Daily Archives: June 29, 2009

And so it starts – scrutiny turns to Madoff boys’ finances

And already we have a phony charity, funded with $2 million in  Bernie Bucks in 2007. Andy, Mark and Mark’s estranged wife are the Trustees, the Trust itself does nothing and no one claims that it does. It seems to be just a vehicle for pulling money out of the Ponzi and getting it over to the kids. Two million is chicken shit compared to the billions stolen,but the day os young. With Bernie put away for safekeeping, the investigation can go farther afield and I think it will. I haven’t seen the Madoff manse on Cherry Valley and it’s too close to the Merritt, but at the right price, it might be worth considering. Maybe you can set up a foundation in it, or something.

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Jim Himes: I believe in magic

While admitting that he hadn’t actually read the thing, Cos Cob’s Congressman Jim Himes praised the carbon tax bill to a ladies tea group today,saying, “who cares if it’s flawed – it shows that our heart’s in the right place, and isn’t that all that matters? That’s how I ran Goldman Sachs and by golly, I sure as tootin aintabout to start messing with success now.”

Asked how he expected industry to develop an entirely new technology by 2012, Himes said he hadn’t a clue, but denied that was his business. “We’ve passed a law,” he pointed out, “so that means they’ll have to do it.

“If businessmen have certainty about (having to develop clean energy solutions) and the pace they’ll have to do it, they’re going to invest like mad.”

Himes also used to occasion to introduce his new energy and spiritual adviser, Doctor Negassi Hemloobwana, pictured below.

Etymology Education Scandal

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Harsh bud, Dude

Joe Nocera to Madoff victims: get over it.

Let’s dispense first with the idea that the S.E.C. should be reimbursing Madoff victims. Why? Government agencies make mistakes, treat people unfairly, and do all sorts of things we all wish they wouldn’t. But by law, the federal government cannot be sued when it carries out an unjust prosecution or, for that matter, when it fails to uncover a giant fraud. Government negligence led pretty directly to the recent financial crisis. Does that mean the feds should be reimbursing us for our stock market losses? Of course not. Because it’s not really the S.E.C. that would be paying out the money — it would be the taxpayers. Why should my tax dollars go to helping Madoff victims? This is not 9/11.

Besides, as I’ve argued before, the S.E.C.’s negligence notwithstanding, shouldn’t the Madoff victims have to bear at least some responsibility for their own gullibility? Mr. Madoff’s supposed results — those steady, positive returns quarter after blessed quarter — is a classic example of the old saw, “when something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” What’s more, most of the people investing with Mr. Madoff thought they had gotten in on something really special; there was a certain smugness that came with thinking they had a special, secret deal not available to everyone else. Of course, it turned they were right — they did have a special deal. It just wasn’t what they expected.

Outside the courthouse today, television reporters interviewed victims, all eager to tell their tales of woe. And their stories, in many cases, truly are heart-wrenching. Hopes and dreams have evaporated. Homes have been lost. Retirees are having to take minimum-wage jobs. Their anger at Mr. Madoff is understandable, to say the least. But to see them lash out at Irving Picard, the bankruptcy trustee, made me realize that too many of them still seem to think that someone should have to make them whole. The whole point about Ponzi schemes is that there is not enough money to make anybody whole — they were robbed, pure and simple, and the government is not in the business of reimbursing for robberies. Not even when the cops stumble across the robbers and then mistakenly let them go.

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Honduras. Guess whose side we’re on?

Here’s what happened, per the Wall Street Journal:

That Mr. Zelaya acted as if he were above the law, there is no doubt. While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.

But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chávez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do.

The top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, told the president that he would have to comply. Mr. Zelaya promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Mr. Zelaya refused.

Calculating that some critical mass of Hondurans would take his side, the president decided he would run the referendum himself. So on Thursday he led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court’s order.

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out. Yesterday, Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the military and is now in exile in Costa Rica.

