FROM THE BERNIE MADOFF CHRONICLES – LESSONS FOR PLATINUM?
Greenwich Mean Time
Monica and Walter Noel in 2007. By Patrick McMullan.
December 11, 2008, began much like any other day for Walter Noel: the tall, silver-haired, 78-year-old businessman strolled into the headquarters of his Fairfield Greenwich Group, on Manhattan’s East 52nd Street. Then employing around 140 people, the company was a (supposedly) diversified alternative investment fund with $14.1 billion under management. Despite the recent turmoil of markets and the massive global demand for redemptions by investors terrified by the credit crisis, Noel was calm and collected, as usual. He had semi-retired two and a half years previously, worked on his golf game, and handed over day-to-day operations to the younger people at his firm, but he still went in to the office most days.
That morning F.G.G. salesman Andrew Douglass was on the phone with a potential investor, pitching a new fund that would invest with top Wall Street broker Bernie Madoff. The fund was named Emerald, and Douglass told the investor that F.G.G. had already raised at least $50 million to put into it. Suddenly a news bulletin came over the Bloomberg wire: Madoff had reportedly confessed to his sons the night before that he’d been running a giant, $50 billion Ponzi scheme for years. “It [his investment strategy] was all a big lie,” he’d apparently told them.
In October 2002, V.F. featured the Noel sisters in happier times. Read “Golden in Greenwich,” by Kristina Stewart. Above, clockwise from top left: Corina Piedrahita, Alix Toub, Marisa Noel Brown, Lisina Della Schiava, and Ariane Sodi in 2002. Photograph by Bruce Weber.
Because their firm had 48 percent of its capital tied up with Madoff, F.G.G. executives watched on their office TV screens with particularly acute horror as Madoff, dressed like a courtly grandfather, was handcuffed by F.B.I. agents outside his New York apartment building. Noel went into F.G.G. co-principal Jeffrey Tucker’s office to consult on the situation. Tucker tried to reach Madoff by phone, but he was no longer talking to anyone other than his wife, his attorney, and federal and criminal investigators.
Noel called his wife, Monica, now 67, and told her to sit down while he explained what had happened.
Tucker and the Fairfield team were all in shock. According to one source, F.G.G. had recently received a highly unusual call from Madoff, demanding that the company halt its customers’ redemptions. (A spokesperson for F.G.G. says that, over the life of the funds, redemption requests were honored by Madoff without complaint or delay.) Madoff, usually self-contained, was not known to get irate. Now it was clear why he had behaved so uncharacteristically.
Noel and Tucker are said even to have wired Madoff cash—a family member calls the amount “substantial”—from their personal accounts. (They deny having done so.) They realized now, as someone close to them says, that “they should have just burned the dollar bills on the F.D.R.”
But Walter Noel was only beginning to realize that it wasn’t just his investors’ money that was gone. So too was his business and his reputation, as well as his family’s.
Russell S. Reynolds Jr., an executive-recruitment consultant and an old friend, saw him the next day having lunch with Monica at Greenwich’s Round Hill Club. “Walter was shaking, he was so upset,” Reynolds recalls.
Noel had started F.G.G. in 1983 as a tiny operation, with just a few clients. Originally from Nashville, he had been a private-banking executive for Chemical Bank and Citibank in such diverse locations as Lagos, Switzerland, and Brazil. Tucker, who came on six years later, was the son of an accountant from Brooklyn and was a former lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Friends say Noel always described Tucker as “a prince of a guy.”
In 1974, the Noels had purchased for $225,000 ($936,000 in today’s dollars)—borrowed from both of their families—a modest house on prestigious Round Hill Road in Greenwich, Connecticut. Even though the house had five bedrooms, the couple made room for their five daughters. According to a friend, the family was popular with its neighbors. Attractive, dark-haired Monica “worked her tail off,” the friend says, “building a small children’s clothing line named ‘Monica Noel.’” She did it for what she called “my shrimp money.”
As they grew up, her daughters helped her with it. The eldest four—Corina, Lisina, Ariane, and Alix—went to public and private schools. They spent summers at Monica’s parents’ home in Brazil and skied in Klosters, Switzerland, in winter. Like their mother, they spoke several languages; all were athletic and strikingly beautiful.
