Monday, June 29, 2009

Madoff Sentenced, But He Didn’t Sing

So Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in the slammer today. He also delivered one of his now-patented non-repentant repentance speeches in the courtroom. Oh, by the way, his wife Ruth also issued a statement, and she threw him under the bus.

Yet while everyone can now cheer that the greatest crook in financial history will die in jail, Madoff also may die keeping his secrets with him. So far, prosecutors have come up with very little about this case. And under the tutelage of the clever lawyer Ike Sorkin, Madoff has given almost nothing up. No singing in jail. (Maybe he should have been waterboarded.) We don’t know if his wife or two sons were part of the scam. Nor do we know where most of the money -- estimated up to $65 billion -- has gone. There’s a number being used that bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard has recovered $1.2 billion of the $13.2 billion in estimated net losses. But the strength of those numbers is somewhat in doubt.

Where’s the money? Who are the accomplices? And what about some of these big-time fat cats who invested with Madoff, people we thought were victims but may turn out to be the real winners in the story?

There are several reports about Jeffry Picower and Stanley Chais, two rich businessmen who may have taken $6.1 billion in returns from the Madoff fraudulent funds -- more than they put in. There’s also businessman Carl Shapiro, a close Madoff pal. And while there is yet no number as to what he took out of the funds, years ago the guy sold his garment business for $20 million and grew that sum to nearly $1 billion -- most of it from investing with Madoff.

I’m using reports from the Wall Street Journal and the liberal investigative group ProPublica. I’m also using first-hand accounts from friends of mine who are circulating these rumors down in Palm Beach, Fla. They’re very close to the Madoffs, their funds, and their investors.

The point is, it’s been six months since Madoff was first arrested, and the actual case against him has progressed very little from his own self-confession right at the start. Neither his wife nor his two sons have been deposed. Nor have these other characters who probable looted the funds.

The thing about a Ponzi scheme is others besides Ponzi can get rich. And there are names in circulation of people who may also have gotten rich. But where’s the money? When will these people be brought in to testify under oath? The thousands of other smaller investors and charities who were totally ripped off by Madoff could recover a lot more if these big shots are finally hammered.

Madoff will die in jail. And he deserves it. But the justice system has much more work to do following today’s sentencing.