It remains to be seen what Mr. Zelaya’s next move will be. It’s not surprising that chavistas throughout the region are claiming that he was victim of a military coup. They want to hide the fact that the military was acting on a court order to defend the rule of law and the constitution, and that the Congress asserted itself for that purpose, too.

Mrs. Clinton has piled on as well. Yesterday she accused Honduras of violating “the precepts of the Interamerican Democratic Charter” and said it “should be condemned by all.” Fidel Castro did just that. Mr. Chávez pledged to overthrow the new government.

If you guessed “Castro and Chavez” you either peeked or you already know this administration.

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Dull day in Greenwich real estate

Hardly surprising, for the penultimate day of June. 19 Baliwick finally sold, for $2.025 million, after 2 1/2 years on the market asking, at first, $3.495. Oops. Assessed value was $2.264 million.

23 Pemberwick also lingered on the market since 2007, asking $595,000 and selling for $430,000. Assessed value is $381,000 so the seller may have dodged a bullet here.

And 32 Twin Lakes Drive in Riverside has dropped its price to just $12.3 million from $13.5 which would be an impressive dent in its price if it didn’t have another $8-9 million to go. As it is, you’d have to be blackmailed and put in a pretty darn embarrassing situation before you paid this price. Stay off Internet dating sites, is my advice. Too late for this owner but we can always learn from others’ mistakes.

UPDATE: Just checked 32 Twin Lake’s tax assessment value: $4,560,150. I didn’t say that, the town did. So even the reduced price seems a bit delusional but when someone thinks he can find true friendships among on-line prostitutes, are you surprised to see him disassociated from reality here, too?

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Walter – here’s a rental opportunity

Practice flycasting in the infinity pool

Practice flycasting in the infinity pool

Seems that Ruth Madoff’s in a pickle: no one wants to rent to her in NYC, and she’s got to get out of the penthouse before the marshals arrive.

If you’re not using the place in Mustique, Walt. maybe you can rent it out to your friend – she’s still got $2.5 million, and that should cover her until the high season rolls around.

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A new price point

50 Lafayette Court, a one bedroom unit, went to contract today.  It started at #359,900 and its last asking price was $250,00. Assuming a price war didn’t break out at the last minute and this place sold for less than ask, I believe we will have a low not seen in some time here in Greenwich.

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Stanwich land values

Michael Jackson Moonwalked here

Michael Jackson Moonwalked here

313 Stanwich, two vacant lots of 4.2 and 2.78 acres, respectively, have each been cut down to size, so to speak, to $2.35 million. That’s an improvement from the original ask of $3.6 each, but I’ve been out shopping for (and buying) land with a client and I’m fairly confident we saw better, for less.

But then, my client wasn’t interested in living on Stanwich Road, so that would obviously affect our opinion.

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Price cuts

15 Quail Road, listed at $6.250 in April ’06 has yet to sell and today took its fifth price cut, to $3.9 million. Not for nothing, but 70% assessed value is $3.502, so perhaps we’re getting somewhere here.

2 Le Jeune Court shows  the regrettable fortunes these days of previous winners of bidding wars. The place was listed for $1.1 million back in ’05, the present owner “won” with a bid of $1.2 and has now dropped his price to $998. Assessed value, $638,000.

44 Riverside Avenue, a nice house that, were you so foolish, you could open a window and pat the roof of trucks whizzing past on I – 95, sold for $890,000 in 2005. The new owner tried to get $1.075 million for it last year, perhaps hoping that the highway had shifted north and away from his house during his ownership, and today dropped it to $950. Assessed value is $840, which seems optimistic, to me.

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Vladimir, we told you not to respond to those emails!

When I find this Dr. Kzseemy Bolitisshtaki I wil kill her. Kill her!

When I find this Dr. Kzseemy Bolitisshtaki I wil kill her. Kill her!

Russia, Nigeria sign gas exploration deal. The oil is already extracted and waiting for pickup but the true owner was killed in a dreadful aircrash and the heirs need someone trustworthy to get into Nigeria and pick it up.

