Three Reactions to the Madoff Plea

Fri, 13 Mar 2009 13:27:28 +0000

I had three reactions to the Madoff plea:

1) I am glad he's going immediately to jail. He's human debris and deserves what's coming to him and more.

2) I found this statement of his to be particularly galling:

"When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme," he said. "However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come."

Does the judge have the authority to stop the proceedings and wash the defendant's mouth out with soap? Ponzi schemes never end well -- no one can ever extricate both himself and his clients from them. That's the point. To assert otherwise is to lie in open court. That's also why Madoff still has not and will not cooperate with the prosecutors to help them locate the money he swindled out of his investors.

3) Yes, people were swindled, but I don't accept statements like this at face value:

"I wanted him to see some of the faces of the people he lied to and destroyed," said Cynthia Friedman, 59, of Jericho, N.Y. She and her husband, Richard, said Madoff defrauded them of their life savings of $3 million. They learned it was gone months before Richard Friedman was supposed to retire — a plan now on hold.


Afterward, Burt Ross, a lawyer from Englewood, N.J., who lost $5 million in Madoff's swindle, said: "It's a little bit like seeing the devil."

I don't want to minimize the extent to which these people have been defrauded, but I do want to quantify it appropriately. Is the $3 or $5 million the amount on the fake statements they were sent from Madoff, or is it the amount of principal they invested? If it is the latter, then, yes, you lost it (plus interest). If it is the former, then I'm not so sympathetic. (I'm only sympathetic up to the latter amount.)

There are only two strategies for investing that make any sense:

Madoff's investors who correctly claim they lost their life's savings followed neither of those strategies. They followed a strategy of investing in something that was too good to be true. There is a reason why it is not on the list.