Crime novelist Patricia Cornwell takes the stand in suit against former accounting firm

Best-selling crime novelist Patricia Cornwell testified Friday she was never aware her former financial management firm had invested her money in an “aggressive growth” fund against her wishes and that her signature on a financial document had been forged.

Cornwell, taking the stand for the first time in her federal lawsuit against the firm and its former principal, said she had told Evan Snapper and his colleagues at Anchin, Block & Anchin that she was earning enough money and wanted to invest conservatively. But she told the jury she later discovered Anchin had invested some of her fortune in riskier ventures.

Cornwell is suing the company for negligence, saying it cost her tens of millions in losses or unaccounted revenue from 2005 to 2009.

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Under questioning from her lawyer, Joan Lukey, Cornwell, 56, said she paid little attention to her finances, and rarely looked closely at investment reports. But when she reviewed a summary of her expenses in 2007, she was dismayed to learn Anchin was billing her twice — once for business expenses and once for personal.

“We were unnerved,” Cornwell said, referring to herself and her wife. “We didn’t know at that time we were being billed personally.”

In an sharply worded e-mail to Snapper, Cornwell called the fees “stunning and unacceptable,” and said she was angry she hadn’t been notified of the increase.

In her testimony, which came as the trial nears the end of its fifth week, Cornwell said she entrusted Snapper with wide responsibility over her finances, including “all real estate transactions.”

Lukey and Cornwell also sought to dispel the defense’s claims that she had spent large sums on a lavish lifestyle, contending that a small fraction of her income was spent on luxury items and that much of her spending was necessary for her research and writing.