In the early years the Noels were well off but not rich by Greenwich standards. Only Marisa, now 31, the youngest daughter by 10 years, got a fancy car—a BMW—to drive as a teenager. This was because by then F.G.G. had brought Noel and Tucker unexpected riches. Quite suddenly, in his 60s, Noel found he had the money for a truly lavish lifestyle that included vacation houses in Palm Beach and Southampton and on the Caribbean island of Mustique.
F.G.G. was sometimes steered to clients by Monica Noel’s cousins. Half Swiss, half Brazilian, she was a member of the prominent Haegler family. Her cousin Jorge Paulo Lemann is Brazil’s richest financier and co-owns InBev, Budweiser’s parent company. But it was Tucker’s wife, Melanie, “a dedicated tennis player” from Scarsdale, who had the connection that made them all rich. Her family knew Bernie Madoff, whose firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, begun in 1960, was a legend on Wall Street for the volume of its over-the-counter (as in off-the-exchange) trades and the clockwork-like returns of 10 to 12 percent a year from its private-investment arm. Tucker introduced Noel to Madoff, although Noel now tells people he never got to know Madoff particularly well socially—in fact, Monica seems eager to emphasize to friends that in 20 years her family and the Madoffs socialized together perhaps three times.
By the time F.G.G. really got going, its primary product was Fairfield Sentry, a feeder fund into Madoff Securities. In 2006, the S.E.C. concluded that Fairfield had not properly revealed how heavily the fund depended on Madoff, but thereafter the firm bragged about the connection and used it as a selling point.
As Tucker would tell Noel, the difficulty with Madoff was gaining access to the whiz trader. Providing that access was what would justify Fairfield’s management fees of 1 percent to its clients as well as 20 percent of the returns—twice the normal rate for a typical “fund of funds.” Madoff supposedly was picky. He often turned investors down. He was reserved. He was a workaholic. He didn’t want clients who peppered him with questions about his investment strategy and how he guaranteed such regular returns. But if you were happy to trust him, then each month you’d get your 1 percent.
What F.G.G. offered Madoff was new markets. Initially only a small circle of individuals, almost all members of country clubs in Westchester and Palm Beach, invested with him. What Madoff did not have much of—and what F.G.G. could help provide—was an international clientele. Accordingly, F.G.G. sold Fairfield Sentry internationally until the fund’s total exposure to Madoff reached $6.9 billion, almost half the company’s assets under management by December 2008.
As Fairfield Greenwich expanded, the most prominent of its salesmen came to be Noel’s own sons-in-law, whose European and South American backgrounds were invaluable to the firm. As things stand, Walter Noel owns 17 percent of F.G.G.’s business, as does Tucker, who like Noel semi-retired two years ago. F.G.G.’s chief shareholder is Andrés Piedrahita, who owns 22 percent. Piedrahita, 50, is a short, brash Colombian married to Noel’s eldest daughter, Corina, 45. The Piedrahitas have four daughters. In 2003, they moved from a mansion in London’s Chester Square to a house in Madrid’s swanky Puerta di Hierro, and they own a vacation home on Majorca as well as an apartment in the Sherry-Netherland hotel, in New York. They also lease time on a Gulfstream 200 and own a 150-foot yacht, which is being decorated and is due for delivery shortly.
F.G.G. founders Noel and Jeffrey Tucker flank Stephen Robert in 2004. By Jimi Celeste/PMc.
The other Noel sons-in-law have also reaped riches from F.G.G.—and all but one of them worked for the firm. Yanko Della Schiava, 44, an Italian married to Noel’s second daughter, Lisina, 44, sold F.G.G. in Northern Italy and southern Switzerland. The couple live in Milan with their three children.
Noel’s fourth daughter, Alix, 41, often called the “earthiest” of the sisters, is married to Swiss-born Philip Toub, 43. Noel put him to work selling Fairfield Greenwich mostly in Brazil, where the Toubs moved before returning recently to Greenwich with their four children.
The family’s “baby,” as she is often called, Marisa, married a dashing New York hedge-fund manager, Matt Brown, 39, in 2002. In 2005 he became a partner at F.G.G., where his job was to bring in new business. The Browns, who have three children, recently bought a $13.5 million town house on New York’s Upper East Side and are renovating it.
Only the third Noel daughter, Ariane, 42, chose a husband who decided not to work for F.G.G. Marco Sodi, 50, is a partner of the media investment bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson. The couple live in London and have five children. The terrible irony is that Sodi invested his personal wealth in Fairfield Greenwich.
