Jurors will finally have a chance to hear directly from Jeffrey Gundlach when the outspoken "king of bonds" takes the stand, expected as soon as Wednesday, in his high-stakes courtroom battle with his former employer, Trust Company of the West.
The superstar fund manager, who has called himself both "The Godfather" and "The Pope," will have to convince the jury that he was wronged by an employer that frustrated his ambitions and talent.
That may not be easy. The jury has already heard hours of hostile testimony about his blunt language and management style. It has also heard of some juicy details like testimony from one of his former co-workers that she packed a company hard drive in her bra to sneak it out of the building.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake in the trial, which has given a rare glimpse into the inner workings of asset management firms and the big personalities that run them .
Jurors in the Los Angeles courtroom where the trial is unfolding have heard testimony that Gundlach was a "cultural cancer" to TCW, was increasingly unprofessional during his last months at the company -- and even that he angrily criticized the company in a loud rant in the TCW lunchroom.
"When you've got somebody who is loud and profane and sort of quick on the trigger, to try to portray him as a meek, mild-mannered choir boy isn't going to fly," said trial lawyer David Boies, who is not involved in the Gundlach case but has courtroom experience with big-name CEOs including former AIG chief Hank Greenberg and Oracle's (ORCL.O) Larry Ellison.
Boies said the jury could be sympathetic if Gundlach is honest about his imperfections.
"Most people understand that very few people get to the top of major businesses and corporations without being hard-driving on themselves, and on others," said Boies.
ALL EYES ON GUNDLACH
Many such ugly splits in the financial world are settled before making it to trial but this one is playing out in the public eye.
Gundlach was sued by Trust Company of the West, where he was chief investment officer, in early 2010 for secretly laying the groundwork for a new company while at TCW.
Gundlach and his inner circle searched for office space, created an LLC in Delaware, and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission all while Gundlach was still a TCW senior officer and board member, TCW lawyers claim.
TCW attorneys also say he sought to bring the majority of the mortgage-backed securities group that he managed with him -- along with their multibillion-dollar portfolios.
Gundlach quickly counter-sued, alleging that TCW, a unit of French bank Societe General (SOGN.PA), withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in back wages. TCW plotted for months before his termination how to get rid of Gundlach in a secret plan dubbed "Project G," according to his lawyers.
Gundlach formed a new asset management company, DoubleLine Capital, in the weeks following his termination from TCW. Gundlach and three of his confidants and co-defendants who were also fired by TCW were followed by roughly 45 former TCW employees to the new firm.
"He wanted to avoid this," testified his co-defendant Barbara VanEvery, referring to the litigation. VanEvery was romantically involved with Gundlach, she acknowledged.
The judge has ruled out evidence allegedly showing that Gundlach kept a stash of drugs and porn in his office, and other evidence related to his alleged sexual liaisons with former co-workers, so the jury has not heard about these.
But all eyes are going to be on the man himself when Gundlach takes the stand.
"We all act in ways that don't fit into an etiquette book. And we all have friends that do," Boies said. "But that doesn't make them less our friends. It's part of the human condition."
The case in Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles is Trust Co of the West v. Jeffrey Gundlach et al, BC429385.