The twisted story of Manhattan lawyer Marc Dreier is one of fascinating greed, exuberance, and moral contemplation; a story that captures the attitudes of Wall Street immediately before the Lehman Bros. crash, as well as the target of anger felt by the ‘one percent’ protestors of last year.
Marc Drier, was arrested in late 2008 for financial fraud, In May of 2009, Dreier was charged on eight counts, including money laundering, securities, and wire fraud.
What compels a man to steal hundreds of millions of dollars is simple. To that man, at that time, the amount is trivial; and to him it isn’t stealing, it’s borrowing with the intent to return it. However, when the line is crossed and the realization that one has borrowed beyond their means, there remains two choices: change methods or prepare for a descent into hell.
In Dreier’s case, hell had its benefits, and offered a lifestyle worth falling for. Perhaps Dreier thought a ladder could be found half way down—the best of both worlds. Except, that’s not what happened…
Dreier opened his own law firm in 2002, Dreier LLB. He rented a prestigious address on Park Avenue in New York City and set to work attracting the industry’s best and brightest to his ranks. To sustain the growth of his firm in 2004, Dreier engineered a simple strategy to gain access to quick capitol funds and fuel his business expansion: borrow money, while using someone else’s credit. It was a plot that backfired and just four years later Dreier was looking at 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to scheming to sell promissory notes worth $700 million dollars from 13 different hedge funds.
Marc H. Simon, a former legal counsel for Dreier’s firm, directed the 2011 documentary, Unraveled, shot before Dreier’s incarceration. With the documentary being released later this week after spending the last year on the film festival circuit, it’s an opportune time to shed some additional light on the story with Simon’s participation
Prior to speaking with Simon, I was unaware of his previous position with Dreier’s firm. Obviously a potential point of contention—specifically how the film would remain unbiased, was a general concern. Unlike the similar, but much more publicized Madoff scheme that was uncovered weeks after Dreier’s, opinions were kept under lock and key, with only Vanity Fair and 60 Minutes gaining press time.
When the time came to speak with Simon, he easily acknowledged his past with Dreier, and how it was that very relationship that gave him a “unique opportunity to get inside a financial criminal, who is emblematic of this current era of many financial fraudsters and criminals.”
When Dreier LLB folded, almost 800 people lost their jobs; clerks, lawyers, admin, and maintenance. In Dreier’s position, I would expect that last group of individuals I would want making a documentary of my life would be former employees who single handedly I had taken their livelihood from.
Upon asking this of Simon, There was a faint chuckle.. He responded slowly, “sadly, that was (Dreier’s) least concern.”
“It doesn’t make its way onto the film, but Dreier’s on record saying he has no remorse about the employees who lost their jobs. His belief is that businesses go under all the time, and he went so far to say, that he kept the fraud going for a period of time in large part because he knew that when the music stopped, so to speak, that all of these employees would lose their jobs.”
Dreier began laundering in 2004 by approaching hedge funds under the guise of a representative for real estate mogul Sheldon Solow, and asking for short-term loans at an attractive interest rate. The hedge funds were forthcoming as a prominent real estate mogul such as Solow would have the demonstrated need for financial liquidity in buying properties. By misrepresenting Solow and forging his accounting documents and potential investments that would require funding, Dreier was able to secure cash, which he envisioned he would pay back through growth of his own funds.
But how did Solow remain ignorant of these proceedings, and what made Dreier so sure that he wouldn’t find out?
Upon asking this Simon confidently replied, “Absolutely nothing, just one hundred percent hubris. The only thing that I think you can admire about him is the sheer audacity of the man. To do what he did takes serious cojones. Then he turns it around and wants to say to the public, ‘the reason a lot of people don’t do this is because they don’t have the opportunity and they don’t have the fear of getting caught.’”