Several people have observed that, after the Noels got really rich, they began to be perceived as irritating people who were not so welcome in the places where they bought new houses—in Southampton, Palm Beach, and Mustique: the world’s richest and snootiest communities, widely known to be minefields for the socially ambitious.
The Noels’ vast house on Mustique, named Yemanjá, was featured—along with the Noel women—in a cover story in Town & Country in 2005. Coming after a 2002 feature in this magazine, headlined “Golden in Greenwich,” it gave ammunition to people who believed that the Noels were shameless self-promoters. (Monica has told people that she agreed to the Town & Country feature only because she believed that it would increase the value of the house.)
One friend from Greenwich was astonished by the stories she heard about them in Southampton, where they bought a $10 million house in 2001. They grated on local society by taking out an entire page in the “Blue Book”—the local social register of the Hamptons. “You don’t have to put every single cell phone, and every single child, and every single number. They live in Europe, they live in South America; it wasn’t necessary to put down 43 names,” says an observer.
They wasted no time in applying to join the beach club officially known as the Bathing Corporation of Southampton, where Philip Toub’s father, Said Toub, is a member. But older members, who expect young women to appear in Lilly Pulitzer dresses, say they were put off when the Noel women showed up in “thongs and sarongs.”
Also, they table-hopped—which offended members. Some people said Walter Noel networked on the beach. “What I heard is he was actually selling the Fairfield Greenwich fund, or trying to encourage other members of the beach club to buy it, because it was an incredible thing, and he was almost using that as currency, if you will, to garner a favor,” says a man in that world.
Another person who spends time in Southampton recalls, “They really did things that seemed outlandish. The first summer they were here, I won’t forget seeing two of the daughters blocking traffic on Jobs Lane, leaning out of their convertibles, talking to each other and making what sounded like idle plans and blowing kisses, as if they owned the street—literally for five full minutes while a line of too-polite-to-honk Southampton matrons sat in silence.”
This person also complained, “They lit up their house like a Vegas casino, which shocked some of their neighbors on the pond [Lake Agawam],” who called police several times to complain about noise and music coming from the house at night. “It is not a quality that endeared them to their neighbors, including [investor] Ezra Zilkha, [NBC New York news anchor] Chuck Scarborough, [writer] Tom Wolfe, and [financier] George McFadden [who died last year], who all cherished their quiet summer weekends.”
Walter and Monica’s membership application to the Bathing Corporation was blackballed, but they kept showing up on Philip Toub’s guest docket for lunch anyway, until someone pointed out to them it was bad form.
Walter also tried to get into the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, “but that died fast once Monica had a personal assistant call around to Shinnecock members inviting them to their house,” says this person. “It’s just not friendly to have your personal assistant call around to old club members inviting them over for a meal.… It smacked both of new money and being almost purposefully rude. Joining a club like Shinnecock is like joining a family. It’s not expensive, but the waiting list is very long because it’s very selective in inviting people to join who would fit in, in as gemütlich a way as Wasps can get. None of the members, even if they had personal assistants—which most of them are too poor to have—would use them to make a personal social call.”
“If they’d just been a bit quieter for a year, it would have been better,” notes a friend from Greenwich.
But the Noels—at least most of them—are not quiet. After all, Monica is half Brazilian. She effervesces, and she does things her way—even when advised not to.
So, when a friend told Monica to come to Palm Beach “very quietly” and to rent a house, not buy one, she bought. And she kept embracing everyone she saw at the local Bath and Racquet Club, because, as one friend puts it, she knows them, she likes them—why wouldn’t she hug them?
On Mustique, where the family bought Yemanjá in 2000, the story repeated itself. The Noels alienated people, especially the old-fashioned Brits who form the core of the society on this privately owned island, in the Grenadines. Mustique’s unofficial ruler, Baron Glenconner, also known as Colin Tenant, says that, uninvited, they brought a houseful of guests to look around the house he was staying in, which belonged to Prince and Princess Rupert of Loewenstein. He was appalled. “They just turned up inside the house,” he recalls. “I went to a cocktail party early on—they never stop having cocktail parties at Mustique—and he [Walter] drove me along the balcony into a corner. I couldn’t get out. And I didn’t want to be aggressed in that kind of way. I was there for purely decorative and social purposes, not to be pestered. So I said, ‘You’re pests! You’re worms!’”
