I still don’t know much about this case involving a frequent FWIW commenter (well frequent in the past- haven’t heard much from her in a couple of years – do you suppose Walt scared her off?) but it involves her stealing a girl’s diary about drinking in New Canaan and publishing it on the Internet. The prosecution failed to introduce the evidence needed to support that charge (never send interns to do real work) but Buhl was convicted on a misdemeanor and today a judge sentenced her to 30 days in jail and a year’s probation. I’m suspicious of this entire case – the vigorous police inquiry into the incident, an investigation that according to the cops took “months”, a full press prosecution and now a terrifically harsh sentence for a misdemeanor, violations of which usually result in a hundred-dollar fine and court costs. Buhl obviously offended someone powerful up in New Canaan and I wonder who it was?
Tag Archives: Teri Buhl
Teri Buhl alerts me that our newest Connecticut Lottery winner Brandon Lacoff is not only the failure behind Greenwich’s Beacon Hill, he’s now involved in resurrecting a failed Norwalk development. Want to see a picture of that project? Well here you go. Say, wait a minute, that’s a picture of Beacon Hill! Guess they couldn’t afford a new picture, or they just believe in recycling.
And here’s another curious thing: the winning ticket was sold November 2nd yet no one stepped forward to claim his winnings until yesterday. Although Fudrucker would never admit it, the Lottery Commission ran a bogus billboard campaign asking the winner to appear. When Mssrs. Lacoff et als did show up yesterday they did so accompanied by a lawyer from Long Island who “represented” the boys at the Lottery’s press conference by repeating “no comment, no comment, no comment” all afternoon. Is it possible that the attorney’s vocabulary has shrunk after decades spent representing low-level Mafiosi? Who knows? And who knows if the reason for the lengthy delay in claiming the prize was due to a desire to shield those big bucks from the grasping claws of rapacious creditors? I sure don’t and asked about it by Scuzie, FWIW’s top investigative reporter, Lacoff said this: “no comment”.
UPDATE: Teri points out that
Madoff’s Lacoff’s winnings were deposited into a “family trust”. What’s that about, do you suppose?
UPDATE: Metter has been arrested, along with the lawyers he used to issue his phony documents, and an international manhunt is underway for the PR firm that collaborated with him. Perhaps they should look in Dubai?
SEC charges WGCH’s Michael Metter with penny stock pump and dump scam. This was, I believe, the story that got Teri fired from Greenwich Time.[Teri Buhl has written that this isn't so - of course, since she still doesn't know why she was fired, I choose to believe she was fired for offending someone and Metter, the fat bully, is as good a candidate as any]. Here at FWIW we’ve encouraged Teri to write what she likes and I hope we’ll have her report on this soon. In the meantime, here’s to you, Greenwich Time.
Washington D.C., May 5th 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged New York City-based Spongetech Delivery Systems Inc., an affiliate, and five people involved in a massive pump-and-dump scheme that deceived investors into believing they were buying stock in a highly successful company.
–>The SEC alleges that Spongetech CEO Michael Metter and another senior executive, Steven Moskowitz, hyped fictional customers and grossly exaggerated sales figures through dozens of bogus press releases and fraudulent SEC filings to pump up demand for stock in Spongetech, a company that sells soap-filled sponges. After flooding the market with the false information to fraudulently inflate the stock price, Metter, Moskowitz, and Spongetech dumped approximately 2.5 billion shares by illegally selling them to the public through affiliated entities in unregistered transactions. They spent portions of their illicit profits in highly visible sponsorship deals with professional sports teams to further create the aura that Spongetech was a well-known and prosperous business.
The SEC suspended trading in Spongetech stock on Oct. 5, 2009, due to questions about the accuracy of the company’s press releases and SEC filings. In today’s enforcement action, Spongetech is accused of obstructing the SEC’s investigation by producing phony sales documents in an attempt to legitimize the make-believe customers it hyped to the public. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York today announced a parallel criminal action in the matter.
“Spongetech used a menu of manipulative strategies to perpetuate this scheme, including fake sales orders and public statements as well as obstruction of the SEC’s investigation,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We will utilize all available means, including referral to criminal authorities, to prosecute those who attempt to thwart our investigations.”
