Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bernie's Big Adventure

Tomorrow’s the big day for swindler Bernie Madoff, the man who apparently ran the largest Ponzi Scheme in history. He’s expected in court in New York, and he’s expected to plead guilty. Most credible estimates put the total of his swindling in the neighborhood of 50 billion dollars, and his victims number over 14 thousand.

There’s an old saw that says if a thing seems to good to be true, it probably is. My sympathy is somewhat attenuated for the “victims”, in this day and age of derivatives, credit default swaps, mortgage-backed securities, and scams of every kind and nature coming to light. It’s easy to say the victims were greedy and reckless. But Madoff’s scheme was extremely sophisticated, like any really good con.

One thing I’ll be watching closely is how they treat his wife, Ruth, who was apparently in on the scam from day one. She called herself a mere “bookkeeper” for Bernie, and she’s trying to get the court to set aside about 70 million dollars for her to keep, including the posh Manhattan penthouse. Records, such as they are in this case, seem to indicate she also managed to squirrel away about 15 million bucks in the hours just before the law swooped down on Bernie.

How should such a scamster be punished? Immediate incarceration seems prudent. Forcing him to tell all he knows about other big-time financial scamsters seems obvious. He’s 70, so a 30-year prison term doesn’t seem excessive. He faces over a hundred years in prison. I say let’s show mercy… let him out when he’s 100.

Perhaps a mention of Chinese justice is in order, since they seem to pretty much own us now. Remember the Chinese tainted milk scandal last year? A small group of business people added melamine to milk to boost the protein count. 300 thousand people got sick. Six infants died, 13-hundred were hospitalized with kidney problems. The Chinese government investigated and determined six people were at the center of the scam. Their assets were seized and their businesses shut down. Three were given long prison terms. One was given life in prison. The two at the core were convicted and executed.

Let’s see how much of Bernie’s ill-gotten fortune he and his wife get to keep.

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