Among the articles in Vanity Fair's April issue is a report I did on the Noels, the infamously good-looking, gregarious family of Walter Noel, founder of the investment group Fairfield Greenwich, which had $6.9 billion--almost half of its assets under management--invested with Bernie Madoff. Now that that money is all gone, Fairfield Greenwich is being sued by investors. The piece shows how the Noels are being criticized for their seemingly callous behavior in the wake of the devastation that has been caused.
On Tuesday night, Marisa Noel Brown--at 31, the youngest of the Fairfield Greenwich Noels, married to former F.G.G. partner Matt Brown--found herself co-hosting a surprise birthday party for a friend at 740 Park Avenue, New York's toniest address. (She emailed me proof yesterday that she had never been asked to be put on the invitation). Nonetheless she'd been at planning meetings organizing the guest list. Meanwhile her brother-in-law Andres Piedrahita, 50, who owns 22 per cent of F.G.G., was seen traveling in Switzerland. This week he was seen in St Moritz. As for Walter? He and his wife, Monica, 67, attended small dinners following a brief holiday in Mustique.
After my story appeared, Monica complained she didn't like the social criticisms it had made about the family--namely that they had tried to get into the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, and had been blackballed from the Bathing Corporation of Southampton. These seemed to be her chief concerns. So imagine my dismay when something I'd heard a couple of weeks ago was confirmed two days ago--too late to be included in the original piece, but not too late to state here, or on MSNBC's Morning Joe yesterday morning.
Thierry de la Villehuchet, the 65-year-old French-born financier who tragically killed himself on the night of December 22 in the New York offices of Access International, had sold--and subsequently lost--a $1.4 billion fund with exposure to Madoff to many of his French and European friends. It was recently explained to me that he had also invested his own money with Fairfield Greenwich. (When an F.G.G. spokesperson was asked about this, he responded, "A senior officer at Fairfield Greenwich has searched its records and found that the company has no shareholder of record in any Fairfield Greenwich funds by his name or his fund's name.)
Suddenly the Noels' concern with their social status seemed glaring. Why focus on criticisms of your social life when a man who was a friend and client of the family business is dead and others who invested with you have been financially ruined?
No wonder there is all the talk of social revolution and calls for heads on Wall Street. Some of this is indiscriminate and arguably over-the-top. We need people of caliber to fix this financial mess and we need to incentivize them. But the Noels, having profited from Madoff and with apparent insensitivity to the ramifications of their actions, are the poster children for the reasons we are now in this place.
This post originally appeared on VanityFair.com