exit” the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. He was led to this conclusion because of his belief that the agreement means “contracting our economy to serve and really satisfy Europe, and China, and India”.

 

Rather than outright closure of the Epa, its influence and funding are being leached away. H.R. 861 might be a subtle version of one of Potus’ Twitter taunts – empty and outrageous – but it is by no means the only way to drastically alter the Epa’s landscape. With Pruitt as Epa Administrator, the organisation may become a caricature of itself – as in The Simpsons Movie. Let us hope that the #resistance movements started by “Rogue” Epa and National Parks social media accounts are able to stave off the vultures until there is “Hope” once more.

 

Anjuli R. K. Shere is a 2016/17 Wellcome Scholar and science intern at the New Statesman

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