Monthly Archives: October 2009
A reader sent along a link to this story which encapsulates Walter Noel’s career. It’s pretty much a recap of what we already knew but isn’t it fun to stroll down memory lane? And there’s this:
Fairfield Greenwich investors believe that Walter Noel along with his foreign born son-in-laws have stuffed hundreds of millions of dollars into accounts in offshore tax havens, possibly in the Caribbean, South America and Europe. The lawyers representing Greenwich Fairfield investors say that these offshore monies could prove tricky to recover. However, one attorney close to the defense team of Walter Noel, says the belief is that Noel could be indicted in England on money laundering charges.
Walter is now keeping a low profile, as people avoid him and there has been at least one public verbal attack. Monica looks washed out, but supports Walter and tries to keep up his spirits. Youngest daughter Marisa has declared that she had been poor and is prepared to be poor again. In the meantime, Fairfield Greenwich is the target of a number of lawsuits, including a class-action suit filed by angry investors in U.S.On December 19, 2008, a class action lawsuit filed in the New York State Supreme Court by Pasha and Julia Anwar accuses Fairfield’s fund managers of failing to manage the investors’ money with due diligence, leading to “avoidable losses” from Madoff’s firm. The investors also attack Fairfield for reaping “unjust” fees.
On March 30, 2009, a Connecticut judge temporarily froze all of the personal and real property assets of Walter Noel, Jeffrey Tucker, and Andres Piedrahita, all involved in a lawsuit filed by the town of Fairfield’s pension funds. The lawsuit accuses six investment firms and ten individuals of acting criminally when they encouraged institutions and individuals to invest money with Bernard Madoff. The suit includes three people who are principals of Fairfield Greenwich Group, Walter M. Noel, Jr., Jeffrey H.Tucker, and Andres Piedrahita.
What gives with these guys? Picking a fight with Fox might be explained as an appeal to their lefty base, but Edmund Cars? Are you kidding me? The country’s got 10% unemployment, Obama wants to remake the medical industry, take over the economy and pick up his Nobel Prize in Oslo and he thinks it’s a valuable use of his resources to go after a used car web site? This is so crazy that even fans of the man ought to be worried.
Stocks soar, “It’s Waterloo for the bears”. Take your pick, politics, houses or stocks. I’m a contrarian by nature and when the same idiots who brought us Y2K, BioTech, Dot.Com and Collateralized Mortgage Obligations start yelling about a bull market, I punt. Your opinion may differ.
UPDATE: Mongo have great pain between ears. According to this guy, traders he spoke with today insist that we’re seeing suckers rally and the market will drop off a cliff next week. So the contrarian should buy against that sentiment, right? I’m sticking to real estate.
Absolutely nothing of significance to report about Greenwich real estate today – that one pathetic sale on Woodland, and that’s it. Period. I’ve been running around all week, busier than I have been all year, and have one deal closing next week, another one going to contract, I hope, and a number of good offers pending responses. I’ve even been involved in two bidding wars this week, a phenomenon not seen much in the past two years. I’m obviously not the only agent with eager buyers – the bidding wars show that – so what’s with the lack of contracts? It’s quiet out there, sergeant – too quiet.
Asking price: $39,500,000. Assessment: $21,000,000. Sales price: $4,138,568.
New construction, original 2008 listing price, $2.695. Sold yesterday, $1.790 (66% asking price). No assessment yet.
66 -year-old (!) South Carolina (no “!”) Assistant AG fired after being caught in his car with 18-year-old stripper, sex toys and Viagra. Even in Governor Stanford’s state, this sort of activity, conducted away from the Appalachian Trail, is deemed unacceptable for a representative of the law. They seem to be losing their sense of humor down there in the Palmetto State, and that’s too bad.
Sam Romeo and his North Mianus neighbors are suing the town of Greenwich over the assessments levied against their property to cover the cost of installing sewers in the neighborhood. I’m (somewhat) sympathetic – the town seems to have bungled the project and ran it far longer, at far higher cost, than should have happened in a perfect world (and it didn’t help that our local cops racked up, as they are permitted to do under state law, $500,000 in overtime pay for waving at traffic). If I understand the suit correctly, the town is paying 75% of the total cost and charging the neighborhoods served by the new sewer the balance: 25%. I’m pretty sure that’s in accordance with town law, and that North Mianus folks are arguing that the law is wrong, in this case, because the town caused costs to soar.
Last week, a Superior Court judge, Greenwich’s own Kevin Tierney, temporarily stopped Greenwich from collecting on the unpaid assessments, but he left interest on that sum running at 18%
What the court’s ruling did was to enjoin Greenwich from enforcing its lien on the properties of homeowners who are refusing to pay their sewer tax assessment, but only until the underlying suit is concluded. That could take years and until then, the court has ruled that interest on the unpaid money will continue to accrue at 18%. A few years of that and the litigious homeowners will owe more in interest than they’re fighting about and that won’t help their bargaining position. Settlement discussions, I predict, will end up focusing on how much interest the plaintiffs will pay in addition to the amount they originally owed. That’s not much of a victory.
