Magazine article The New Yorker

Paper Chase

Magazine article The New Yorker

Paper Chase

Article excerpt

For the past few weeks, forty-six cardboard boxes sat moldering on the waterfront in Long Island City, not far from where workers were reassembling the seventy-two-year-old neon Pepsi sign. The boxes were on Fifth Street, which dead-ends in Anable Basin, where a mastodon bone was dredged up more than a century ago when a creek was transformed into a barge slip. On a blustery day last week, old paperbacks, videotapes, and financial papers were spilling out of the boxes onto the street, to be scattered by the winds.

"You can find some of the books two blocks away now," John Muller, a furniture designer, said, standing outside his studio in a former meat-processing plant. "But have you seen the Madoff papers? I've been grabbing them for my banker friends so they can frame them as souvenirs."

Among the pale-green ledger sheets and torn paperbacks were wads of "trade confirmations" from Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, most of them dated 1993. They all appeared to document sales and purchases of blue-chip stocks (three hundred and eighty-five shares of Exxon Corp. for $24,062.50; a hundred and seventy-five shares of "Disney Walt Prodtns" for $7,284.38), but some described purchases of shares in companies, like American International Group (a hundred and five shares for $9,423.75) and General Motors (a hundred and forty-five shares for $7,956.88), that nearly joined the mastodon in recent months.

The Madoff materials were discovered on February 16th by Matt Quigley, Muller's landlord, who, fed up with the mess outside his building, decided to investigate. "I was looking for a name on the papers, to see if it was one of our tenants who dumped the garbage on the street," Quigley said. When he saw the letterhead reading "Bernard L. Madoff," he said, "I thought, I've heard that guy's name before."

Less well known is the Madoff investor to whom the documents were issued, a Manhattan resident named Juliet Nierenberg. A Google search revealed that Nierenberg is a vice-president of the Negotiation Institute, an executive-training firm based in the Empire State Building. The institute espouses the belief that an " 'Everybody Wins(R)' philosophy . . . creates longer-lasting and more successful outcomes than the adversarial 'winner takes all' approach." Near the sodden boxes, several videotapes of a Negotiation Institute presentation to General Motors, titled "Everybody Wins Through Successful Negotiating," unspooled on the asphalt. …

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