This year the Noels rented out Yemanjá for the holidays, and the New York Post ran a gossip item suggesting that Mustique regulars were delighted by their absence. “The No. 1 comment this winter was how much nicer it is on the island without the Noels,” the piece claimed. It continued, quoting one neighbor, “If you were playing tennis, they would all come onto the side of the courts and talk so loudly you had to stop your game because you couldn’t concentrate.… We were all so relieved that they [wouldn’t] come to the main island courts anymore.”
A family friend thinks the Noels’ reputation for brashness is not really deserved—except, perhaps, by Piedrahita, who seemingly likes to talk about his plane and boat—and stems in part from Monica’s high energy and constant motion: one moment she’s planning a tennis game, the next an aerobic walk, the next a dinner for 70. However well intentioned, she can “overwhelm” people, says a friend. “She had the same qualities in Greenwich that people thought were charming, and then when it got upped by all the money and the grander lifestyle, people got jealous.”
A close friend of the family’s, who works in finance, says of Monica, “We’ve had dinner with them when we were down there [in Mustique]. The tennis pro and his girlfriend were having dinner the same night at their house. And so was the guy who worked on the house and did the wiring.… She’s that type of person. She invites everybody on the beach.” The downside of this, he explains, is that she expects others to be as hospitable. But not everyone wants to have 20 people to lunch.
Wealthy and aristocratic clients around the world, including the King of Spain, are said to be livid with Walter and his sons-in-law—in particular Piedrahita, who was the most aggressive salesman of all and who courted wealthy and titled Europeans. “The marketing of F.G.G. was very much done as a team effort,” Piedrahita explains. “So I, along with others at the firm, were successful in penetrating European markets.” Many of Piedrahita’s closest friends in Latin America and some in Europe lost massive amounts of money with F.G.G. and Madoff.
Andrés Piedrahita. By Matt Carasella/PMc.
Piedrahita is the son of a Colombian commodities trader. He attended Boston University and after graduation pursued a career as a trader. In the early 1980s he got a job at Balfour Maclaine, a Wall Street commodity-futures trading company, to sell rich individuals, such as Fernando Botero (son of the famous painter), two highly leveraged futures funds. Says a source, “He arrived at Balfour Maclaine fresh from school—he had absolutely no trading skills at all and no financial background. He was hired to sell Tapman One and Tapman Two to his rich friends in South America. The funds were disastrously highly leveraged, and he sold and sold and sold to all his family, all his friends.… He was a star at that. Until of course both funds went bust—and the family friends like the Boteros appeared in the office, literally fuming. The rest of us refused to sell the funds.… I find it hard to believe the Noels didn’t know about this—it was widely, widely known, and the South American community in New York is a small world.” (Piedrahita’s stints at Balfour Maclaine and another firm, at which he started his career, Emanuel & Company, were left out of his official F.G.G. bio.)
Still, Piedrahita survived jobs at Merrill Lynch, Prudential Bache, and Shearson Lehman to found his own firm, Littlestone Associates. He joined F.G.G. as an equal partner with Tucker and Noel in 1997 and, according to one person, “put the strategy on steroids.” No longer wanting to focus on individual investors, Piedrahita told a friend over lunch at the Club 55, in St. Tropez, “I want to take F.G.G. to a whole new level. You can never make enough fees from rich individuals—I want to get institutions.”
In the wake of the successful public flotations of such financial companies as Blackstone, Fortress, and GLG, Piedrahita wanted to either sell F.G.G. or take it public. The company hired banker Charles Murphy (an alumnus of Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Suisse) and was searching for an investment bank to manage the process. A close family friend who works at a big bank held a meeting with Piedrahita, Murphy, and others at the end of 2007. Ironically, according to the friend, the difficulty for F.G.G. was that Madoff had made it clear he wanted no part of the scrutiny he’d have to undergo to be part of any sale of F.G.G. or public offering. “People [potential buyers and bankers] said, ‘What a shame. The valuations are going to stink because Madoff won’t be participating in it,’” recalls the friend.
One investor is furious that this didn’t set off alarm bells: “These guys had a financial responsibility If Bernie tells you, O.K., you cannot come here [and do due diligence], and they don’t do something drastic, like trying to find out what the hell’s going on … that’s outrageous.”
Other investment firms and professionals had had doubts about Madoff for years. Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse told their private clients that he was not on their approved list of broker dealers. Around 2003, Société Générale issued a letter advising its clients to steer well clear of him. From 1992 to 2008 the S.E.C. was called on eight times to investigate Madoff. But each time, as we now know, the agency came away with nothing. It even infamously ignored the detailed letter it received in 2005 from Boston-based investor Harry Markopolos titled “The World’s Biggest Hedge Fund Is a Fraud.”
