Daily Archives: October 20, 2009

This might give you pause before you raise your price

How low can you go, Limbo Man?

How low can you go, Limbo Man?

Business Insider has a chart on wage reductions and New York City has suffered the most of any area in the country. That would be because of lost jobs in finance and law, presumably. Fairfield County isn’t doing so well either.

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Ethics and Wall Street

Hedge fund worried that its employees are trading on inside information. Reaction: search them for wires. I don’t think that’s the response they encouraged in the Boy Scouts.

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Contracts

Some very respectable contracts were reported today, including 54 Byram Drive in Belle Haven, asking $17.9 million. This is a 1915 house which could either stand a stem to stern re-do or a close encounter with a DC-10 (bulldozer, not the jet) but it’s 4 acres, with a stretch if okay waterfront. Even reduced from $23 million, it’s still a lot of bucks.

So too is 11 Nawthorne in Old Greenwich, asking $6.195. Old Greenwich continues to attract.

And in Milbrook, 282 Overlook has also found a buyer – last asking price was $2.750.

All three of these contracts are a little surprising to me especially if, as I suspect is the case, they go for close to their asking prices. Guess those bonuses are coming in after all.

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Idiocy among the ruins

Federal Court lets Katrina victims sue oil companies for global warming. We’re watching a society, even a civilization, deliberately commit suicide, which would be fascinating, in a gruesome sort of way, if it weren’t our own.

Next Move: Suing the Sun for Unseasonably Cool Weather

Posted by Ilya Shapiro

The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit, the federal court of appeals where I once clerked, has allowed a class action lawsuit by Hurricane Katrina victims to proceed against a motley crew of energy, oil, and chemical companies.  Their claim: that the defendants’ greenhouse gas emissions raised air and water temperatures on the Gulf Coast, contributing to Katrina’s strength and causing property damage.  Mass tort litigation specialist Russell Jackson calls the plaintiffs’ claims “the litigator’s equivalent to the game ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.’”

In Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, the plaintiffs assert a variety of theories under Mississippi common law, but the main issue at this stage was whether the plaintiffs had standing, or whether they could demonstrate that their injuries were “fairly traceable” to the defendant’s actions.  The court dismissed several claims but held that plaintiffs indeed could allege public and private nuisance, trespass and negligence.  The court also held that these latter claims do not present a so-called “political question” that the court doesn’t have the authority to resolve.  You can read about the Court’s ruling in more detail at the WSJ Law Blog and Jackson’s Consumer Class Actions and Mass Torts Blog.

This is actually the second federal appeals court to rule this way; last month, the Second Circuit (based in New York) held that states, municipalities and certain private organizations had standing to bring federal common law nuisance claims to impose caps on certain companies’ greenhouse gas emissions.  Here’s the opinion in that case, Connecticut v. American Electric Power Company, and you can read a pretty good summary and analysis here.

Both of these cases, which herald a flood of global warming-related litigation, so to speak, owe their continuing vitality to the Supreme Court’s misbegotten 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA.  The 2006-2007 Cato Supreme Court Review covered that case in an insightful article by Andrew Morriss of the University of Illinois.  (To get your copy of the latest (2008-2009) Review, go here.)

I should note from my own experience at the Fifth Circuit that the panel here consisted of the two worst judges on the court — Clinton appointees Carl Stewart and James Dennis — and one of Reagan’s weakest federal appellate appointments, Eugene Davis.  Even Davis, however, wrote separately to note that while he agreed on the standing issue, he would have affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the suit on a different ground (that pesky proximate cause issue).

I predict that the full (16-judge) Fifth Circuit will review this case en banc –and if not that the Supreme Court will eventually take it up (if the district court on remand doesn’t again dispose of the case on causation grounds).

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He was just going to visit his pal Roman

Pulled Up in OG points out that Raj Rajarantam, Greenwich’s soon-to-be-former Round Hill Road property owner, had a ticket for a flight to London the morning he was arrested and, perhaps more interesting, given that country’s refusal to extradite suspects for actions that aren’t illegal in the land of cheese and chocolate, a ticket from London to Switzerland. His arrest thwarted that flight but, as his lawyer points out, Raj had a return ticket back to New York for this Thursday. Uh huh.

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A little sanity in the market place

34 Sheffield

34 Sheffield

This very nice house on Sheffield (off Lismore, off Round Hill) was purchased for $3.473,750 in 2004, renovated by Hobbes in 2005 and listed by Ogilvy in 2005 for $5.4 million. A little more than four years and a handful of price cuts later, it’s marked down today to $3.495 million. That sounds pretty good.

