Daily Archives: May 11, 2009

Did you get a letter from Irving? You’re in trouble

The Daily Beast reports that Madoff friends and family members withdrew $735 million from Madoff Investments in the 90 days before the Ponzi fellow confessed all, leading that trustee, Irving Picard, to suspect that Bernie wasn’t the only person who knew about the fraud. So he’s sent out claw back letters to those active customers.

The timing of those withdrawals prompted Irving Picard, the bankruptcy trustee, to send “clawback letters” in mid-April to 223 people among the more than 8,000 investors who had accounts with Madoff. What this shows is that the bankruptcy trustee is not randomly trying to recover money from every Madoff investor—he’s looking for people who may be culpable.

“If you were a close relative of Bernie or Ruth, you got a letter,” said David Sheehan, who is a leader of Picard’s legal team at Baker, Hostetler.

In an exclusive joint interview with The Daily Beast, Sheehan and Picard explained that the clawback letters asked for a return of the cash and an explanation of why the withdrawals occurred. “People who got the letter are in one way or another” related to people somehow linked to Madoff’s investment advisory service, said Sheehan.

The rapid pace of withdrawals in the three months prior to Madoff’s arrest Dec. 11, 2008, “raised our level of concern that the monies were paid purposefully,” said Sheehan.

Well yes, I guess it would. Then, for Walter fans, there’s this:

Picard and Sheehan also said they expect to file more lawsuits this week seeking recovery of hundreds of millions of dollars from some of the major money managers who had billions of dollars invested with Madoff. The bankruptcy trustee is clearly not buying the argument that the money managers are victims, too.

Among those in Picard’s sights, but not yet sued: the Fairfield Greenwich group, which lost $7.5 billion with Madoff; Tremont Group Holdings, which dropped more than $3 billion; and Maxam Capital, a $280 million loser.

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The haves and the don’t haves

I linked to a WSJ column awhile ago in which the author, clearly a man after my own heart, discussed house listings as being divided by the “have to sells” and the “don’t have to sells”, and how that affected their respective pricing decisions. Today a house on Oneida Drive that was originally listed in January for $7 million was dropped to $5. And also today, 5 Lindsay Drive, land, was renewed at $4.950 million, where it has been, unsold, for the past year. One of those houses is owned by a serious seller, the other by someone indulging in a Zillow “make me move” fantasy. I won’t be bothering the owner of the latter.

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Testing the waters

120 Field Point Circle sold as land for $9.5 million back in 2000 or thereabouts. The buyers built a 10,000 square foot house on the place and listed it today with David Ogilvy for $35,000,000. That’s an attention-getting price; will they get it? It’s direct waterfront with fabulous views from the priciest neighborhood in town so if anything will command a huge price in this market, this one should. My guess is, just as I have buyers with several million dollars available to buy in Greenwich, there are even bigger fish out there with the wherewithal to grab this place. It will be fascinating to see what happens.

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Another spec job shuffles off to renters’ hell

56 Milbank, one of two new condos that haven’t sold, was rented today for $14,000, down from its first price of $20,000. I wish the builder well in hanging on and waiting for a better market but I doubt $14,000 will cover his expenses.

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Is there anyone in Greenwich who’s still sane and not under indictment?

Stay away from me with that purse, Peter. Peter!

Stay away from me with that purse, Peter. Peter!

Round Hill Road resident and Walt Noel neighbor Frederic Bourke feared that his business partner Peter Doone was trying to “inject him with harmful substances”.

May 9 (Bloomberg) — Jurors may be told that Frederic Bourke, the co-founder of handbag maker Dooney & Bourke who faces international bribery charges, believed business partner Peter Dooney was secretly injecting him with a “harmful substance.”.

Bourke goes on trial June 1 in New York federal court on charges that he helped Czech expatriate Viktor Kozeny pay bribes to government leaders in Azerbaijan in 1998 in a failed bid to take over the former Soviet republic’s state oil company.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Chernoff said in court papers on May 7 that proof of Bourke’s “fears” may be relevant at the trial and that he may offer evidence that Bourke believed Dooney’s “agents” were “secretly injecting” him with “a harmful substance.” He also wants to show that Bourke and Kozeny “obtained the services of two prostitutes” while they were scouting for investments, demonstrating “the close relationship” between Bourke and Kozeny, Chernoff wrote.

U.S. prosecutors in 2005 said Kozeny, who had a home in Colorado, paid millions of dollars in bribes to Azeri leaders in attempt to buy a controlling stake in the state oil company in Azerbaijan, known as Socar. Bourke, one of Kozeny’s American investors, is alleged to have conspired with the Czech in violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, the U.S. anti- bribery law, prosecutors said.

Kozeny now lives in the Bahamas and has successfully fought extradition to the U.S. in the case. Kozeny is also wanted by authorities in the Czech Republic, where he’s accused of stripping Czech companies of $1.1 billion.

Bourke invested $8 million with Kozeny. Other investors included hedge fund Omega Advisors Inc. and American International Group Inc., which haven’t been accused of wrongdoing. Dooney was not an investor in the deal.

Dooney laughed when told of Bourke’s alleged fear.

“I haven’t seen the guy in years and years,” Dooney said in an interview yesterday. “No secret injections. Categorically denied.”

Well of course, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

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Going down?

Roger that

Roger that

This house on Roger Drive (off Baldwin Farms) sold new in November 2002 for $4.595 million. The new owner marked it up and put it back on the market and after several price cuts, sold if for $5 million in 2005. It’s back on today for $4.995 which may be a tad overpriced for a Mariani building, but it’s refreshing to see a seller who isn’t pretending that the past year hasn’t happened.

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Why doesn’t Dido Dent wear a zipper on his kilt?

Dent family calesthenics

Dent family calisthenics

It frightens the beavers, of course. Dido’s off to Scotland, where beavers are returning after 400 years. “If they’re back, then the Dents are too,” the Harvard grad declared over several single malts at Augie’s. “We were driven out of our foggy homeland in 1736 for certain unspeakable acts committed by great great gran papere, but surely all is forgiven by now. Besides, I’m suddenly finding the heat here in Greenwich quite unbearable.”

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