Law in Popular Culture

Former Colleague's 'Unraveled' Doc Film Focuses on Ex-Attorney Marc Dreier's Spectacular Downfall

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When Marc Dreier’s 250-attorney law firm collapsed at the end of 2008, as news began to come out that the powerful partner had been running a $400 million Ponzi scheme, his downfall was a personal tragedy for Marc H. Simon.

Simon had worked at the firm, on Park Avenue in New York City, for six years, and Dreier, a 1975 graduate of Harvard Law School, had been a mentor to him as the junior lawyer built an entertainment law practice, according to the New York Law Journal.

Like others there, Simon also suffered a “significant financial impact” when guaranteed bonuses weren’t paid, along with the loss of his job. (He is now a partner of Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard in New York.)

But Simon, who is also a part-time filmmaker, eventually decided his experience put him in a unique position to develop a documentary about the now-disbarred Dreier, who is serving a 20-year federal prison term.

The movie, Unraveled, is the third the 38-year-old Simon has produced. It has been shown at film festivals, and is scheduled to premiere in New York’s Village East Cinema on April 13. Showings are also expected in Los Angeles and, possibly, the nation’s capital, the article reports. A website for the film has the theater dates.

Simon interviewed Dreier, now 61, for nearly 50 hours in 2009, before he went to prison, to obtain the material that forms the basis of Unraveled. The film allows Dreier to tell his side of the story to the audience, which can then form its own opinion of him.

Dreier offers various explanations and excuses for selling bogus paper to sophisticated investors to raise cash to fuel his law firm operations and lavish lifestyle.

The movie says that his crimes began in 2003, at a time when he was dissatisfied with both his marriage and his career, and he explains that he initially intended only to use a client’s credit to borrow money he couldn’t get on his own, the New York Law Journal recounts. Then, as his expenses grew, a “domino effect” required him to spend more and more time faking paperwork and handling inquiries as he sought to cover up his wrongdoing and keep the financial situation from imploding.

The only time Dreier shows emotion, tearing up, is when he talks briefly of his mother’s disappointment in him.

Creditors of the law firm have sought some $500 million in its bankruptcy case, but most reportedly have gotten nothing and are not likely to see anything more down the road. Lawyers representing them question whether the film did anything other than stoke Dreier’s ego.

The film intercuts interview footage with other material and news clips, ending with Dreier’s sentencing.

“As much as Dreier wants to put his spin and or rationalization on his actions, when an individual such as Dreier crosses the line, he is held accountable and ultimately silenced by the judicial system. The arc of the film is a countdown to the sentencing order,” Simon told the legal publication by e-mail. “That’s the proper ending.”

Related coverage: “Dreier’s High-Adrenaline Life on the Edge” “Attorney Marc Dreier Says Midlife Crisis, Sense of Failure Drove Massive Fraud”

New York Times: “Lawyer Seen as Bold Enough to Cheat the Best”

Updated at 6:36 p.m. to link to New York Times article.

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