It has been reported that in 2005 the S.E.C. spoke to F.G.G. about its concerns over Madoff. A person close to F.G.G. confirms that Tucker talked to the S.E.C. then. When asked if anyone at the firm had thought it should do some extra due diligence on Madoff’s strategy as a result, someone close to the company says that in fact F.G.G. felt greater comfort than ever about Madoff’s operation because the S.E.C. had found nothing wrong. “If the S.E.C. had cleared him, this was actually a reason to sell Madoff more, not less,” says this person.
Sources close to F.G.G. have said that the Noels will argue in court that, if the S.E.C. didn’t spot Madoff’s fraud, why should they have? But, unlike F.G.G., the S.E.C. was not taking investors’ money and charging 1 percent in fees and 20 percent of profits for looking after it. Fairfield’s prospectuses bragged that “FGG’s due diligence process is deeper and broader than a typical fund of funds, resembling that of an asset management company acquiring another asset manager, rather than a passive investor entering a disposable investment.” The lawsuits against F.G.G. for its role in the Madoff scandal, which now number at least three, including a class-action suit, re-state a litany of other reassurances Fairfield gave to its investors about its commitment to due diligence, risk management, and “rigorous” vetting of the fund managers it invested with. Today, many people find F.G.G.’s trust in Madoff astonishing.
Eric Weinstein, the managing director in charge of hedge funds at Neuberger Berman, formerly the money-management arm of investment bank Lehman Brothers, says basic checks on all investments should include the following: audited financial statements from a recognized accountant; independent confirmation that securities were traded at the prices claimed; and an independent custodian who holds the assets of a company to prove they actually exist. Madoff, whose auditors were a three-man team in New City, New York, few had ever heard of, met none of these standard Wall Street requirements.
Ross Intelisano, whose law firm, Rich & Intelisano, is representing clients suing Fairfield, says, “I do know that historically if you’re really an adviser, and you’re going to put half of your business’s assets under management with one firm, then you had better have done the most unbelievable amount of due diligence before you do that. And that means stress-testing the trading strategy and talking to the auditors. F.G.G. obviously didn’t do that—especially when Bernie’s business is self-clearing. So there’s no one to talk to except the auditors.”
Adds Richard Nye, managing partner of Baker Nye, “I can understand an individual investor being vulnerable to a pitch by a ‘trusted’ and apparently successful friend. But for a fiduciary not to take the first baby steps in performing proper due diligence is unacceptable.”
Another well-known investor says, “These [F.G.G.] guys were just a marketing machine.… Walter was just really a customers’ man.… They didn’t even know what questions to ask. It’s malpractice. It’s gross negligence. It’s not criminal behavior, in my view. Nobody would do this. I mean, Walter wouldn’t ruin himself. Nobody would do this.… You can’t put amateurs in a world of grownups.… That’s really what this is. They are amateurs.” (“Fairfield Greenwich performed extensive due diligence, including regular monitoring of Madoff’s trading activity,” says an F.G.G. spokesman. “F.G.G. also used data to perform risk-monitoring analysis, and met and spoke with Madoff frequently. Fairfield Greenwich was also aware of due diligence performed by others, and was informed of multiple on-site visits by the National Association of Securities Dealers and the S.E.C.”)
The anger toward the Noels is widespread and runs deep, but the family does not appear to understand it. Monica tells people that Walter is still her prince and that he is a victim of Madoff’s, just like everyone else. “He did sales—he relied on others for due diligence,” she has told friends. “He accepted Madoff’s statements when they came in each month.”
The extended Noel family, photographed by Bruce Weber in Greenwich, Connecticut, on July 10, 2002. Read “Golden in Greenwich,” by Kristina Stewart.
In an effort to keep her husband’s spirits up, she’s been accepting invitations to dinners in Greenwich and New York, hoping that he will be buoyed to see how many friends he has.
But this strategy has gotten a mixed reception. In the weeks after Madoff’s arrest, guests at a holiday party given by the financier Wilbur Ross and his wife, Hillary, were aghast to see the Noels there. “The first guy I see is Walter Noel, and he’s wearing a red velvet smoking jacket!” said one guest. “There were a lot of people there who were very, very successful investors, but none of them were saying hello to him, I can tell you.”
