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June 16, 2009

Bernie Madoff's many victims vent in letters to sentencing judge

As detailed in this New York Times article, headlined "Fraud Victims Want Maximum for Madoff," some victim of Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme have had a chance to tell his sentencing judge what they think ought to happen to their least-favorite white-collar criminal.  Here are a few details:

They are widows, retired schoolteachers, electrical contractors and Korean War veterans. Most had a strong message for the judge in charge of sentencing Bernard L. Madoff: impose the maximum sentence allowable by law.

In more than 100 letters and e-mail messages to Judge Denny Chin, victims of Mr. Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme described how their lives had been forever changed by the actions of a man they had trusted.

The letters, sent to the Federal District Court in Manhattan and released to the public on Monday, come ahead of Mr. Madoff’s sentencing on June 29.  Eight of the victims, including one who has known Mr. Madoff personally for more than 20 years, asked Judge Chin for permission to speak at the sentencing.

More than two-thirds of the victims who wrote to the court were retirees or children of retirees who invested with Mr. Madoff more than a decade ago. Many said they had been forced to move in with relatives or look for jobs.  Several letters expressed dismay with the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to discover the fraud after being tipped off numerous times.

Many were brimming with anger directed at Mr. Madoff.  “Sentence this monster named Madoff to the most severe punishment within your abilities,” wrote Randy Baird, a California lawyer.  “We are too old to make up what we lost. We have to start over.”...

Some took issue with the portrayal of the fraud’s victims in the news media as being among the wealthy and privileged.  “Many Madoff victims are elderly individuals or retirees who were saving for the future and they had the misfortune to believe in a powerful Wall Street insider who was repeatedly investigated and given a clean bill of health,” wrote Emma De Vito, 81, a widow from Chalfont, Pa., who lost her entire life savings to Mr. Madoff.

June 16, 2009 at 02:55 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Where are all the conservatives shouting their mantra about personal responsibility now? Is Madoff a crook. Sure. But a fundamental principle of investing is diversity. When people have all their life saving with one man, that's asking for trouble as far a I can see.

Instead, you have SC who comes in shouting not 123D but 1D. Hypocrite.

I'm not suggesting that Madoff not go to jail. But this "evil" and "most hated man in the world" is just garbage. If people had practiced sound investing principles instead of getting carried away in a rampage in greed, he wouldn't have been able to do so much damage.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 16, 2009 3:03:15 PM

If the judge has any awareness of any, a mistrial must be declared, their being unauthenticated, unrebuttable ex parte communications. Perhaps, they are not hearsay by being excited utterances.

The reason for 1D is that the value of human life is $6 million. He used up his 123D in 1D.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 16, 2009 3:43:55 PM

Daniel --

It might also be "asking for trouble" to walk the streets in some parts of town late at night, but that in no way excuses or mitigates the wrongfulness of the fellow who belts you from behind with a tire iron to take your wallet. The requirement to live an honest and peaceable life is not abrogated in the slightest because some people are more trusting or foolish than prudence would dictate.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 16, 2009 3:57:09 PM

I never suggested that it mitigated the wrongfulness in anyway, Bill. At the same time, he deserves only what justice is due and not one iota more. The victim's lack of prudence does not fall onto him and any angst the victim feel reflects their own culpability and not Madoff's.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 16, 2009 5:20:54 PM

Daniel --

"I never suggested that it mitigated the wrongfulness in anyway, Bill."

Then we should have little disagreement, at least if you believe, as I do, that punishment should be pegged primarily to the wrongfulness of the act.

"At the same time, he deserves only what justice is due and not one iota more."

Hard to disagree with that. The rub is in figuring out what justice is due. There used to be a colleague of mine in the US Attorney's Office who would constantly say that Mr. X should "do the right thing," never being very specific about what "the right thing" was, what factors one ought to consider in deciding that question, or how much each factor weighed.

"The victim's lack of prudence does not fall onto him and any angst the victim feel reflects their own culpability and not Madoff's."

So far as I know, Madoff was a clever man who built up a reputation that lulled his clients into thinking that he was being straight with them. If that is true, if Madoff induced reliance, then he bears responsibility for that.

I guess I would be interested in knowing more specifically how you believe the victims' gullibility should affect Madoff's Guidelines calculations, should you care to say.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 16, 2009 6:35:31 PM

"I guess I would be interested in knowing more specifically how you believe the victims' gullibility should affect Madoff's Guidelines calculations, should you care to say."

I don't think it should affect his guidelines calculations either pro or con. That's my point. He's a crook, sentence him as a crook. Don't sentence him as an evil monster.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 16, 2009 7:06:54 PM

If victims want to express themselves, let them or their lawyers get a ruling to do so during the trial. Then let them get cross examined. After the trial, it is quite unfair and unethical for the judge to allow.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 17, 2009 7:25:16 AM

Victim impact is a Trojan Horse for lawyer rent seeking. Each victim will quickly get the right to have their own court appointed lawyer, at tax payer expense, since most crime victims are poor people who do not live in ritzy lawyer neighborhoods. [Disclosure: The Supremacy lives in a lawyer neighborhood, not being stupid.]

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 17, 2009 7:27:23 AM

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