The fact that Bill Gross had the audacity to counter-sue his neighbor, Mark Towfiq, when Trowfiq and his wife sued the billionaire bond king over what court documents described as a coordinated campaign of harassment intended to coerce the couple into dropping a nuisance complaint involving a lawn statue and safety net owned by Gross.
We don't have time to rehash the tedious details, but after more than a month of courtroom proceedings (somehow, this absurd melodrama ended up in front of a judge), the court has sided with Towfiq, which is hardly a surprise, considering some basic pieces of evidence that were leaked to the press during the runup to the trial.
The most memorable example, in our opinion, is a snippet of text messages between Gross and Towfiq where the latter pleads with the former to turn down music described as "drowning out the Ocean" and the nearby Pacific Coast Highway, only to be rebuffed by a signed taunt.
In her statement, judge said Gross and Schwartz "caused and allowed" music to be played repeatedly from their Laguna Beach home and it "constituted harassment”…”the court finds by clear and convincing evidence there has been harassment,"
One reporter assigned to cover the trial live-tweeted the verdict.
It’s the day before Christmas Eve during a deadly pandemic, which means it’s time to get to court to hear the judge’s ruling in the @PIMCO billionaire Bill Gross restraining order hearing. You can watch here. (Judge Knill not yet on bench.) https://t.co/j8BwqANL2L— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
OK Judge Knill is on the bench! We are moments away from the big ruling! Gang's all here: Bill Gross, Amy Schwartz, neighbor Mark Towfiq and his wife. And of course the lawyers.— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
Knill is addressing Towfiq's claims against Bill Gross and Amy Schwartz first. She says Gross and Schwartz "caused and allowed" music to be played repeatedly from their Laguna Beach home and it "constituted harassment."— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
"The court finds by clear and convincing evidence there has been harassment," Knill said, and grants neighbor Mark Towfiq's request for a restraining order against @PIMCO billionaire Bill Gross and Amy Schwartz.— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
Judge Knill calls Towfiq's testimony credible and supported by @LagunaBeachPD police officer testimony. She's reading texts between Towfiq and Gross and Schwartz now. The infamous "Peace on all fronts or well just have nightly concerts big boy" from Gross.— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
"Gilligan's Island plays eight times. Green Acres plays eight times." Judge Knill going over the evidence. Says this recording from Aug. 23 and testimony about inability to automatically replay songs shows deliberate conduct by Gross and Schwartz.— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
"The court questions why anyone would find it acceptable to be playing outdoor speakers" just feet away from a neighboring property line, Judge Knill says. "Gross had actual knowledge the music was bothering Towfiq."— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
Knill is on the "peace on all fronts" text again. She notes Gross sent it just days after Towfiq filed a code complaint with @lagunabeachgov about his art sculpture. Gross said they two aren't connected, but Knill said his testimony is implausible. Ouch!— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
The peace text and the earlier reference to the @KennyLoggins concert "are strong evidence nightly concerts were planned by Bill Gross" in some sort of retaliation for Towfq's complaints, Judge Knill says.— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
Goodness, Judge Knill just verbally destroyed Amy Schwartz. Says Schwartz was "evasive and defensive" on the stand, so she's given little weight to her testimony. Says her repeated testimony she and Gross didn't play loud music is "unbelievable." Ouch!— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
For Gross, the circus is the latest in a series of memorable tabloid fodder, like the time he used fart spray and rotting fish (stashed in the vents) to exact revenge on his ex-wife. Their split was a scandal. Gross's litigious departure from PIMCO, shrouded in complaints in the press about Gross's behavior, temperament and short fuse (an epithet also employed by Towfiq's legal team, which quoted a friend of Towfiq's describing Gross as a "billionaire with a short fuse").
After PIMCO, Gross moved to a smaller firm, but the investing magic he deployed for decades at PIMCO was never replicated (he took more than a few big hits).
Though Gross still appears in the financial press from time to time, his feuds with reporters and certain news organizations (including, it has been said, the Wall Street Journal) are also part of his reputation. Notably it has been a while since we have seen one of Gross's infamous letters.
Whatever Gross plans to do next, it's unclear. His limitless financial resources give him ample ammo to appeal. But an "open letter" from Gross asking his neighbor to join him in setting aside their beef (provided Trowfiq also drop the original complaint) went unanswered.
None of the billionaire's antics stopped Michael Bloomberg from gifting Gross two lifetime Bloomberg subscriptions as the billionaire settles into a retirement of managing his money, his foundation (now a separate entity from his wife's foundation), and whatever grudges he might be nursing.