To-date there are at least five dissolved authentication committees on record, victims to expensive lawsuits or to fear of legal actions. These include authentication services that were offered by the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (stopped in 1996), the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation (stopped in 2011), the Andy Warhol Foundation (stopped in 2011), the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat (stopped in 2012), the Keith Haring Foundation (stopped in 2012).
The article warns that "All this is bound to hurt sales." Well, everything is bound to hurt sales -- provenance, resale royalties, economy, changes in tastes, weather. If sellers and their agents are unsure that a work is by a certain artist, they could acknowledge their doubts and list a work offered as "attributed to" or "thought to be by" a particular artist, instead of bemoaning a lack of a party to transfer liability in case there are questions about authenticity.
Increased liability insurance seems to be a sound solution to the threat of litigation that authentication boards for different artists are facing once they voice their opinions. Another solution is to cease publishing catalogues raisonne or produce digital catalogues which can be easily corrected by including or omitting a work. This is the solution adopted by historians working on a catalogue of Isamu Noguchi's sculptures, who are planning to publish "an online-only, ever-modifiable work-in-progress." Another alternative still is to buy works by living artists who would personally attest to their connection or lack thereof with a work of art for sale.
The Economist article ends with a curious anecdote. Apparently, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London canceled an academic debate about the authentication of Francis Bacon's works due to the “possibility of legal action.” Art market aside, fear of litigation is hobbling art history, and that is a dangerous precedent indeed.
Source: The Economist.
Image: Modified cover of Ronald Spencer's, The Expert versus the Object: Judging Fakes and False Attributions in the Visual Arts (2004)