I think the homeowners would have been better served paying the assessment and then suing for a refund. Their tactic of refusing to pay, thus exposing themselves to the statutory 18% interest accruing each year and risking everything on a complete victory is flawed, from a strategery [Bush joke, Hiram] position. But that’s just the opinion of a no-longer-practicing attorney with no dog in the fight. Time will eventually reveal whether they were right to risk so much.
Norwalk mayoral candidate’s $4.5 million Wilson Point home auctioned for $725,000. That would be less than 86% of it’s 2005 value, Russ, even if it is is Norwalk.
(h/t, P.I. OG)
Russ Pruner, a terrific fellow and a realtor I really respect, writes to complain that I’m cherry picking sales in this column, highlighting low-priced sales and ignoring “reality”. Here’s what he says:
[T]o date both MLS and direct sales that have sold in 2009, as of close of business today, for the entire market are selling for 11%, on average, below their 2005 full value – not the 30%+ you keep telling your readers. The median sales price is 14% below the 2005 full value that the Town of Greenwich placed on a property. I agree some properties have sold at their assessed value or less but many more properties have sold for well above their 2005 assessed value not to say their 2005 full value – 24% of all the properties sold in 2009, both MLS and direct sales, have sold above their 2005 full value. Maybe properties in the future do sell at their 2005 assessed values, you nor I, will know that until we have the sales data to show it – by then you will be talking about 2010 assessed values not 2005. Right now though the majority of the market is still selling a good 15-20% above where you are telling you readers.
Whatever. Russ and his firm have a ton of listings to move, and naturally he wants to get the best price for his customers. So do I, but I’m representing buyers. We have different objectives. There are indeed many houses selling for more than their 2005 values – I’m reluctant to point them out because I couldn’t do so without wondering what kind of sucker would pay that much and who the hell did his agent think she was representing? Giving in to such dark thoughts would just lead to even more grievances filed against me.
My buyers are looking for bargains, and the point of my writing these days is to highlight those bargains, to demonstrate to buyers that there are some excellent values available and they are in fact selling. Russ says the average house has only dropped 14% below its 2005 value, which is great, if you’re a seller. And if you want to pay what Russ and the greater pool of Greenwich realtors thinks is a proper price, by all means, give him a call – he’s got lots of homes to show you. On the other hand, there are other houses, just as nice, going for far less, but your realtor has to look for them, rather than shield his eyes and insist that every house is the best-priced home on the very bestest street in the bestest neighborhood in Greenwich. Russ doesn’t do that, by the way; many of our competitors do, though, and while Russ, because he’s such a nice guy, defends them, I’m not and I don’t. I think if you pay anything close to 2005 values today you’re a chump and a fool and an agent who pushes you to pay that much is not serving your best interests.
RTM members said they were dismayed that the school administrators’ union had not struck a similar compromise with the Board of Education, and instead decided to pursue more generous terms than what was initially proposed.
“The feeling was that we were asking the (school) administrators to help us, and they were just like, ‘Forget it,’” Caldwell said. “People felt other unions were being treated inequitably.”
The teachers’ union has avoided major concessions on wages and benefits this fiscal year, despite pressure from the school board.
New Lebanon School Principal Gene Nyitray, a GOSA co-president, defended his union’s decision to pursue a contract that he believes reflects the high expectations and work load placed on school administrators.
“We’re sensitive to the economic situation, and we respect the work of our colleagues, but this is a managerial union with unique leadership responsibilities,” he said. “People entrust their children to us, and that’s an awesome responsibility.”
The administrators’ wage increase next fiscal year is expected to take a more than $100,000 chunk out of the district’s roughly $126 million budget in the 2010-11 year, according to board member Steve Anderson. He said it was too early to tell what areas of the education budget could be affected by that.
Between administrators’ salaries and benefits, he said, the new labor agreement is expected to cost the town, on average, nearly $8.5 million per year over the next three years. That marks an annual “cost of contract” of, on average, 1.09 percent over the current contract.
“The key is to understand how important it is for (state) arbitrators to realize that Greenwich cannot always lay golden eggs,” Anderson said. “Every town’s resources are finite.”
Under its 2007-10 contract, approved by the board following negotiations in 2007, administrators received a general wage increase of 3.5 percent in each of the three school years.
That contract also included a performance-pay component during the first two school years that was eliminated in the third in an effort by the school board to come up with additional savings in the 2009-10 education budget.
Under the current contract’s seniority-based salary structure, after three years, the high school headmaster makes more than $167,000; the high school’s five housemasters make nearly $136,000; middle school principals make about $152,000; and elementary principals make about $144,000.
2 – 0. heh heh
A judge today questioned the value of any testimony from Bernie Madoff’s right hand man — coldly declaring that anyone who could be hurt by Frank DiPascali is “in prison in Butner, North Carolina or at the bottom of a swimming pool someplace.”
You may recall that DiPascali, who ran Madoff’s scam for decades, showed up in court a few months ago to plead guilty and, pursuant to a deal with the prosecutors, who claim they need his cooperation, expected to go home the same day. The judge didn’t buy it and if his comments today are any indication, still doesn’t. Fine by me.
