Madoff sentenced to 150 years
Atlanta Business Chronicle
Bernard Madoff, the confessed mastermind behind the largest Ponzi scheme in history, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
A U.S. District Court judge in New York sentenced Madoff to 150 years in prison, which was the maximum allowable sentence under the law.
Judge Denny Chin made his decision Monday morning after reviewing letters from many of Madoff's victims and hearing testimony from them in court.
According to reports filed by journalists in the courtroom, Madoff made a statement prior to the announcement of the sentence in which he said in part to his victims: "I cannot offer you an excuse for my behavior. I know this will not help. I'm sorry."
Madoff's attorney had asked Chin for a far more lenient sentence of 12 years.
Madoff plead guilty to 11 criminal counts, including securities fraud and money laundering, on March 12. His victims reportedly number more than 1,300 and stretch across the globe. Their losses are estimated at more than $13 billion.
June 19, 2009 Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford has surrendered to the US authorities after a warrant was issued for his arrest on criminal charges.
The 58-year-old already faces civil charges brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over an alleged fraud worth $8bn (£6bn).
Sir Allen turned himself in to the FBI in Virginia and is expected to appear in a Richmond federal court on Friday.
It was not immediately clear what criminal charges Sir Allen faces.
Dick DeGuerin, Sir Allen's lawyer, told The Associated Press he had surrendered "to some FBI agents who were hiding out in black SUVs outside the residence where he was staying in Virginia".
"He walked out and asked if they had a warrant," Mr DeGuerin said.
He said Stanford told the agents to arrest him if they had a warrant, but if they did not have a warrant, he would go back to Houston to turn himself in.
In February, the SEC, the US financial watchdog, described the alleged fraud at Stanford Financial group as a "fraud of shocking magnitude".
The cricket impresario is accused by the SEC of luring investors with promises of improbable and unsubstantiated high returns on certificates of deposit and other investments - what is known as a Ponzi scheme.
The billionaire financer has refused to talk to US regulators investigating his alleged fraud, and court documents show that Sir Allen pleaded the Fifth Amendment - the right to withhold potentially self-incriminating evidence.
In an interview with ABC earlier this year he insisted no money was lost by customers dealing with his financial services companies.
"If it was a Ponzi scheme, why are they finding billions and billions of dollars all over the place?" he said at the time.
1. bill said:
Let's keep in mind that Madoff was in business for 40 years, giving people higher-than-normal returns.
Most of these people made more money than they invested with him.
He was so highly respected, that he was made chairman of THE NASDAQ STOCK EXCHANGE.
His empire collapsed only when the U.S. Government destroyed the real estate market by forcing banks to make bad loans to people who could never afford to pay.
That same government runs the biggest Ponzi scheme in the world, the "Social Security" System.
Yes, the Jew will be thrust in front of the public, to be tarred and feathered, while the real crooks--the Clinton people who manipulated the real estate market, and the Congressmen who twisted the arms of the bankers, sneak away, laughing all the way to the (Swiss) bank.
By Bill Bonner, the Daily Reckoning newsletter:
The Extraordinary Evil of Bernie Madoff
by Bill Bonner
Let the punishment fit the crime!
Poor Bernie. The man has been ordered to spend 150 years in the hoosegow. What for? Who did he kill? A century and a half seems a little excessive for a financial crime. You could hold up three liquor stores and rape a whole convent and still not get 150 years. With a little bit of good lawyer-ing, a history of child abuse in the family, and good behavior in the big house, you'd be back on the street in 18 months.
But all the papers seem delighted. "Locked up for Life!" says one of today's headlines. The judge "threw the book at him," says another. His victims wanted him to get no mercy. The judge gave him none, imposing the maximum sentence. He is "extraordinarily evil," said the man on the bench.
Justice has been done. Right?
Here in the building with the gold balls on the roof, we're not so sure. We stand up for lost causes...die hards...and scalawags. Besides, we're not convinced that Bernie is extraordinarily evil at all. He seems much more like an ordinary evil to us.
They say he defrauded investors out of $65 billion. The amount is unusual, but the crime is as common as income tax evasion. Who gets 150 years for evading income taxes? Heck, in civilized countries it's not a crime at all - but a civil misdemeanor, subject to fine and retribution, not punishment.
But didn't he lie to investors? Well, yes...he exaggerated the returns investors were likely to get from his fund. But if you put every fellow on Wall Street who does that in jail, you wouldn't have any room for stick-up men and wife beaters.
