Fortunately for the family, my uncles and brothers had liquidated most of their holdings in the firm by the time of its collapse in September 2008. Nevertheless, whether out of nostalgia or pure forgetfulness, or perhaps just in order to keep getting annual reports and the like, a few of us kept some odd lots and attended shareholder meetings once in a while. And I maintained friendships with old friends, including the source of some scuttlebutt that I am now legally entitled to share.
One villain in the tale is the little known Phillip Rubella, who headed the firm's missing documents department (including debentures, affidavits, flight manifests, stock certificates, and bills of lading), a surprising source of revenue for financial outfits wary of IPOs and LBOs but acutely conscious of the millions that go unclaimed each year in the form of lost lottery tickets, savings accounts of the deceased, insurance remibursements sent to defunct addresses, payments to remitttance men, dead letters, the contents of grandma's safe deposit box, and the like. See, son, working for an investment company is not just being a glorified accountant but has elements of detection as in the dime novels you devour, though it has been decades since any book cost a dime.
According to spokesperson Dana Goodrear of the YWC (Yuppy Workers Constabulary), an NGO whose turf is serious white-collar investment-banker crime, Rubella polly-toed a complicated Ponzi scheme that cost an estimated 1.2 million investors upwards of $225 billion dollars. He put together a consortium of Indian companies that was thought to be running so-called "chit funds" in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Eastern India. (Among the celebrities defrauded in the scheme were Phyllis Dietrickson, Lucky Garnet, Julie Jordan, Ilse Lundt, Joel Cairo, Garance, Sam Malone, Fred Derry, Laura Palmer, Norma Desmond, Peter Joshua, Mrs. Charles Lampert, Alicia Huberman, Noah Cullen, Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, Pepe Le Moko, Miss Lorelei Lee, Schuyler Green, Miles Archer, Molly Arden, Privates Finch and Moss, Sergeant J. J. Sefton, Commander Shears, Mark Dixon, Waldo Lydecker, Carmen Sternwood, Bess, Toto, George Bailey, Roger Thornhill, Miss Jean Brodie, Terry Malloy, Popeye Doyle, Jane Tennison, Brett Maverick, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sally Draper, Henry James Joyce, Barbara Doll, Bunter, Sollozzo, Alice Kramden, Dianna Scott, Biff Loman, Madelene Elster, Robert E. Lee Prewitt, Charles Foster Kane, Frankie Five Angels, and Addison DeWitt.) The scheme had become so vast that it threatened to sink the whole company.
How did Rubella elude the scrutiny of investigators for so long? And how, even after the crisis of September 2008 broke and he duly went to jail, did he avoid the unfavorable publicity that lesser thieves, cheats, con artists, and other felons received?
While operating the scheme, Rubella went unsuspected largely because of the respect he had won as an advocate of liberal causes -- it seems he had put his family's German Measles fortune to philanthropic use. He also enjoyed a reputation as a fun-loving card sharp, an ex-acrobat, a photographer who unknowingly witnesses a murder in Hyde Park, a tennis pro who plays a slow baseline game but turns on the motors because he needs to get to a certain mery-go-round a train ride away, a medical assistant who has an affair with his boss's wife, an indignant novelist exposing the anti-Semitism informing the Dreyfus Affair, an ordinary Joe who narowly escapes death walking past an accident at a construction site, an entry-level bachelor who lets senior execs use his pad for assignations, a producer of a rigged game show sponsored by Lever Brothers, a fortune-hunter who courts a plain but principled heiress in Washington Square, a cop who left the force because of a refusal to follow unreasonable orders, a veteran of the Korean War who switched identities with an unlucky lieutenant who bought the farm, a struggling Hollywood hack, a ne'er do well who hopped trains and got out where destiny took him, a Swedish industrialist educated at Cornell who is blackmailed into spying on the Nazis, the playboy younger brother of a serious bow-tied gentleman dying of lung cancer, the French figure skater who "settled for silver" at Lake Placid, a pickpocket in a Hudson River houseboat, a reporter in the Far East whose wife won't divorce him, and a flim-flam man in Paris. His drug-free policy -- every employee under his supervision was guaranteed a free month's supply of percoset or cialis -- was good for office yucks.
When finally confronted with his misdeeds -- by special investigator Bruno Anthony in December 2008 -- Rubella smirkingly claimed that he had the approval of the firm's CEO, played by Jeremy Irons in the movie. The suspicious deaths of the three individuals who had filed harassment complaints constituted an effective deterrent to disclosure. Rubella's white marriage to socialite Miriam Hanes also lent him protection until her dead body was discovered at a missionary church an hour's ride from San Francisco. Rubella, an expert at misdirecting the public, released a statement asserting that "Obama gives your tax dollars to rebuild Muslim mosques around the world."
"It's painful to discover you've been a chump," said Hanes's brother, Guy, who released a statement to the press on the day Rubella was sentenced to share a cell in hell with the worst boss you ever had. Guy tried putting a good face on things, joking gamely: "What else is April first for?" His shares had lost eighty percent of their value, but he was determined to keep his cool. This endeared him to the press corps. Unfortunately his watch had picked this time to stop, or possibly he had dimply (I mean simply, but with a dimple) forgotten to consult it. Fifteen days had gone by unnoticed. Death and taxes wait for no man. -- DL