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Anyone who ever met securities class action lawyer Harvey Greenfield knew within minutes that he had attended Harvard Law School. “It was clearly the thing in his life of which he was most proud,” said Stanley Grossman, a fellow plaintiff’s lawyer. Greenfield may have hoped to be more than just another proud alumnus. In fact, he may have intended to be the largest individual donor in the law school’s history, possibly leaving the school virtually all of his estimated $35 million fortune. But a year after his death, Greenfield’s will cannot be located. The law school has hired a crack team of private investigators to track down the document if it exists, but if Greenfield dies intestate, his fortune will pass to a cousin in Florida and not Harvard. In material terms, Greenfield led a humble life. Though he amassed a vast fortune as a securities class action lawyer, he lived virtually his entire life in the same East Brooklyn house where he had grown up, sharing the house with his parents until their deaths in 1988 and 1998. Greenfield, however, was definitely not humble about his alma mater. A member of Harvard Law School’s Class of 1950, he ate lunch at the Harvard Club almost every day and talked of endowing a Harvey Greenfield chair in securities law. When Greenfield died in July 2002 at the age of 74, those who knew him had little doubt Harvard Law School would receive a large bequest. Indeed, Greenfield told several people he intended to leave virtually his entire $35 million estate to the law school. If so, it would have been considerably more than the $25 million donation that is the school’s largest by an individual to date. Harvard Law School had an endowment of $840 million as of June 30, 2002. Stephen Silver, the director of estate and planned giving at Harvard Law School, was one of the few people who showed up at Greenfield’s funeral, along with Grossman and some other lawyers. One of the other attendees was Isabel Friedman of Boca Raton, Fla., the daughter of Greenfield’s aunt, Esther Goodman, and perhaps his sole surviving blood relative. And now she and Harvard Law School are wrestling over what may turn out to be a giant disappointment for one and a massive windfall for the other. In the absence of a will, the matter was expected to be settled at a kinship hearing on Aug. 1, with Friedman, her husband and two children emerging as Greenfield’s sole heirs. But Laura M. Perrone, a lawyer who worked with Greenfield and took over his securities practice after his death, testified at the hearing that a former receptionist of Greenfield had told her of a conversation in which Greenfield mentioned to the receptionist a videotape of his will. Perrone also testified that Greenfield had a girlfriend who said he talked about his will. Both women, said Perrone, had mentioned Greenfield’s intention to leave money to Harvard. The Kings County Surrogate’s Court adjourned the hearing to allow for more time to track down the will, Perrone said. The Friedmans did not return a call seeking comment, nor did their lawyer, Richard Naidich of Bellmore, N.Y. Michael Armini, a spokesman for Harvard Law School, declined to comment except to say, “Harvey Greenfield was a strong and faithful supporter of Harvard Law School. We are proud to call him a friend.” But over the past several weeks, investigators from Citigate Global Security hired by the law school have been contacting members of the securities plaintiff’s bar for any tidbits of information that might pinpoint the will. Leading the investigation has been Ernie Brod, a well-known private detective in the financial services arena and the chief executive of Citigate. Brod declined to comment on the investigation. SOLITARY FIGURE For many who knew him, the controversy has offered an opportunity to reflect on a strange and solitary individual, who was also famously combative and frequently abusive in his dealings with fellow lawyers. “He was just the most unpleasant person,” said another securities class action lawyer. “I don’t think he had any friends at all.” Grossman said he had not had unpleasant encounters with Greenfield but had heard countless stories from other lawyers about his aggressive demeanor and his use of extremely foul language in communications with other attorneys. Just a few months before his death, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed sanctions of $25,000 against Greenfield for abusive behavior in a bankruptcy action. According to the appellate court’s opinion, Greenfield had described various people involved in the case as “a weak, pussyfooting deadhead,” “an underling who graduated from a 29th-tier law school,” and “a bunch of starving slobs.” Greenfield’s aggressive manner appeared to pay off on more than one occasion, though. In the same case in which he was sanctioned, he won an $11 million settlement from the bankruptcy court. And in 1999, he got a settlement of $7.7 million in a shareholder suit against Connecticut’s People’s Bank. Perrone said, however, that much of Greenfield’s fortune derived from investments he had made, rather than fees received in shareholder suits. His pride in his Harvard education was evident to all. One lawyer noted, however, that the ill-tempered and foul-mouthed Greenfield could not have been more different from the stereotypical white-shoe Harvard Law School graduate. Perrone agreed but noted that Greenfield’s humble origins gave him good reason to be proud of graduating from Harvard. Though he was a gifted student who graduated from New York University at 18, he was also a Jewish kid from Flatbush and Harvard at the time was not an obvious destination for someone with his background. He would tell anyone who would listen that he intended to give a large amount of money to Harvard, Perrone said. It seemed clear that Harvard was the focus of Greenfield’s bid for posterity. “He was a pretty solitary figure who wanted to be known and remembered in the world,” she said. “I think that was one of the reasons he intended to donate such a large fortune to Harvard, so maybe they would remember him, name a building after him or something.”

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