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No date has been set for the pay-out.

Judge Kaplan agreed that Sotheby’s should pay the $45m fine for admitting it had conspired to violate anti-trust laws, even though this amount was over $8m short of the minimum charge established by sentencing guidelines.

Christie’s had secured immunity from prosecution and the Judge made clear that Sotheby’s shouldered a disproportionate share of the burden of the case, adding: “It is important to bear in mind a strong public interest to see Sotheby’s and Christie’s survive. These two firms dominate the auction market. Should one fail the other would be in a position to lift market prices.”

However, some thought this leniency unwarranted in view of the efforts of Phillips to break the duopoly of Sotheby’s and Christie’s over the past year.

Thomas Broussard, spokesman for some plaintiffs at the hearing, derided the decision to allow the auction houses to hand out discount coupons on future purchases/consignments as part of the $512m settlement.

Describing the coupons as a “marketing tool” that would “continue the duopoly”, he asked how Phillips were to compete for customers “if we do not just get cash”.