Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for another episode of Legal Tea! Today’s topic is a current trend … something going on in current time, that is pertinent to my world. Today’s topic is on Wendy Williams – and specifically, what in the world is going on with her name in the headlines?! Maybe you’ve caught it, maybe you haven’t … but I’m kind of a sucker for pop culture things – well, I guess that makes sense since we talk about celebrity estate planning on here. Anyway, in case you’re not a pop culture weirdo like me, I happened to catch there was SOMETHING going on with Wendy Williams late last year in 2021 … I can’t remember exactly what I saw, but it was something questioning Wendy’s health. Then, when I started researching for this episode, I found there have been some health issues going back a few years PRIOR to 2021 … like 2018-ish.
Let’s first start with Wendy Williams – and talk about who she is asa person. Then, we’ll talk about what is going on with her. According to her Wikipedia, Wendy is an “American broadcaster, media personality, businesswoman, writer, and actress.” So yeah, she’s does a whole lot. Not to mention, she’s hosted her show, The Wendy Williams Show, since 2008. (Side note: I had no idea her show had been on THAT long. Man!)
Health-wise, according to her Wikipedia, Wendy has been quite an open book about her past addiction to cocaine. Beyond that, in 2018, Wendy shared that she had been diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. After this, comes a series of situations – like, in late-2018, she fractured her shoulder; in early-2019, she disclosed she had been living in a “sober house for some time” (that’s really all she said); and she disclosed she had vertigo. Then, later in 2019, she shared she had been diagnosed with Lymphdema, which is a disease that causes ankles and legs to swell. Then, in 2021, she tested positive for Covid-19. Boy, she has been put through the RINGER!
According to an article on Prevention.com, in October of 2021, The Wendy Williams Show crew shared Wendy was experiencing some serious complications from her Graves’ Disease diagnosis, and that she needs more time to get healthy before returning to the show. Then, in November of 2021, Wendy shared herself, “I’m a woman of a certain age, and I know enough to listen to my Doctors and will return to my purple chair as soon as we all agree I’m ready.” (Side note – For reference, she is currently 57 years old.) In December of 2021, another update was released … it shared that Wendy would not be returning to The Wendy Williams Show in January of 2022.
What does this mean? Well, according to the Prevention.com article, The Wendy Williams Show has been airing without Wendy since October 2021 … instead, the show had been continuing with guest hosts. The Wendy Williams Show, up until very recently, had not addressed the future of the show; however, according to a TMZ article, a guest host, Sherri Sheperd, may be named as the show’s PERMANENT guest host. This just goes to show that this whole situation is ever-changing, that (Sherri becoming a host) was made official in mid/late February 2022, when it was officially released that The Wendy Williams Show is actually going to be coming to an end and Sherri Shepherd will be starting her OWN talk show in its place. Same timeslot as The Wendy Williams Show.
For the last few months, there have been so many rumors swirling about what TRULY is going on with Wendy. For example, according to the Prevention.com article, there have been “unsubstantiated claims that she’s had to use a wheelchair and is suffering from early-onset dementia.” However, her personal team has continued to deny these claims and stated that these stories are inaccurate. A source that is supposedly close to Wendy said, “Reports of a stroke, drugs or addiction issues, or a dementia diagnosis are all false. Whether Wendy can return in the Fall will depend on how her healing goes over the summer. Her health is the most important thing.”
THIS is about when I started noticing headlines about Wendy … I started seeing and hearing that she was supposedly dealing with some cognitive impairment and now that I look into things, her personal team seems to argue that is NOT true … so that just goes to show you to take everything you see/hear in pop culture with a grain of salt. Who knows if it is true … maybe it is and they’re trying to keep things hush-hush and maybe it is not, and things are grossly being blown out of proportion.
Along these lines, there was a recent thing in the “news” (news, said in air quotes) about Wendy on February 10th, 2022. According to an article on PageSix.com, Wendy’s attorney, Celeste McCaw, filed a Petition in New York claiming that Wells Fargo, who holds a significant chunk of Wendy’s wealth, has for more than two weeks, denied Wendy access to her own accounts. This came about when Wendy’s Financial Advisor claimed that Wendy was of unsound mind. Following this Petition, Wells Fargo submitted correspondence to the New York Judge to request that a hearing be set to determine Wendy’s cognitive abilities … and whether a professional, like a guardian, needed to get involved to possible manage Wendy’s financial affairs.