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Open House Tuesday – bust

I really would like to have a busy open house list today but with perhaps one or two exceptions, what’s on today is recycled and still over-priced so why bother? I don’t need to “take a fresh look” at a house that’s had its price reduced 3% – I get it, even if the seller doesn’t. Fortunately, there are other things to keep me busy and I do appreciate the opportunity to minimize my carbon footprint. But still ….

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Arbor Rose prices

90 E. Elm Street, Unit 1 of Arbor Rose, sold new in 2004 for $2.660 million ($60,000 above asking price) as part of the great condo boom that swept the downtown back then. Arbor Rose and its companion project across the street, Lily’s Path, went on to great success, with the last Arbor Rose unit, at 94 E. Elm, selling for $3.8 million in January of this year and a Lily’s Path unit fetching the improbable sum of $5.010 million in December of 2007. Now, those prices seem to be sliding back. The last Lily’s path unit, unsold, has dropped from the $5s to the $3s and today Arbor Rose Unit #1 is back up for resale, asking $3.450. Will they get more than the orignal sale price of $2.660? Will another bidding war erupt? Stay tuned.

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Word to the wise

The only thing dumber than picking a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel is picking a fight with people who don’t even have to buy ink.

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Another housing bubble already?

That’s the prediction here and the author has charts to illustrate his argument. Makes sense to me. We have politicized the mortgage market, using government money to take the place of private investors’ money as the privates fled. And, just as government guarantees enabled the private lenders to make foolish, ill-advised loans, government employees spending other people’s money are no more cautious. The idea is reinflate the bubble now and hope you’re out of office when it bursts again. What a country.

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This is not 2004

398 Stanwich Rd

398 Stanwich Rd

This is a nice house on Stanwich, built in 2004, sold new in 2004 for $5.550 million. The buyers listed it for resale this year at $6.345 and today dropped it to $5.895 million. That may do it, but my general impression is that we have dropped below 2004 values and, unless there were some massive improvements made but not mentioned on the listing, I wouldn’t expect this house to prove the exception.

but we’re supposed to have all those Goldman boys flooding into town with bonus checks stuffed in their wallets, and this is, as noted, a nice house, so maybe lightning will strike. Assessment is $4 million.

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Wall Street bonus days – good for Greenwich?

Huge bonuses coming and New York is already feeling the improvement. Of course that’s good news for Greenwich real estate – better than a sharp stick in the eye, for example, but the question remains, how good? So far, effect ranges from excellent to better, but the steak-eating fools at Delmonico’s singing happy days are here again will, if there is a just God, be laid off come December. And, as a couple of readers of this blog have noted, even the most cash-infused Goldman partner only needs one house in town, while the twelve unemployed former Wall Streeters each need to sell theirs. So we wait and see.

Bonus increases will have a limited impact on revenue, said Matt Anderson, a spokesman for New York state’s Division of Budget. Many payments come in stock that isn’t taxed immediately, and companies that disappeared in the crisis won’t be paying any bonuses at all, he said.

“While Wall Street bonuses are an important component of state revenue, they are not the only component,” Anderson said in an e-mail. “We continue to see substantial declines in tax collections across the entire budget. There is little prospect, if any, for a rebound in receipts by the end of the fiscal year that would remove the need for difficult deficit reduction actions.”

The number of Manhattan apartment sales increased 46 percent in the third quarter from the previous period, the biggest such gain since 1996, according to anOct. 2 report from Miller Samuel Inc., a New York appraiser. The median price of a luxury apartment in Manhattan in the third quarter was $3.9 million, up from $3.66 million.

[snip]

Public anger over Wall Street bonuses, and the need to rebuild savings and pay down debt, may limit how much bankers and traders spend once they get their bonuses, said Charlie Attias, a senior vice president at Corcoran Group, a New York real estate brokerage.

“In 2007, we really saw people who were very confident, who knew that they will make a certain amount of money and it will not stop,” Attias said. “I think they are very cautious right now.” Delmonico’s, the landmark steakhouse a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, has seen traffic pick up and its catering business improve as firms start to take clients out in bigger groups, said managing partner Dennis Turcinovic, 31, after overseeing a lunch for 150 people last week.

The restaurant, which sells prime New York strip for $43, lost about 20 percent of its business after Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy last year.

“If anybody does well on Wall Street, they come here and they spend their money,” Turcinovic said. “Some people come in and spend an astronomical amount of money.”

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I’d rather the cat got my tongue

Open wide and brace yourself

Open wide and brace yourself

Deadly mamba snake could be lifesaver.

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What about all the lonely nine-year-olds pining for his attention?

Court orders Polanski to be held in jail.

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“The trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” Maragret Thatcher

Chicago furloughs thousands of city workers.

More layoffs for Pennsylvania employees.

Public employee pension funds in crisis.

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