Law Practice Management

Dreier's High-Adrenaline Life on the Edge

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Once a shining star at Rosenman & Colin, where he worked as a white-collar defense litigator, Marc Dreier today is under house arrest in his lavish New York home, accused of stealing a vast sum from investors and clients. The alleged thefts at the heart of the federal securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy case against him are now tallied by the government at around $700 million.

Friends remember Dreier as smart, ambitious and personable, the kind of guy who was voted most likely to succeed by his Long Island high school class, and went on to graduate from Yale University and Harvard Law School. Until last December, he was at the helm of what was seemingly until recently a thriving 250-attorney law practice headquartered in New York and operated under his name. So how did his life take such a disastrous turn?

A desire to outshine those around him and win at any cost may have been part of the problem, according to a lengthy New York magazine feature published today.

Contrary to his public image, Marc Dreier wasn’t making a mint from his Dreier law practice. For years before he was arrested in late 2008, he lived his life “just one due-diligence phone call from being found out,” the magazine writes, as he helped fund his firm and lavish lifestyle with millions in borrowed money—and, allegedly, with millions more obtained by selling fake promissory notes to hedge funds and other sophisticated investors.

To persuade them to purchase the fake notes, Dreier allegedly helped construct a complex scheme of deception including special phone lines and e-mail addresses, forged financial documentation and even impersonation, the article recounts. At one point late last year Dreier allegedly tried to pass himself off as a pension fund executive to a potential investor in a meeting in Toronto, and was arrested. Within days, after he had bonded himself out of jail in Canada he was arrested again by federal authorities when he returned to the United States.

When he first started his own practice, Dreier initially got a lot of work from a major New York real estate developer known for a litigious approach to life, the magazine reports.

“He was the type of guy who would do anything a client asked if it was in his interest,” attorney Kevin Smith, who often litigated against Dreier in those days, tells the magazine. “Every courthouse, he’d pull up in a limo. He had suits that were cut, watches, jewelry. He was nasty, very aggressive, and contentious. He treated me like I didn’t exist.”

By the time Dreier was arrested late last year, however, the lawyer-client relationship with the real estate developer had cooled. Dreier allegedly was not only selling fake promissory notes under the developer’s name but appropriating his conference room for a claimed impersonation that reportedly helped put one deal through, according to federal prosecutors in New York.

“Investigators now believe that by September or October, Dreier had largely run through his cash and had to sell new phony notes just to pay his bills, all the way down to the firm’s car-service tab,” the magazine writes.

For more details about Dreier’s downfall and the implosion of his former law firm, read the full article in New York magazine.

Related coverage: “How Former Dreier Client Became a Co-Defendant in Claimed $200M Scheme” “Feds Seek $700M from Dreier, Claim Scam Cash Put in Firm Accounts” “Trustee Says Dreier Had Run Through Most of His Cash” “Dreier’s Lawyer Expects Guilty Plea; Firm Lawyers at Risk in Bankruptcy Case”

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