Madoff, Picard and the Wilpons/Katz Families: Some Observations by Jeffrey Toobin – Installment 53

June 29, 2011Articles White Collar Defense & Compliance Blog

This is the fifty-third in a series of Installments on this blog that are discussing issues arising in the aftermath of the global Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard L. Madoff (“Madoff”). Installments 51 and 52 and earlier Installments of this series have discussed the apparently inconsistent and peremptory approach that Irving Picard, the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy (“Picard”) has taken with respect to the Wilpon/Katz families, the owners of the New York Mets, and their Section 501(c)(3) private foundations (collectively, the “Wilpon/Katz Families”), in contrast to the Lautenberg Foundation, a Section 501(c)(3) private foundation (“Lautenberg”) formed by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg.

As early as Installment 17 this series raised the question as to whether the Wilpons would be treated differently from Hadassah and other charities by Picard. There has been continuing publicity regarding the spectacle of the Wilpon/Katz Families v. Picard.

In Installment 52, this series observed the following:

Thus it would appear that Picard has made peremptory and perplexing decisions not only as to the Madoff investors that he has chosen to pursue but also the extent of recoveries that he is seeking. While the Wilpon/Katz families, including the Wilpon/Katz Foundations, will spend millions of dollars in legal fees and most likely hundreds of millions in settlement or satisfaction of judgments, other Madoff investors like Hadassah and the Lautenberg Foundation will keep millions in fictitious profits or even recover payments in the Madoff bankruptcy proceeding.

Recently, I had the privilege and pleasure of hearing Jeffrey Toobin, a senior analyst for CNN Worldwide since 2003 and a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1993, who is one of the country’s most esteemed experts and authors on politics, media and the law, especially the U.S. Supreme Court. His book “The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (2007),” was highly acclaimed. Mr. Toobin’s forthcoming book, “The Oath: The Secret Struggle for the Supreme Court,” will be published in 2012. He was the featured speaker on the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court at a luncheon during the partners’ retreat of my law firm earlier this month. Because I knew of Mr. Toobin’s interest and fan support of the New York Mets, I asked him a question about Picard and the Wilpon/Katz Families.

I inquired whether he thought that the aggressive and somewhat incongruous approach taken by Picard against the Wilpon/Katz Families in seeking not only fictitious profits but also principal was part of a larger strategy of Picard to use a success in recovering more than fictitious profits from these highly visible and vulnerable victims as a segue and steppingstone to his attacks on JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and other institutions.

Mr. Toobin responded that he believed that Picard is treating the Wilpon/Katz Families quite unfairly and manifestly different from other individual investors with Madoff. He added that it is possible that Picard is using the case of the Wilpon/Katz Families to set a precedent of a recovery in excess of fictitious profits to use in cases of banks that have much more financial ability to oppose Picard for an extended period of time. Mr. Toobin added that, based on published information, it appeared that the banks should have known that Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme.

I extend my thanks to Mr. Toobin for his response.

[To be continued in Installment 54]