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Friday, December 19, 2008

Another financial fraud - Mark Dreier

This week there have been three gigantic financial frauds uncovered. Each of these has their own moment of comedy.

With Bernie Madoff ($50B Ponzi scheme), it came with his idea that, shortly before he turned himself in to the feds, he was trying to pay out large bonuses to his employees with the few remaining assets.

With Mark Dreier ($350M in fake promissory notes), there's this bit of theatre when a prospective customer questioned their legitimacy (from WSJ):

"Fortress asked for certain guarantees from a pension plan Mr. Dreier represented as being involved in the deal, and wanted to meet in person with a manager from the plan, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

As the people familiar with the events tell it, Mr. Dreier set up a meeting in Toronto with Ontario Teachers on an unrelated matter; stayed on in its offices afterward; then intercepted a Fortress executive when he arrived and took him to a conference room. They say Mr. Dreier posed as a lawyer who actually works for the pension plan, Michael Padfield, and signed documents as him.

But the Fortress executive began asking questions about Mr. Padfield. Mr. Dreier's alleged ruse came undone. An Ontario Teachers employee notified the police, and Mr. Dreier was arrested.

He intends to plead not guilty to an expected impersonation charge, his lawyer in Canada says."


Amazing. You are running a large, successful law firm. So, when you run short of cash, you decide, basically, to become a counterfeiter.

But true counterfeiters do $20 bills, not millions of dollars. And they don't know the people they are passing off the bills to. How was this ever supposed to work? Was Dreier goint to run this as a Ponzi scheme for a while (paying off, say, Fairchild's Ontario Teacher bonds with money from later investors)?

And this acting job -- sounds like a scene stolen from a movie -- but in movies, stunts like this always work and get the hero out of trouble. Real life's not so kind.