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Visting day

CNN has found an “expert” to opine that Bernie Madoff is likely to end up at Otisville Prison, just up the road a bit (70 miles) from NYC. By odd coincidence, Dom Devito is presently a neighbor of the Madoff kids and will also be in Otisville beginning September 15th (Dom gets out in no more than 51 months, less credits, so he’s far more likely to be back soon than Bernie himself). Seems to me that Dom, Mark and Andy should meet each other now and set up a car-pooling arrangement for both families on visiting day. Dom’s family will, I hope, be just fine, but the Madoff will probably be looking to save on gas money soon.

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More disappearing records?

A reader points out that 37 Mdwood Drive, reported today as sold for $1.3 million, is said by Zillow.com to have sold for $2.191,900 on August 24,2006. Is this true? Orhas Zillow screwed up – it happens. There is no record of any such sale in the Greenwich MLS records but it’s possible that it was a private sale, which would never appear in our records.

Next time I’m in Town Hall I’ll try to remember to look this up because, while I am strongly inclined to believe this is an error by Zillow, it would be absolutely outrageous if the price history has been cleaned up by the Board of Realtors. If any readers know this history, please advise.

UPDATE: a reader points out that the 2006 transaction was between related parties, so that would explain why it never showed up on the MLS and even why Zillow could be right. If so, I hope it wasn’t part of a divorce settlement because if it was, someone just lost a good portion of her settlement.

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Jim Himes: “I heart Smoot Hawley!”

Trade war provision slipped into carbon tax bill in, as the NYT’s describes it, ‘”the dead of night”.

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ABC News: Obama moving the stimulus goalposts

Oops! Did we say that the $780 billion stimulus package [that Cos Cob’s Jim Himes voted for] was going to have an immediate effect? We meant to say, it won’t start until July 1st – the watch us grow!

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(The only) sale of the day

37 Midwood

37 Midwood

$1.3 million. 74% of original asking price ($1.750 million), tax assessment, $1,609,000. The MLS records will, surprise, show this as yet another “7% of asking price” statistic because its last asking price was $1.395, but you now know better.

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Dad’s gone away, are the boys next?

A reader points out that both the Madoff boys borrowed $10 million or so from Dad with no expectation on anyone’s part that they’d have to pay it back. But as the result of the fed’s seizure of all of Bernie’s assets last week, ownership of those loans now rests with the federal government, not dear old Dad, and there may be a demand for repayment forthcoming. Catherine Hooper has already begged off future fishing trips with her paramour but Mark Madoff professes to be unconcerned: “I can always get a fishing date,” he boasted last week, “based on my good looks alone.”

Flyrods have been pawned but we still have sticks!

Flyrods have been pawned but we still have sticks!

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May he live 100 years!

Bernie gets 150. I was at Town hall, chatting with retired surgeon Dr. Jack Wilsey when the news came through. The doctor gave his professional opinion that “he’ll never make it.” I respect Dr. Wilsey tremendously but I hope that this once he’s wrong.

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Liveblogging Bernie’s sentencing

It’s here. Last victim just spoke. Will Bernie spill the beans? Nah. Probation Department’s recommending a measly fifty years, Bernie himself thinks 12 is sufficient, and I’m going with the prosecutor’s request for 150. My guess? Something short enough t keep Bernie out of Super Max, but I hope not.

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Walt, you sly dog, so that’s where you’ve been!

Fairfield Greenwich Group has reopened its New York offices. Nothing going on at 2 Sound Shore here in Greenwich, but anyone left with money for train fare is apparently back in the City, ready to do more harm.

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Here’s an opportunity for Walt

Uniform not supplied

Uniform not supplied

Rumor has it that, at 88, Lou Caravella is retiring as Greenwich Tax Collector and won’t run for reelection next fall. The job pays an astonishing $95,000 per year (as does, I am informed, the town clerk’s position – who knew?) and at only 78, Walt would have time to recoup some of those billions. Of course, there are probably a lot of redundant IBs here in town who will be fighting for this plum but I think our avuncular Walt, aided by the Fillys (ies) can take this one down.

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