So, you may be thinking, why did Wells Fargo just randomly start feeling this way? Like, there had to be some trigger/event that caused this. Well, according to PageSix, the attorney for Wells Fargo, David Pikus, shared that “Wells Fargo has strong reason to believe [Wendy] is a victim of undue influence and financial exploitation.” In line with this argument, David argues that Wendy’s Financial Advisor “recently witnessed signs of exploitation, including [Wendy’s] own expressed apprehensions about the people around her.” He further shared that “other independent third parties who know [Wendy] well share these concerns.” Following David’s argument, Wendy’s attorney, Celeste, shared that Wendy denies these allegations.
In fact, Celeste goes on to share, “Despite Wells Fargo’s assertion that its suspicions are genuine, their decision to deny [Wendy] access to her financial assets for weeks without providing her or her counsel with adequate explanation of evidence to support its decision, and their decision to wait until [Wendy] filed an emergency petition for a preliminary injunction before pursuing, or notifying [Wendy] that it had pursued, a guardianship proceeding gives pause for concern about [Wells Fargos’] intentions.”
As of today when I’m writing this, which is February 14th, 2022, the Judge has not granted or denied the Petition – so that’s where things are right now. I’m guessing, since the issue is so pressing and things are moving, that by the date of this recording going live, there may be some updates that I didn’t get to include. Because of how quickly things are moving, but also because the Judge has not ruled on anything as of right now, Wendy’s attorney, Celeste, alleges that Wendy has “defaulted on several billing and financial obligations, including, but not limited to, mortgage payments and employee payroll as a result of being unable to retrieve money from her bank.”
Something this situation has brought to my attention is that many, many financial institutions have policies like this – so I’m sure Wendy’s team is saying, “Shame on you, Wells Fargo” but a lot of financial institutions have policies like this to protect their clients from financial exploitation, protect their clients from themselves in cognitive impairment situations, etc. I have a friend, who happens to work as a Financial Advisor, and his company (which is not Wells Fargo, but another “big name” company) have these same safeguards. At the end of the day, it’s a sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation – like, WHAT IF Wendy was getting exploited? Should they just stand there and let it happen? Watch it happen? At the same time, it IS Wendy’s money – and there should be gobs of independence on what she wants to do, does, etc. Where is the balance, right?
I know that my friend, who is the Financial Advisor at another big-name company, told me once that their institution’s policy is that there be an emergency contact on file … and if he suspects any funky business, he notifies the emergency contact. Of course, the client agrees to putting this emergency contact on file – so it’s not like the Advisor throws a name on there in the 11th hour and when it’s inappropriate. I’d be curious to know if Wells Fargo has a similar policy and if it was utilized – or did they jump to Court involvement … maybe because of “who” Wendy is …. Or maybe it’s because the emergency contact is part of the exploitation issue … maybe they tried to notify the emergency contact and they didn’t help … who knows, right? The “public” nor the news … neither know, at least!
As I said a bit ago, I’m going to take a WILD guess that between writing/recording this episode and the episode going live, I bet there will be updates on this case. Good, bad, who knows! I think we’ll definitely get an update very soon on what the Judge decides – whether the Judge thinks Wells Fargo should unfreeze her accounts or not. If I had to guess, but who am I (Jenny Rozelle, a random attorney in Indiana who knows nothing at all about New York law), I’d guess that the Judge will side with Wendy – I don’t know why I think that, but I think Judges sometimes sympathize with the person over a large corporation. After all, Judges are elected…
Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but perhaps this was all very intentional – maybe Wells Fargo brought this to the Court’s attention so whatever happens, Wells Fargo can be free of blame. Maybe Wells Fargo just wants a Court Order saying Wells Fargo pushed this issue … we are siding with Wendy on this … then if something does happen with Wendy (whether it truly was financial exploitation or cognitive impairment) …. Wells Fargo can say, “Well we tried….” We live in a very C.Y.A. world nowadays (in case you don’t know what C.Y.A. is … it’s cover your a-s-s) so perhaps that is Wells Fargo’s motivation in this. To cover theirs.
Alrighty, let’s wrap this “current trends/current events” episode up, shall we? Next week’s topic is on estate planning of the rich and the famous – on that episode, we’re going to talk about Tony Heish, who is most well-known for being the retired CEO of shoe company, Zappos. That episode will be somewhat-strange all-around …. Trust me! Anyway, we’ll talk about Tony next Tuesday, Legal Tea Listeners. Talk to you then and stay well!