Christopher Conte, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, “Investors were deceived into believing that Spongetech was a successful business, while Spongetech and its senior executives were illegally dumping shares into the market.”
Two of Spongetech’s former attorneys — Jack Halperin and Joel Pensley — and stock promoter George Speranza are also charged in the SEC’s complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. RM Enterprises International Inc., an affiliate through which Spongetech dumped shares, is also charged.
According to the SEC’s complaint, after several years of relatively little business with a single customer comprising the bulk of Spongetech’s limited sales, Metter and Moskowitz began to paint a more promising and misleading picture of Spongetech’s business. Beginning in approximately April 2007, Spongetech issued dozens of phony press releases touting increasingly larger, yet fictitious, sales orders and revenue. The press releases fraudulently exaggerated the demand for pre-soaped sponges by referencing millions of dollars in sales orders, business, and revenue from five primary customers that purportedly accounted for 99 percent of Spongetech’s business, yet none of those customers actually existed.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Metter, Moskowitz, Spongetech, and RM Enterprises used false and baseless attorney opinion letters by Pensley and Halperin to distribute shares of Spongetech to the public. Metter, Moskowitz, and Spongetech also used false and misleading attorney opinion letters — forged in Pensley’s name and in the name of a fictitious lawyer, David Bomart — which were transmitted to Spongetech’s transfer agents. The SEC further alleges that Speranza created websites and rented unoccupied office space for the fictional customers in an attempt to legitimize them.
Michael Metter, evil genius behind the Sponge Bob penny stock scam, is offended at Buhl, the NY Post and various other writers for exposing his fraud and has sued, but left me out of the fun. Gee, I thought I was pretty plain how I felt about this purported business enterprise, again and again and yet again, without result, but I’m willing to try one more time. By the way, the complaint is about the worst drafted piece of crap I’ve ever seen, so perhaps Metter’s lawyers will want to bring a separate action against me for calling them incompetent hacks who should never have been admitted to law school, let alone granted admission to the bar. I knew that on-line law schools were a bad idea.
UPDATE: Matchbook lawyer’s hiring explained: Turns out, SpongeTech’s passing rubber checks to people like the NY Islanders, and getting sued therefor. You can’t pay your bills, I guess you’re stuck with hiring your useless nephew as a lawyer.
What was really behind O’Neal’s billion dollar write-downs at Merrill Lynch
By Teri Buhl
Today, Fortune’s William Cohan gets former CEO Stan O’Neal to spill about some internal quarrels he had with his board about selling Merrill Lynch, in a move that almost make it look like he wasn’t the only fall guy to screw Merrill shareholders.
O’Neal, who was ousted in October 2007 after mega billion dollars CDO write-downs hit Merrill’s books, tellsFortune that he really did try hard to sell the troubled bank to Ken Lewis while the stock price was still high and the world didn’t quite know about his $45 billion mortgage time bomb. He’d even started talks with Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis asking for $100 a share in September 2007 when the stock was trading below that, but influential board member Alberto Cribiore, a wall street dealmaker he’d help get on the board, wouldn’t let him sell the bank. Why because he thought Lewis was ‘an asshole’. According to Fortune, O’Neal also said Cribiore thought they could work their way out of the looming CDO write-down problem and didn’t need to sell when they were weak. A year later Merrill sold to BofA for a heck of lot less than the number Stan had been aiming for and the $MER shareholders were left wondering if they’d been saved or royally screwed.
Cohen points out that O’Neal failed to influence his executives and board members during his reign and communicate the real seriousness of their problems in the bank’s mortgage related assets. The question still unanswered is did he really know what those problems where and why not?
