The Madoff Profit Game: Will the Mets End up Losers Off the Field While Charity Stakeholders Become Winners? – Installment 17

October 26, 2009Articles White Collar Defense & Compliance Blog

This is the seventeenth in a series of installments on this blog that are discussing some of the issues arising in the aftermath of the long global Ponzi scheme of Bernard L. Madoff (“Madoff”). Installments 3 through 8, Installment 10 and Installments 14 through 16 of this series focused on the specific concerns of charities that were victims of Madoff and similar schemes. All potential stakeholders should consult professional advisors to have their positions evaluated.

On October 21, 2009, an article in The New York Times by Ken Belson and Richard Sandomir disclosed that a Madoff bankruptcy proceeding report had contradicted earlier information about large losses with Madoff purportedly suffered by the New York Mets and their owners, the Wilpon family. The article states that the report shows that

Mets LP, one of the team’s financial arms, withdrew $570.5 million from two accounts it held with Madoff’s company, $47.8 million more than it put in. The accounts were part of a list of more than 30 in which more money was withdrawn than was deposited with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. As a result, Mets LP and the others were deemed “net winners” ineligible for compensation and potentially liable to being sued by Irving H. Picard, the court-appointed liquidator who is trying to recover money lost in Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme. A spokesman for Picard declined to comment.

Thus the Mets and the Wilpon family may become the subject of “clawback” by Mr. Picard and end up losers, especially if they have paid now-unrecoverable federal and state income taxes on the illusory Madoff “gains.” This situation can be contrasted to the position stated by Picard with respect to seeking recovery from charities. As reported in Installment 16 of this blog series, Diana B. Henriques wrote on May 28, 2009 in The New York Times that “[t]here is the widespread fear among some — unfounded, Mr. [Irving] Picard [the trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy proceeding] says — that he will sue struggling charities or people of limited means for money they withdrew in the past but no longer have.”

Installment 14 of this blog series discussed reports of large profits by Hadassah from its investments with Madoff. Will Picard choose to pursue the Mets and the Wilpon family while passing on Hadassah? All charities, especially those providing social services like Hadassah, are “struggling” with materially reduced contributions because of the economy, increased demands by individuals who are unemployed and suffering financially, losses in endowment funds from the substantial market declines and increased regulatory activity.

While the position earlier stated by Picard as to charities may be humanitarian and emotionally appealing, there is little basis in the law for the disparity in treatment between charities and for-profit entities. This inequality of approach will more likely than not lead to protracted litigation and uncertainty in the Madoff matter.

[To be continued in Installment 18]