The WSJ chats with Walt’s son in law

Andres Piedrahita sits down with a Journal reporter and denies knowing anything. He sold, got rich, and never questioned a thing. Smart guy, just like Corina’s dad.

After graduating from B.U., Mr. Piedrahita knocked around New York working variously as a commodities broker, selling penny stocks and as an investment adviser. His budding financial career was almost clipped in the early 1980s. At the time, Mr. Piedrahita, who was working for a small commodities dealer then called Balfour Maclaine, got a number of his father’s Bogota friends interested in investments that quickly went south. Many of his investors “stayed quiet and lost their money with dignity,” says one of the investors. “They valued their friendship with the father over their investment.” 

But one investor didn’t. He says he asked Mr. Piedrahita frequently for information on how his investment was doing. Mr. Piedrahita avoided the issue, even claiming on one visit to Bogota from New York that he had forgotten to bring along the client’s accounts. Growing suspicious, the client says he hopped a plane to Manhattan, went to Mr. Piedrahita’s office and confronted his boss, asking for the information Mr. Piedrahita had avoided providing. “It was catastrophic,” the client says, remembering the state of his account.

Bottom line: Mr. Piedrahita lost his job, says the client, who recovered all his money. Mr. Piedrahita says eight clients lost a total of about $600,000. “Everybody has some bounces,” he says. “I sold something that turned out to be bad. I sold it with the best intentions, and it didn’t work. That’s the nature of commodities.” He disputes the client’s claim that he was fired from Balfour. “Not true,” he says. “I moved to Prudential Bache.”

Here’s an intriguing bit of history:

Friends say Mr. Piedrahita settled down after his marriage to Ms. Noel. He merged Littlestone with Fairfield Greenwich in 1997. Shortly after, he moved to London to a mansion on Chester Square. In Madrid, where he moved in 2003, Mr. Piedrahita’s lifestyle became even grander. He commuted between Madrid and London on a private Gulfstream jet which was parked at a military base close to Madrid. He was invited to a costume party at a Russian estate where everyone dressed up as czarist-era aristocrats. He went hunting for pheasants with the cream of Spanish society.

Relatives of Piedrahita have told me that he “had to leave Greenwich” and then “had to” flee London. Why? So far, no one’s talking.

But here’s the bottom line. The man was dirt poor, living above a delicatessen in New York, and sold penny stocks. No one sells penny stocks who isn’t a crook because, by their very nature, those securities are solely vehicles for fraud and price manipulation. So a poor, penniless crook meets up with Walter Noel, starts peddling Madoff “investments” and within a few years is flying around in Gulfstream II jets and hunting with the aristocracy. When crooks get rich, I suspect the worst, but Piedrahita denies everything:

“I look at myself in the morning, and I’m very proud of what I have done, and so are my partners,” says Mr. Piedrahita. Then he adds, referring to the Madoff scam: “Nobody knew anything about anything.”

Somehow, I think litigation and criminal investigations will eventually prove otherwise.


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18 responses to “The WSJ chats with Walt’s son in law

  1. Sticky Glue On You Noel's

    Restraining order issued on Noel’s and others.

  2. anonymous

    Certain geographies, colleges and businesses suggest guilt and/or incompetence until proven otherwise

    Funny thing about supposedly “big” places like Manhattan is that almost everyone legit in financial industry trained at one of 5 colleges (Harvard, Wharton, Princeton, Stanford and Yale) and at one of 3-4 leading IBs before moving on to various HF/PE….it’s indeed a small world where it’s not particularly difficult to perform due diligence via rather old-fashioned common-sense approaches

  3. DouglASS

    When is the reporter going to sit down and chat with Robert Sr and Andrew B Douglass about where all the Noel money is hiding in Europe?

  4. Inagua

    “Nobody knew anything about anything” is not the best defense for a firm that claimed it carefully vetted all investments.

  5. Walt

    Chris, Chris, Chris:
    I have to read this crap before my first Bloody Mary for Pete’s Sake? The NY Times prints this garbage? It’s National Enquirer type of reporting. So Andres went to a costume party. SO WHAT!!! That is news? So he flew on his own jet? Who doesn’t?
    There is no story here. Go away. The kid has the gift of gab, thats all. He has the best “Did you hear the one about the Rabbi and the Priest?” jokes you have ever heard.
    Anyway – Off to Breakfast!!!
    Your Pal,

    • christopherfountain

      Soory to disturb your BM, Walt. That’s why I posted it last night, but you ruined my plan to soft-pedal it for you by turning on your computer at 4:00 AM. My advice, based on hard-earned experience, is always have that first drink before seeing what’s come on the Net during the night. 5:00 AM, say, then you’re good to go!

  6. Stanwich

    Careful what you say about penny stocks, Citi was one only a few days ago.

    Fairfield Greenwich Group is what you get when you mix Bayou pond scum and a Latin American playboy. Somehow that mix becomes “international” or “jet-setter” to unsophisticated moneyed people. I still say that in a trial, Fairfield’s claimed due diligence is going to be the linchpin that brings them down.

  7. Inagua

    Depends what you mean by bring them down, Stanwich. The business is essentially gone, their reputations are shot, and all that is left is their money, most of which came from Madoff fees. How much of that they will get to keep depends on whether FGG had Officiers and Directors insurance, and how much. If insurance covers the entire judgement (or settlement) then these Ponzi salesmen might just get to keep the loot.

  8. Noel Divorce Court

    Forget Madoff Court.

    When are all these Noel daughter cuties going to wind up in DIVORCE COURT to part ways with the “son-of-bitches”, I mean the Noel “son-in-laws”?

    • christopherfountain

      It’s late for that now, Noel – Andy Madoff’s first wife got out when the going was good (not that there’s any indication she knew Bernie was a rat – she just had good timing). She got a pile of assets, presumably, and there’s really no valid claim that I can imagine which would force her to give it back. The Noel girls, on the other hand, have waited too long to start separating assets. Whatever is determined to rightfully belong to Noel creditors will come back, regardless of how Andres or his band of brothers-in-law dispense of it now.
      Or that’s my read of the situation, anyway, but I no longer practice law and I’m relying on a general, outdated knowledge of creditor law. I wouldn’t be surprised if the girls are consulting with more experienced lawyers as I write this.

  9. Walt

    The Filly’s (S.I.H.) will always be in high hay. They always have and always will be, well taken care of. There are no long faces in the Noel house.
    Off to Tennis!!!
    Your Pal,

  10. Foofi Maestri

    The copiously quoted Fernando Botero in the WSJ article is a convicted felon who is currently living in self-imposed exile after being exposed as a middleman between a drug cartel and a former president. He is not a “friend” of Piedrahita, never has been and is hardly the most credible person for the WSJ to interview on this subject.

    • christopherfountain

      Well. I don’t know,he sounds like the ideal ca didate to shed light on what Andres was doing in Colombia.

  11. Robert

    Piedrahita is finish

  12. Kathleen

    I fail to see the difference between this plea of ignorance and the relatives of mafia pleading ignorance. Trash is trash. People should stop pretending they are or were ever anything more. Maybe the National Enquirer is exactly where they belong.

  13. Kathleen

    Forgot to add: creditor law is not my area and I don’t know when Andy Madoff’s divorce occurred but there may be some recourse if he used the divorce to shield assets or money launder. As we all know, the government as well as lawyers can be very creative.