Cohen writes: “When O’Neal got back to New York from Martha’s Vineyard in September 2007, he spoke to Cribiore about his growing concerns. “This is a serious and deep problem,” O’Neal says he told Cribiore. “Well, just take as big a write-off as you can imagine,” Cribiore told him. “The problem, Alberto, is I don’t know how deep the hole is,” O’Neal remembers explaining. “I can’t sit here and tell you that if I decide to take a $5 billion or $10 billion write-down, I can’t tell that that’s the right number. I can’t tell you if there’s $15 billion or $20 billion more, and the reason I can’t tell you that is because I don’t know how the market will evolve, and there is no market today for these securities. Whatever value we come up with is highly theoretical.” O’Neal felt uncomfortable telling Merrill’s employees and shareholders that a big write-off would solve the problem when he wasn’t sure it would.”
You see this wasn’t the only time O’Neal had been challenged by the banks executives. According to a senior member on Merrill’s CFO team who talked to this reporter on the condition of anonymity, Jeff Edwards, the bank’s CFO, had some serious issues with the number on the losses O’Neal was telling investors. In the beginning of October, Merrill shocked the street and announced they’d be taking a $5bn write down on mortgage assets. And then a few weeks later O’Neal came out and told The Street they reexamined their positions and that it’s actually going to be over 50% more that they need to write-down. Well according to the Merrill executive I spoke with, Edwards told O’Neal that he wasn’t marking these CDO assets right and the real loss to the firm would be much higher. The two got in a verbal confrontation, O’Neal didn’t want to announce more write-downs so soon and Edwards threatened to quit that week if O’Neal didn’t revise them. And that’s why we suddenly saw a very different number announced, which was for $7.9 billion on their CDO and subprime portfolio. Ouch!
When the write-down adjustment was announced the New York Times wrote “The additional write-down, coming so soon after the company’s $5 billion charge, may raise more questions about the leadership of O’Neal, and the ability of his top executives to assess the firm’s risk exposure.”
But in reality it looks more and more like O’Neal knew the risk exposure he just couldn’t stand up and admit it. And even if he’d tried to stand up to his board it looks like Cribiore, the influential board leader, was too entrenched in his own agenda to do the right thing with it.
Fortune’s ‘Merrill Lynch’s $50 billion feud’: http://money.cnn.com/2010/04/15/news/companies/merrill_lynch.fortune/index.htm
Editors Note: Teri Buhl is an investigative news reporter who has written for Trader Monthly, New York Post, HousingWire, Dealbreaker, Greenwich Time, and Fortune.com
A previous reported stated Nelson Chai was the CFO in Oct 2007 that was corrected to Mr. Edwards.
Financial Services Reporter
Hearst Connecticut Media Group is seeking a financial services reporter to blog, break stories, investigate and lead coverage of the high-end financial services industry and community in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Blogging and writing for our online products will constitute about 70 percent of the job.
The beat will include hedge funds, investment banks, private equity, insurance, and financial instruments and commodities trading. A major focus will be on the people involved in the industry and those affected by it.
The successful candidate will be an excellent people person, able to develop sources and establish a constant flow of information from a traditionally closed-mouth community. He or she must have strong familiarity with the industry and a high comfort level in reporting on complex financial and economic matters, interacting with C-level executives and high-net-worth individuals, and translating it all into compelling copy for our newspaper and online readers.
Excellent story-crafting skills are a must, as is experience with online reporting through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, etc., as well as traditional news Web sites. Video skills are a plus.
Requirements include boundless enthusiasm for the beat, a bachelor’s degree, outstanding business clips in his or her portfolio, and the ability to juggle multiple print and online assignments and deadlines.
The position will be based in Greenwich and report to Business Editor Jim Zebora in Stamford. Anyone interested should contact Jim at 203-964-2420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gee, it seems to me they had all these skills, and more, in Teri Buhl, yet she lasted just three months on the job. Mr. Zebora should, in fairness to job applicants, add a few more requirements to that skill set, including ass-kissing and fear of and respect for the rich, powerful or influential in Greenwich. Maybe you can make it one of those unpaid intern jobs for teenagers, Jim – they’ll need the experience and the resulting cynicism.
(H/T, Pulled Up in OG)
Drat – there goes my free content. But here she is with a Fortune article on Barry Sternlicht’s play for the last of the Antares empire, the old UST building on Rt. One. Sternlicht may be on the cusp of seizing control of the building away from Antares and perhaps even grabbing the whole thing for $60 million, less than half it last sold for.