3/2/09

Walter Noel and J. Ezra Merkin - not only ganovim - but also social climbers!

The New York Magazine blog Daily Intel takes some hissy-gratuitous swipes at Madoff funnel Walter Noel and family and sees it hissy-fit to compare the Noel's to the other prominent Madoff funnel J. Ezra Merkin and his family.

And honestly we see their blog entry (The Noels Were Coarse, Nouveau Riche Social Climbers, Say Snobs) as a swipe at the pretenders and a big cynical hiss-out to the critics of the pretenders.

And so why are we reproducing this trash? And indeed why have we been hard on all of these fine folk, like the wonderful Mr. Merkin? It really comes across best in the Hebrew phrase, מגיע להם, loosely, they merit it. Wow do they merit it.
...despite his family's coarse, new-money exuberance, the figure of Walter Noel comes across, in Vanity Fair, as not at all dissimilar to an older-money figure in the Bernie Madoff scandal: J. Erza Merkin, the refined, art-collecting Upper East Side financier friends and colleagues described, in a recent New York feature, as "an intellectual showman, a marvel of erudition" and "a model of success."

Both were motivated by increased social standing (the Noels scratched at the windows of country clubs, while Merkin longed to replicate the financial and social success of his father). Both eagerly provided Madoff with access to their social circles (the Noels, Europe and South America; Merkin, Palm Beach and the Upper East Side Jewish community). And both called themselves money managers but were ultimately salesman whose understanding of the product they were selling was questionable. “It’s very, very difficult for Ezra to make decisions,” one money manager told New York of Merkin, adding that his true gift lay in that he "was a world-class salesman."

In Vanity Fair, Monica Noel echoes the same sentiments about her husband: “He did sales — he relied on others for due diligence."

As one investor puts it to Vanity Fair, "[t]hey were amateurs."

To both of these men, Bernie Madoff was like the tailor who promised to weave the emperor a fantastic new robe that no one else would have. Only Madoff was smarter, because he hit up not just the emperor, but the town noblemen and the serfs on the street as well. He knew, probably from his own upbringing, that vanity and greed cut across social strata. And now that the lights are on, everyone who bought into his scam looks pretty much the same.

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