Daily Archives: May 7, 2009

Well of course she was

It’s been known at least since the WAPO reported it in 2007, but in the face of continued denials by the Speaker of the House, ABC News is out with the definitive report (by the NSC) that Nancy Pelosi was briefed on waterboarding and other fun interrogation taqctics back in 2002 and didn’t object to their use.  Why do you think that Obama isn’t going after the Bush lawyers who wrote legal memos on the legality of such techniques? Out of a deep concern that filing criminal charges against White House legal advisors would impede their usefulness in the future and create a never-ending witch hunt every time administrations changed? Ha ha ha.

You just can’t file criminal charges against your own party’s Speaker – it’s unseemly.

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Yes, but he takes care of his family

Traitor, scumbag and all around thieving piece of dirt John Murtha has used our money to fund a nephew of similar talents in a no-show job. Never one to hide his light under a bushel, the Congressman has showered the kid with millions of dollars. Why is there no ethics inquiry of this man? Because Congress changed the rules prohibiting private citizens’ complaints from triggering one. And who changed the rules? John Murtha and Charles Rangel. Our country is in the best of hands.

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Don’t you hate when this happens?

The Antares boys are out of their last vestige of the dreams of a real estate empire, tossed from the UST project last week, according to rumor. All that’s left seems to be the twin mansions on Mooreland Road and those are threatened also. If he’s as kind as he’s said to be, Walt Noel will get an extra-large, double side-by-side refrigerator box so he can share his shelter with the boys.


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A scion and his money are soon parted

Kent Swig, child, grandchild and ex- son in law of real real estate developers, arrived in New York from San Franciso in 2005 determined to be the king of high end condos. Perfect timing.

I have it on excellent authority (a highly-placed broker with one of NYC’s premier real estate developer/brokerage firms) that all sales of their luxury projects in the city stopped cold on September 15th, the day the music died. Since then they’ve had plenty of cancellations but not a single contract.This individual has seen the writing on the (unfinished) walls and turned all the projetcs, hundreds or even thousands of units, over to his firm’s distressed property division. That can’t be good.


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Thank goodness that the library offers free ineternet access

So we can continue to hear from Walter Noel after he and Monica remove themselves from the Round Hill cottage and move to a cardboard box in Baldwin Park. News today that thea Madoff trustee has sued a second feeder fund, former GMAC Chairman Ezra Merkin, for $558 million in fees he took out when he “knew or should have known” that Bernie was a fraud. At the rate of one feeder fund every other day, I’d expect Walter and the Fairfield Greenwich Group to be teed up Monday or Wednesday, depending on whether that Rye firm (Trenton? How quickly we forget) goes first.

As trustee, Mr. Picard can sue investors for any money withdrawn from Mr. Madoff’s firm “in bad faith,” including if they knew or should have known Mr. Madoff was engaged in fraud. Mr. Picard is relying on records he collected from the Madoff firm going back to 1995 and, for now, will be able to seek funds withdrawn only in that period.

Mr. Picard, an attorney with Baker & Hostetler LLP, is expected to sue more feeder funds, said lawyers involved in the Madoff bankruptcy case. But even if he wins in court, Mr. Picard may have trouble collecting much of what he is seeking. That’s because most of the money has already been distributed to the funds’ clients [unless, like Walt, you were pulling out $270 million a year for yourself – Ed].  If those clients had no inkling there was fraud, Mr. Picard won’t be able to touch funds they withdrew from their accounts, those lawyers said.

In his first suit alleging bad-faith withdrawals, Mr. Picard targeted the assets of another individual who ran a feeder fund, Stanley Chais. The suit seeks the return of $1 billion that Mr. Chais and his family withdrew from Mr. Madoff’s firm since 1995. Mr. Chais allegedly “knew or should have known” of the fraud because his family’s personal investment accounts with Mr. Madoff averaged annual returns of 40%, in some cases reaping 300% in one year, according to the complaint.

Mr. Merkin’s investments differ from those of Mr. Chais. The returns for Mr. Merkin’s funds averaged 11% to 16% annually. And, unlike Mr. Chais, Mr. Merkin didn’t have personal accounts with Mr. Madoff’s firm. Instead, Mr. Merkin collected a management fee.

In Thursday’s lawsuit against Mr. Merkin, Mr. Picard said that as a sophisticated fund manager, Mr. Merkin should have noticed the myriad warning signs that could have indicated Mr. Madoff was engaged in fraud. Among the clues: Purported trades made by Mr. Madoff, which were listed in account statements sent to Mr. Merkin, could never have taken place, a fact that Mr. Merkin could easily have detected, the suit alleges.


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How many houses in Greenwich are really for sale?

A reader suggests that all, or almost all houses currently for sale are listed by sellers who actually want to sell. I disagree – based on their prices and the reluctance of their owners to cut those prices, I’d estimate that half the houses out there are employing the “make me move” strategy pioneered by Zillow. In other words, “pay me my price and I’ll move, otherwise, I’m staying here.” I see a large part of my job representing buyers as sorting those sellers from the real ones so that I don’t waste my clients’ time. Or mine.

If you disagree, have at me.


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Attention Financial gurus – what does this mean?

Patriot Bank announces redemption of poison pill rights.

STAMFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Patriot National Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ Global Market “PNBK”), the parent of Patriot National Bank announced today that it will redeem the Company’s outstanding stock purchase rights granted pursuant to a Rights Agreement dated as of April 19, 2004. The Rights Agreement is more commonly known as a “poison pill”.

In redeeming the rights, the Company will make a one-time redemption payment of $0.001 per right to shareholders of record at the close of business on May 18, 2009. Following the redemption, the rights and the Rights Agreement will terminate. Shareholders do not have to take any action to receive this redemption payment and do not have to exchange their stock certificates.
I really don’t know what this means but I’ll bet you readers do. Curious timing given the “stress tests” results announced today for the larger banks and the rumors swirling around this bank and its loan portfolio. Something going on? What? Do I read this right, that they’re terminatingtheir poison pill protections? If so, are they getting ready to sell? Inquiring minds want to know.
UPDATE: Here’s a story from 2004 about Patriot adopting the poison pill plan to deter takeovers. I would assume that today’s announcement that it was removing that protection would mean a sale is at least welcome and perhaps impending. Hey – $4 a share – buy some now?


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The Greenwich buyer demographic still lives

I’ve been extremely fortunate lately to have a large pool of buyers materialize (thanks to this blog and referrals) and I’m struck how these folks aren’t at all different from the types who have powered Greenwich real estate since at least 1954, when my own father sold his beautiful brownstone at 233 West 11th Street and moved his growing swarm to Greenwich. They are all very successful, almost all work in the financial services industry, and all have young, growing families.

There are a  couple of differences: they’re richer than my father was in 1954 (and ever was, probably) and most seem to want at least two acres and a large, but not huge house. Riverside and Old Greenwich seem crowded to them – that perception may change once they discover the hys of driving their charges all over town, but for now, they’re interested in exchanging the city for wide expanses of lawn.

The very fact that they grew wealthier during the the past two years of strife suggests that these are not incompetent fools and, at least the ones I’m working with have absolutely no patience for patronizing real estate sales tactics. They know the inventory better than many of my peers and aren’t going to succumb to some of the panicked, late night warnings that they’re about to lose a particular house – they just aren’t that attached to a single property to care. They want accurate information and if you’re working with them, you’d better know a lot more than they already do or they’ll find someone else.

The common mispeception they have is that Greenwich prices have dropped to those of, say, New Rochelle. You can certainly find a decent house for the $3 million they all expect to pay but new construction, two acres, good location? Only from the bankrupts. Fortunately, there are some of those, but I’m guessing that for most of these these buyers’, either their expectations will have to drop or their ideal price will have to rise. There are some excellent values at $3.5 million, but I think the bulk of new construction will ultimately sell in the $4-$5 million range.

But I enjoy working with these folks. They’re bright, aggressive and yet pretty sensible, for the most part. Far more sensible than most sellers, for sure. And when they’re all settled in here, with their kids in our schools, we’ll notice that the town’s gotten younger but otherwise, not much else will have changed.


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Slow Thursday in real estate

We did see two contracts for single families today, 15 Maher Ave (asking $2.75 million) and 10 Druid Lane, in Riverside ($1.9ish). So something is selling, however slowly. Most of the new listings that appeared today were really just old Country Living inventory being moved to Greenwich Fine Properties. The only interest there is to see that Greenwich Fine Properties picked up some excellent people, like Kathy Adams and Candy Durniack (sp? – sorry,Candy). Ive always thought tht GFP had some great agents, desite my petty personal squabbles with its principal, and now it’s even stronger. Good for them.

Then there’s 10 Spezzano Drive, a failed spec house in Riverside now owned by the lender. I estimated its worth at $1.675, maximum, back in the glory days of 2007, when it was priced well over $2 million. Viewing it again the other day, in this market, and taking in its dead lawn, the dreary, abandoned look of the place, the cheap building decisions (an electric water heater, despite gas being led to the house, apparently because the builder didn’t want to spend $100 to have a plumber hook up a gas heater, is just one example) and I figured it’s selling price at $1.1, if the lender gets lucky. Today it dropped the price from $1.89 to $1.81 million, which I suspect means that the weeds in that backyard will be knee-high by the fourth of July.

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The mind of the seller

So I’m out on open house tours today and come across a decent house, with pool, good design and very nice grounds, way up off Stanwich Road. It’s priced just a tad over  $4 million and I was thinking of showing it to a couple of clients because at, say, $3.5 million, it would be a good purchase. But then I noticed that the price had just been raised (!). “This morning,” confirmed the listing agent. “The owner got tired of getting bids in the mid-threes so he raised the price to show that he’s a serious seller.”

The guy may be a man of serious purpose, but that purpose is clearly not to sell his house. One, even two “low” bids might be written off as the work of those dreaded low-ballers. Three or more, all in the same range, is as loud a message you’re going to get that you’ve overpriced your house compared to its competition. The response to that message is not to raise your price. Not if you want to sell the place. It astonishes me how successful businessmen, and anyone who can afford a high end Greenwich house is almost always a successful businessman or woman, can make sound, rational decisions about business matters and completely lose their minds when trying to sell their personal home.

Or this guy is just dumb, and is living on his inheritance.


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