I have unwelcome news of Andres Piedrahita, the brash Colombian chief shareholder of Fairfield Greenwich, the investment group mostly owned by the Noel family, that gave half their money under management -- $6.9 billion dollars -- to Bernie Madoff, and yet who took one percent of clients fees and twenty percent of their returns for supposedly doing "due diligence".
You'd think the family -- Mr Piedrahita, 50, is FG's founder, Walter Noel's oldest son-in-law -- might be lying low, given the outrage of their ruined clients and the morass of lawsuits they face. For most of them, this is so.
For Mr Piedrahita?
Look no further than the website of luxury yacht sellers Camper and Nicholsons to see pictures of "Oxygen" the new €22,000,000.00 custom-made boat that Piedrahita, took possession of in June. He is now cruising the Adriatic with wife Corina Noel and their children. I am told he has plans to cruise around the Dalmatian coast and Corfu.
Recently he has been spotted in St. Tropez and in Venice. Over the weekend I was with financiers who say they've seen him out and about as if nothing ever went awry in his life. Acquaintances believe this blatant vacationing is "a tremendous risk" -- no doubt referring to the very angry Latin Americans who allegedly gave him money to invest and could not legally declare it. I have heard he would be unwise to set foot in certain places around the globe, people are so furious with him.
Having written the piece "Greenwich Meantime" for Vanity Fair magazine about Piedrahita and his family, I'd call his current ostentatious act, stupid, shameless, and deeply offensive to all those ruined by the Fairfield Greenwich investment group.
A mutual friend told me while I was reporting the Vanity Fair piece that Piedrahita used to boast he'd "ruin his own mother if he needed to in order to make money." He is exactly the type of man who gives financiers an appalling identity at the worst possible time.
Just as the government and business leaders worldwide are doing their best to steady the seas and fix the economy, uniting the fragile bond between Wall Street and Main Street, the last thing they need is this icon of unadulterated greed and pomposity displaying his allegedly ill-gotten wealth like a peacock displaying his feathers. Recently I interviewed the chairman of one of the world's biggest banks. "We do not own a single corporate plane" he said with great pride.
I can only hope that the legal system does its work thoroughly but swiftly, and that we never have to hear about Mr. Piedrahita and his planes or his yachts ever again. Alas, I expect to be proven wrong.