Daily Archives: January 25, 2009

Matt Lauer trapped in building with Madoff, wants out

Two roomies, one grateful to be staying out of jail, the other feeling as though he’s in one. Matt Lauer owns an apartment in the same 64th Street building Bernie Madoff is holed up in and, since the paparazzi can’t get pictures of Bernie, they content themselves with snapping Matt and his kids. He hates it. “I’d go home to Greenwich,” Lauer says, “but there are more freakin’ Madoffs there than here.” Reminded that all of the Fabulous Five Noel Girls are also in Greenwich, Lauer visibly brightened. “Gee, I haven’t done equestrian sports in ages – maybe we can do the Today Show out in the country for awhile.”

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No morals, wants other people’s money, willing to steal to get it? Cops figure, must be a Democrat!

As told by John Thain
As told by John Thain

71 year-old financial advisor pulls armed robbery, identified, captured through the “Obama ’08” sticker on his Lexus. I always thought there was a bit of cognitive dissonance going on with those voters who owned expensive cars and supported the man who wanted to confiscate them, but until now I hadn’t figured them as psychopaths. Good thing the cops are better at figuring things out than I am.


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My my; the Saint A crowd isn’t covering itself with glory these days

From a reader:

Another “talented” Saint A’s alum that FGG employed was Nicholas
“Nick” Vita. In 2006, FGG handed Vita  $50million to launch
“Fairfield Argenis Healthcare Fund” (see page 6 attached). And where
did the seed money come from? Certainly not from FGG partner’s
capital. No, it came courtesy of Fairfield Sentry shareholders under a
little provision FGG forced all of its Sentry clients agree to, called
the “Non SSC Initiative”.

Nick is an exact cookie-cutter of Chuckie Murphy, just a decade
younger: a Columbia Saint A’s fratboy that cultivated a faux Wasp
persona in order to run with the Eurotrash crowd. The Euro connections
were equally faux, that is, of the Monica Noel and Andeas Piedrahbita
variety. For example, his (still) best-friend and fraternity brother
is Gaston Bullrich, Euro by way of Argentina. Before Nick tanked the
FGG fund (FGG had to divest after in was down 22% in one year), he
worked at Arx alongside Gaston, who is the younger brother of Mattias

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Fairfield Greenwich defendants here in Greenwich

Perusing just one of the early lawsuits filed against FGG,  I came across at least two more defendants who might soon have houses up for sale at good prices. In addition to the delightful information that Charles “Chuckie” Murphy was served by notice handed to his cook at 202 Round Hill Road (don’t you wish you could keep a cook at your weekend home, ready  to whip up a speedy repast if you happened to toodle in from your Manhattan townhouse unexpectedly?) I came up with a list of defendants sure to please and astonish their friends:

Philip Toub 

Lourdes Barreneche 

Matthew C. Brown 

Jacqueline Haray 

Daniel Lipton 

Julia Luongo 

Mark McKeefry 

Santiago Reyes 

Andrew Smith 
According to our tax records, Philip Toub has a splendid home at 14 Knollwood Drive. The assessed value is only around $3 million but I think that’s conservative, even in a depressed market. 5,600 sf, pool and pool house, bedrooms enough for an army of lawyers, what’s not to like? Matthew C. Brown must be a relative smallfry, because his house is in Milbrook, at 27 Anderson Road. It’s nice enough, I suppose, but hardly grand enough to stir the loins of an avid lawyer – maybe $1.8 at a discount, tops. How dull. Brown may well end up being let out of the net as too insignificant to be of interest. Regardless, both these men may, like their friend and partner Walter Noel, have houses scattered around the world and it’s not impossible to believe that they’ll be able to hang onto one or two of them as they fend off disgruntled investors, but I’d keep an eye out all the same. If you need cash for your defense, Greenwich real estate, even at a bargain price, can still produce enough to cover several depositions and even a jury selection session or two.
UPDATE: Asleep at the wheel. Philip Toub is, of course, Walter Noel’s son in law. That would explain why his house is so much nicer than his co-worker, Matt Brown’s.
Ooops again! A reader informs me that Matt Brown is another son-in-law (Marissa’s? husband). So how come he has to live in Milbrook while his brother in law lives high on the hog? Either way, scratch anything I said about either of these two hanging onto their houses. If they’re Noels, they’re gone. Bye bye.


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This will be interesting to watch

The left is still drooling over their new King Obama, if that wretched man Garrison Keillor is representative. This “comedian”, who on Christmas Eve three years ago came up with a side-splitting radio-skit that compared U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq with Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents, started Saturday night’s program with a love song to Obama in which he compared his new Messiah with Bob Dylan, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and various communist heroes too negligible for me to remember. Then, just to keep his hand in, he ran a skit about dumb old George Bush and that’s about as far into the show as I got. 

I no longer worry about what the Keilers will do without Bush – I’ve realized that they’ll never let go of that fixation and will be ranting about him from their oxygen tanks in their hospices twenty years from now. But I do fear for their sanity when Obama disappoints them, as all humans must. What will they do with their songs of praise? How will they handle their crushed hopes and disappointment? Right now, they are obviously delirious with joy, fantasizing about a God come down to earth to save them, but the last time a Messiah disappointed the crowd it reacted rather badly. I hope someone has thought about this and come up with a substitute player to insert [like, uh, you know, Caroline Kennedy? Ed] . Otherwise, bedlam.

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We’re going with Chuck Murphy on Round Hill Road

Questions have arisen over the identity of Charles Murphy of 202 Round Hill Road. Is he the same failed investment banker who tied his cart to the dung-spewing horse that was Fairfield Greenwich Group? The same fellow the New York Times called “Richard Murphy” , who is attempting to unload his $35 million Manhattan townhouse? Yes, yes and yes. A reader who knows identifies “Chuckie” as that madcap adventurer from St. Anthony Hall at Columbia, a guy who went on to run “with a very fast crowd in Europe. FGG would have been a perfect fit for Chuckie.” Asked if this was the same Chuck on Round Hill Road our correspondent replied, ” I hit the FGG website early on and that is indeed our dear arrogant ‘friend’. And yes, he resides at 202 RHR – at least when he is not avoiding servers.”

So all that works for me. Wouldn’t it be fun to see both 202 and 175 Round Hill Road come on the market at fire sale prices simultaneously? It would drive the neighbors crazy. Talk about an instant evaporation of wealth.

St. Anthony, by the way, was blessed many years ago by a resident alcoholic genius named Peyton M. He’d long since dropped out of Columbia but stayed on in a windowless room in the fraternity’s basement where, I was told, one need only come up with a bottle of vodka to gain in return a guaranteed “A” term paper, any subject, any length, in 24 hours. This brilliant man must have saved 1,000 careers. I do hope he somehow found a way to save his own life.


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Here’s a shot across the bow

A couple from New Jersey came out with me today. We found a house they liked, in a neighborhood they liked, but the wife was not sold on our town and wanted to look elsewhere, like New Canaan, because she “wasn’t convinced about the quality of Greenwich schools”. It’s true that Greenwich hasn’t been ranked well among competing school systems in a long time but we’ve been able to coast on our reputation. If that reputation no longer extends beyond our own myopic borders, we’re going to have difficulty selling our houses for the premium that Mad Monkey and his supporters demand. We may have difficulty selling our houses, period. The answer isn’t, I don’t believe, to increase school funding; to the contrary, slash away, but it’s time to spend efficiently, whatever that means. And it’s way past time we select a Superintendent who is interested in running a solid school system rather than create some mediocre pool where “everyone is just about average”.

Or that’s my opinion, anyway.


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Check your competition

I spent a good portion of this weekend showing houses to two different families. There was one good house for each family -no, I won’t identify them here because they did like them and I’ll keep my mouth shut until they decide how they want to proceed. There were many more houses that were grossly overpriced and I didn’t have to tell my clients that. No buyer can see a house priced well at, say, just under $2 million and then walk into another house a few minutes later asking the same price but 1/3 smaller, much dingier, with an inferior location, without asking, “are these people out of their friggin’ minds?” Mad Monkey would have you believe that sellers who are cutting their prices are engaged in a mad dash to the bottom and will rue their haste, someday. Perhaps he’s right but if you want to sell your house in the foreseeable future, ask your agent to pull all the competing listings in your price range and neighborhood and then go see them. If you are capable of employing an objective eye and you see a better house priced lower than yours, cut your price. Right away.


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I don’t consider myself a cancer on the marketplace

I think of myself instead as offering a counter-balance to dreck like this, put out by my industry.

Now’s the time to buy! Market resurging! In Milwaukee? Give me a break.


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Don’t blame us brokers if you over paid!

Or so says the head of New York’s Realty Board in a letter to Craine’s Business Report.It’s a fair amount of blather but I liked his statement that New York sales were mostly to smart Wall Street types who are sophisticated enough to figure out for themselves that they’re being fed a line of bull. I like it because that’s the exact defense Wall Street asserts when a customer complains that they took the advice of their “financial adviser” and got hosed. “If you’re intelligent enough to inherit a million bucks we can steal, Widow X, you’re intelligent enough to know that your “adviser” is just a used car salesman, out to take your money – next case”.

And this part could have been written by Mad Monkey. In fact, perhaps it was.

Finally, it is troubling to think that Crain’s believes that the real estate market in New York City is no different from the rest of the country. The type of ownership, the impact of Wall Street, the value of the dollar and the excitement of living in New York are just a few of the factors that make New York different. Our residential brokers understand all of the factors that drive our market, and I am proud of the information and service they provide their clients and their love of our city.

Steven Spinola
Real Estate Board of New York


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So far so good

Or so said the jumper as he passed the 35th floor of the Empire State Building on his way down. Hedge funds are already reporting this year’s performance and, with just a couple of exceptions, they’re all up. Tyler Durden, who compiled this report, notes that the only way the funds could be up in such a down period is if they’re busy selling short. As Phillip Blumberg, Dean of my Law School and my corporation law professor used to caution, “gentlemen, the number one cause of suicide on Wall Street is selling short.” Look out below.


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New York Times fires fact checker, Pinch to handle all such petty details from now on.

Yesterday’s NYT article about the Fairfield Greenwich Group hot shot who was being forced to consider selling his $35 million Manhattan townhouse called him “Richard Murphy”. An alert reader of this blog corrected them – it’s Charles Murphy, of 202 Round Hill Road, a neighbor of Walter Noel himself. I checked the FGG propaganda sheet and sure enough, there’s Charlie. Another Harvard Law graduate. I’m astonished. [update: a reader says there are two Charles Murphys and the one on Round Hill didn’t work for FGG – hmm]

As an aside, I see from the bird’s eye view linked to above that Charles lives next door to Casey Jones, head of William Pitt Stamford. The Jones house was up for sale years ago and I remember finding it ironic that the head of a real estate firm could so over-price his house. I don’t think it ever did sell; perhaps we have discovered Mad Monkey’s true identity!

Update: I stand corrected. Like the NYT, I can get facts wrong, but at least I do check them. Charles Murphy doesn’t live next to Casey Jones, he bought Casey’s house (in 2006 – how long before our tax records reflect that?). But my memory about its price was accurate. Jones listed it for $7.250 million in April, 2004 and 616 days later sold it for 69% of that sum, an even $5 million. It’s still probably worth $4.25 today so FGG creditors, take notice. Here’s its picture, in case the process server can’t find the place:

202 Round Hill Road

202 Round Hill Road


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What’s Al Gore doing in the UAE?

jetSnow falls in UAE for only second time in history.  Like “toilet paper” these poor folks don’t have a word for snow. Climate change’s a bitch, eh?

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Bankers gone wild

Why staid, mature male bankers should resist the urge to put on lipstick and high heels. The decline of State Street.

For much of its two centuries, State Street Corp. has been a stodgy Boston institution. It was content to act as custodian for investment firms’ securities and to take care of their mundane back-office chores.




But then it decided to get sexy. And that is when all the trouble started.

Far more than custodian-bank peers like Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and Northern Trust Corp., State Street dabbled in exotic fare that was the terrain of sophisticated Wall Street operators.

It got into conduits, which are instruments that buy such things as asset-backed and mortgage-backed securities, using short-term borrowings. It shifted its investment portfolio from predominantly government bonds into mortgage-backed securities, which rode the housing boom. Then last year, the housing market fell apart and ensnared the financial world — and State Street — in a credit crunch.

Of course, you can’t rack up huge fees if you’re just a dowdy old lender and ego-gratification must be found somewhere else, so the urge to play with the big boys is understandable.

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George Bailey to the rescue

Small, local  banks moving back into mortgage businesses as the big boys flee. Their loan officers actually know the neighborhoods they’re being asked to loan money on – what a concept! Does this mean our home-grown scoundrel Chris Dodd will have trouble refinancing his Ireland properties or Washington homes? Not as long as he’s Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee – there’ll always be a Countrywide or its moral equivalent, so don’t lose sleep over our leader’s woes.

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