I do not travel with a bodyguard, yet, but this Walter Noel issue is certainly stirring up some passion in town. I was rebuked today by a friend of mine, a man I respect highly and like very much, for spreading gossip about his very good friend Walt. I admire anyone standing up for a friend and I regret offending this man, but it wasn’t much later on the tour that I ran into another friend who admitted that her own retirement plan had been blown out of the water by her decision to entrust Noel with a good portion of her savings. She didn’t seem to think as much of Walt as my other friend does. In fact, the two of them could have a fascinating conversation.
I think Noel is going to prove a huge disappointment to those who believe in him and who feel that he was an innocent victim of Bernie Madoff. The story reported yesterday by Caroline Waxler in Fortune detailing how Noel and Fairfield Greenwich switched auditors three times in three years, moving to ever-more lax inspections each time, shows more, even, than the deliberate wilful blindness I initially suspected. It seems to me that Noel knew something was wrong at least three years ago and began to actively hide the problem. That’s not what good friends do.