The Noels subsequently appeared at a party at the Metropolitan Club, in Manhattan, at which former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani was present. (Walter donated to Giuliani’s presidential campaign as well as to those of John McCain and Mitt Romney, to whom Monica also gave money.) Again, many people were shocked to see them. “They were seated very carefully … among friends,” observes one guest. But in various publications and online outlets, including New York magazine’s Daily Intel, their social outings were criticized as being tone-deaf—especially when juxtaposed with the tragic suicide on December 23 of Thierry de la Villehuchet. Like the Noels, de la Villehuchet was a well-connected money manager who had brought his friends—mostly wealthy Europeans, including France’s Lillian Bettencourt, principal owner of L’Oréal—into Madoff’s web.
Those who visit the Noels, either in Connecticut or at their Park Avenue pied-à-terre, get shown a folder of supportive letters from friends, while Monica works the phone with the energy of a woman 40 years her junior. The only time she ever slows down, some have noticed, is when she speaks to her husband. She is always solicitous of him and keeps her tone bright and cheerful.
Indications of stress are rare. One was at a dinner, when an old friend of the Noels’ came over to hug them. “He looked wonderful,” says this friend. But as for Monica, “she looked like a train wreck. She looked beaten.… She’s always been a most attractive woman, but she looked awful this night. I really felt for her.”
Lawyers for aggrieved clients are hell-bent on finding and seizing whatever’s left of the Noels’ fortune. “I’ve been poor before. I can be poor again,” Marisa said to a friend.
In January, Andrés Piedrahita was rumored to have been kidnapped for four days and held hostage by a group of angry investors, possibly from the Russian Mob. The rumor was not true. Monica has insisted to people that F.G.G. did not have any Russian investors, and, in fact, Piedrahita was at home in Madrid. But despite his outwardly normal life, he has no doubt heard that many of his former friends and clients want nothing more to do with him.
A lavish celebration on Majorca was planned for February for Piedrahita’s 50th birthday, but a cancellation notice was sent out:
Dear Family and Friends,
It is with great regret and sadness that because of recent events that you are aware of, my 50th birthday celebration in Majorca has been cancelled. As you can imagine, I am neither in the mood to celebrate nor would it be appropriate to do so.
What this monster [Madoff] has done to so many people including us is known in the bible as “an abomination.” It means an act so alien to our values and our natures that it cannot be understood or explained.… And God bless you.
Ariane Sodi, pregnant with her fifth child, found a photographer camped outside her door in London and was horrified. Reportedly, Matt and Marisa Brown have considered putting their Upper East Side town house on the market, although neighbors continue to be irritated by the noise of renovations.
Alix Toub wondered whether it would be O.K. to celebrate her 41st birthday quietly in Connecticut at the end of January. Her friends forced her hand. They’d be bringing the hors d’oeuvres and the music. Monica, as ever unstoppable, would be cooking the main course—for 60.
In February, however, New York socialites were astonished to receive an invitation on stiff paper to a surprise party for socialite Kalliope Karella at the 740 Park Avenue apartment of Blackstone chief executive Steve Schwarzman and his wife, Christine. The invitation proclaimed the party had two hostesses: Christine and Marisa Noel Brown. Since Schwarzman had been criticized for his over-the-top 60th-birthday party, some invitees muttered that Marisa was clueless about the backlash her participation would almost certainly engender. Once she got wind of a problem, however, she blamed Christine, who she claimed had put her name on the invitation without telling her. (Christine Schwarzman declined to comment.)
Monica’s chief concern remains her husband. She worries he might suffer a stroke or a heart attack from the stress of the scandal. “He’s 78 and a gentleman. How will he cope with the wolves in court?” she’s asked people. She’s upset that her brother, Alex Haegler, would not go skiing in Europe, because he feared negative coverage in the Brazilian press—because so many Brazilians had lost money with F.G.G.
And she’s really upset at the trashing the Noel family has received in the press.
While Walter and her daughters turned to professionals to handle their public relations, Monica remained fearful that unless she took control the real story of who the Noels were would not be told.
Her women friends admire her courage and say you won’t find a stauncher ally when you are in trouble. Now it’s Monica Noel who needs her friends. As usual, she’s coping by keeping frenetically busy: visiting her daughters, cheering up her husband, arranging dinners for him, and pretending for everyone’s sake that everything is going to be all right.
But she let slip once to a friend, “There are times when I lie awake and think, Oh my God, what does the future hold?”—and then quickly said, “Oh, don’t let anyone know I said that.”