WASHINGTON — Martha Stewart can’t seem to shake the feds.
On Tuesday, a congressional panel asked the Department of Justice to look into whether the chief executive officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia deliberately lied or misled their investigators looking into the ImClone stock-dumping scandal.
According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Stewart’s version of events as to why and when she unloaded ImClone stock last December, provided through attorney letters, doesn’t match up to other information gleaned by the panel.
Stewart’s potential crime: violating the federal False Statements Act, a felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of five years for lying to or concealing from Congress material facts in connection with an investigation.
"This is serious business," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R., La.), told reporters, describing how the panel’s concern over Stewart is less about allegations of ImClone insider trading and more about upholding the integrity of congressional inquiries.
Stewart has been investigated by the panel as part of its broader inquiry into the implications of how the Food and Drug Administration notifies companies whether their experimental drugs have been approved. ImClone chief executive officer and Stewart friend Samuel Waksal is facing federal insider trading charges for stock sales that occurred before it became public knowledge that the FDA rejected an ImClone cancer drug.
Until 2 p.m. Tuesday, committee lawyers made overtures to Stewart to testify before the committee to set the record straight. Her attorneys wrote the committee that if Stewart were subpoenaed, they would advise her not to speak. However, once the Justice Department and Congress are finished with their ImClone inquiry, the lawyers said, "she almost certainly would be available for testimony."
Stewart, under scrutiny since January, has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the ImClone matter. A Justice spokesman said the agency hasn’t made a decision about whether to investigate Stewart.
In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, the committee cited various discrepancies between Stewart’s version of events that she had a preexisting agreement with her broker, Peter Bacanovic, to sell her ImClone shares if they dipped below $60. In making its case, the panel used telephone records from Bacanovic and his assistant Douglas Faneuil, e-mails, media accounts and an affidavit from Stewart’s assistant, Ann E. Armstrong."This casts significant doubt on Ms. Stewart’s assertion that her decision to sell was based solely on some preexisting agreement with Mr. Bacanovic," the committee wrote Ashcroft. However, the letter noted, "the committee has not reached any formal conclusion as to whether Ms. Stewart’s statements through her legal representatives to the committee would constitute a crime under federal law."
Rep. James Greenwood (R., Pa.), chairman of the Investigations Subcommittee, was more pointed in his assessment: "She is a former stockbroker, she is a CEO of a major corporation. That is quite different from the average little investor sitting at home in their kitchen."
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast