The coroner’s report said that Burns became “very depressed” after receiving news the day before his death “regarding legal proceedings that he had been dealing with for a number of years.”
Although it wasn’t publicly known until after his death due to the criminal case being sealed, Burns had pleaded guilty in 2018 to eight criminal counts in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. He had agreed to cooperate with the government in the case, the Journal reported.
Burns’ sentencing had been set for Dec. 17. Since a final judgment had not been issued at the time of his death, a judge dismissed the case on Dec. 16, the Journal reported.
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Burns was a financial savant who, while still in his early 20s, gained control of several insurers and a brokerage firm through a company called Southport Lane Management. His insurance empire crumbled in 2014 when he checked himself into a mental health ward, leaving behind an affidavit describing a bizarre series of asset transfers. Soon after, regulators seized control of two of the main insurance companies in Burns’ empire.
Burns told The Wall Street Journal in 2015 that, other than his regular compensation, “at no time did I ever, nor will I ever, receive any personal financial benefit from any Southport transaction.”
In the criminal case against him, Burns pleaded guilty to four counts related to the Southport insurance collapse and four counts related to his involvement in an international scheme to bilk foreign taxing authorities, the Journal reported.
At the time of his suicide, Burns was a defendant in a civil case brought by the Danish customs and tax authority, which claims it was defrauded into issuing tax refunds of more than $2 billion to more than 100 pension plans that weren’t owed them – including a plan controlled by Burns.