A few years ago I used to know a fellow who produced all-star charity galas in New York and London for all the usual causes — AIDS, breast cancer, poverty in Africa, and so forth. All very worthy, I’m sure. Yet I used to feel a little queasy in his company: this man spent his working week on nothing but charity shows yet had apparently become a multi-millionaire, with homes around the world, expensive tastes, first class all the way.
I had a similar sensation the other day on discovering — via Books In Canada, of all unlikely places — that Richard C. Breeden, the court-appointed “corporate monitor” at the collapsed WorldCom and an “adviser” to the special committee of Hollinger International, is on course to become the first corporate governance billionaire.
This guy has a 52-foot custom-built racing sloop with running costs of 30 grand a month in a class restricted to the likes of King Harald of Norway and King Juan Carlos of Spain. And he earned it through “corporate governance.” Who knew there was so much money in complaining about the excessive salaries of American executives? As Olga and Adrian Stein note dryly in Books In Canada, it is “a remarkable achievement to have turned the knotty subject of ethics … into a financial fortune.”
Mr. Breeden was formerly and famously the chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Today he presides over the half-billion-dollar corporate governance hedge fund at Breeden Capital Management of Greenwich, Conn., which is registered as an investment adviser to Breeden Partners Ltd. of the Cayman Islands. Breeden Partners has approximately $1 billion in assets. The Cayman Islands is in the British West Indies and thus beyond the jurisdiction of Mr. Breeden’s successor at the SEC.