In the good old days (2007) houses in Greenwich sold for an average of 2.3 X their assessment. Today, it’s much closer to 1:1. Considering that assessment is supposed to be 70% of 2005 values, we’ve dropped around 56% from 2007 values. (or that’s what my math shows – wizards, pitch in here. Example: If house’s 2005 value was $1,000,000, its assessment would be $700,000 and its 2007 value (2.3 X. 700) $1,610,000. Today’s value of $700 = 44% of 1.61, right?) The five sales reported today seem to support this.
19 Skylark, sold for $820,000, assessed value $826,000.
Barton Lane, asked $2.625 in February, 2007 and sold today for $1.3 million. Assessment: $1.3
98 Orchard Street sold for $660,000, with an assessed value of $782,000.
UPDATE: Jeremy would want me to annotate and supplement his letter, I’m sure. So, …
To the editor:
As a lifelong resident I am indeed privileged to live in a community as vibrant and supportive as Greenwich. [he seems to have confused our town with a Magic Fingers mattress]
I live in a place where dedicated and caring people give of themselves to make their community a better place. I live in a place where volunteerism [the old, honest virtue of "The Lord helps those who help themselves" thrives. Folks like Walter Noel and Fredric Bourke just help themselves to whatever they want] I live in a place which has a wonderful school system, [Hamilton Avenue, New Lebanon, the Glenville Modular School and Western Junior High being just some of them] beautiful parks [ hour-and-a-half wait for the bathroom at Byram's pool] a charm that few other communities are able to sustain.[especially because they, unlike Greenwich, have sound barriers blocking I-95 traffic noise].
I live in a place where we are so fortunate to have intelligent, responsive and responsible people wanting to be a part of government. [that's why we pay $100,000 to attract a tax collector and fire our school superintendent every year]
It is simply not possible for everyone to agree on every action that a political figure undertakes or suggests. So, in deciding whom to vote for, it is most important to look at the candidate’s integrity, the body of their work, whether they have good intentions [hell, you get a freakin' Nobel Prize, you got good intentions] and whether the course they want the town to travel corresponds with the voter’s own view of what is desirable and a viable course. [When they lack all of those qualities and you discover they have no idea where to lead the town, then just collect as much as you can from one of them and give them an endorsement]
I know Peter Tesei personally and …. I know that he recognizes that there are many difficult decisions yet to be made and is prepared to make them. [Shoving fired town employees off Town Hall's steps at bayonet point being just one of those decisions he's so eager to make. Running over small animals, putting puppies in blenders? Hey, a man's got to do what a man's got to do].
I also know Lin Lavery [but unfortunately she lacked the financial willingness and wherewithal to get a letter from me so from now on it's, "Lin who?] . I hope that Lin will continue to be a leader in the town ['s Junior League and garden Club. Back to the Back Country, lady!]
On Election Day, however, no one can vote for two first selectmen. You can only vote for one. [Unless, of course, you follow the Chicago school of politics. I, for instance, will be voting early and often and I hope you will, too]
With the considerations I have set forth above, I will be casting my vote on Election Day for Peter Tesei. [See above]. As a resident of Greenwich [paid to do so by the Republican Party, it is my privilege duty to do so.]
Jeremy E. Kaye
It started when Peter Tesei called Lin Lavery “a yellow-bellied, scum-sucking liar” for claiming to have founded the Junior League’s “Kids in Crisis Center” five years before she’d moved to town. Lavery burst into tears, called Tesei “a mean little snot who rode the short bus to school” and the battle was joined.
Yesterday, Lavey pointed out that Tesei missed the Stimulus gravy train by setting the application for return of stolen monies to one side of his desk and forgetting about it. This charge was backed up by Cos Cob’s Jim Himes, who supplied an email stating “Peter couldn’t find his left buttock with both hands so it should surprise no one that he doesn’t know how to fill out a grant form.”
Stung, Tesei demanded a retraction and Mr. Himes, mindful of local politics, disavowed his previous email and assured Greenwich Time that our First Selectman could indeed find his posterior, “provided he gets his head out of there first.”
Not satisfied, Tesei now says that his plans “to get a zillion, kabillion dollars” from the federal government were sabotaged by a Democratic mole. The point person on that task, he said, was Denise Savageau, the town’s conservation director.”She’s handling this – someone says they’re handling it, you trust they’re handling it.”
”Let’s point out that Denise Savageau’s husband is a member of the Demmerkrat Town Committee,” Tesei said. “There’s not necessarily an unbiased participant in these actions. Is she manipulating her actions to undermine my office? It certainly could give pause as to what her motivations are.”
”It’s a plot,” Tesei told FWIW’s Scusie, “a plot against me! But I know who’s doing it and I know where he’s hiding the ice cream over there on Mead Avenue. You’ll see, you’ll see. Ahahahahahahaha!”
Pew Poll: Republicans smarter than Democrats who are dumber than dirt. Libertarians, on the other hand, tested smarter than everyone except Cos Cobbers (who were flunking until they were given crayons in place of pens).