Isn't he the biggest financial scammer of all time? Well...he's the title-holder now. But he has a lot of competition close on his heels. Bernie's crime was taking money from people under false pretenses...and then being unable to give it back to them. How is that different from the financing activities of the US government?
This year alone, the feds will borrow 50 times as much money as Bernie managed to take in during his whole 20-year career. They can only pay it back by borrowing even more money from more lenders. This is not very different from the typical "Ponzi" scheme, except that it's the government doing it. Eventually, the suckers are going to lose a lot of money.
And when you balance Bernie's sins against his virtues, we're not sure the man doesn't come out at least as well as many of his accusers. While Bernie was pretending to make his investors rich, the SEC was pretending to protect them from Bernie. In fact, neither were really doing what they claimed. Which is to say, both are guilty of ordinary evil.
As we pointed out yesterday, nothing is as dangerous as good luck. Madoff was not extraordinarily evil; he was just extraordinarily lucky. He was plying his trade when the feds were pumping up the biggest financial bubble in history. No wonder so much hot gas came his way. His luck ran out when the bubble popped. And now a court has found him guilty of fraud and a judge has ordered him locked up for a period equal to roughly the time between the end of the US War Between the States and the resignation of Richard Nixon.
While Bernie is behind bars, the SEC and FED officials are still at large. Both are clearly guilty of dereliction and negligence.
But, what is the point of keeping Madoff in prison? He represents no threat. Rather than pay $30,000 per year to keep him locked up, we suggest that he be forced to do community service work. He should be pressed into service as the next head of the Federal Reserve after Ben Bernanke's term expires in December. With Madoff in the big office, there would be no longer any illusions about what sort of bank the Fed is running.
A contrarian view:
Free Bernie Madoff
Bernie Madoff stole billions from the customers of his phony investment funds, running a racket rather than a financial service. People who aren't even his victims are furious, and nearly everyone enjoyed a 10-minute sense of vengeance when the judge threw him behind bars for 150 years.
Let me weigh in with a contrary view. Free Bernie Madoff, I say.
His life is already ruined. He is a pauper. He will never again do business.
From the innovative genius whose information technology in the 1960s became the basis of NASDAQ, he rose to the heights and fell to the depths where he will stay this way until death. He won't be able to be seen in public for the rest of his life without encountering scorn and derision from everyone around him.
Maybe the idea of jail is punishment. I don't see how it can be a worse punishment than he would face on the outside.
Maybe the idea is to impose on him a feeling of remorse. But does he not already feel regret, even deep sorrow? This man who was widely considered to be a historic phenom is now disgraced, forever. We all have one life to live, and his is now a complete wreck, going down in history as the worst financial criminal of all time.
What, then, precisely, is the point of jailing him? He is no direct threat to anyone. Society would not be safer because he is in the slammer. He is not going to rob people or beat people up.
He might write a book and donate the funds to charity or make some restitution to his victims. I, for one, would like to read that book.
Instead, taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab for his living expenses. Victims get nothing. That's not justice. That's inhumane for both sides of the transaction: Bernie and us.
Will jail "rehabilitate" him? It's ridiculous. His rehabilitation, if there can be one, is probably already complete. Consider the dilemma in which he found himself. It began small, a simple scheme that anyone can play. His problem was that it worked better than most.
Once his scam began, he probably hoped the markets would turn around and he would become honest again. It didn't turn out that way. Then he couldn't dig his way out of it, no matter how much he hated his life. That it lasted decades instead of days is a testament to his marketing savvy, but that's not to say that he loved his life. Spending the rest of his life in the pokey won't rehabilitate him any more intensely than life on the outside.
The problem with prisoners is not that you are treated like an animal. Would that they had it so good! At the zoo, the animals are fed and groomed and cared for. They have value because they elicit affection from paying customers. Even slaves are in a better position, for at least they are valued to some small degree by their masters.
Prisoners, on the other hand, face a kind of metaphysical transformation. They go from being valued members of society to being treated like blobs of flesh taking up space. Their wardens see them as objects. They are abused by fellow inmates and live in a state of incredible degradation everyday.
All prisoners are therefore living amidst a kind of torture. It isn't modern. It isn't even medieval. It is contrary to all principles of civilization. Perhaps we should allow it for the most violent members of society, pending some other solution. But that doesn't apply to Madoff, and it doesn't apply to some ¾ of all the prison population.
But still, we are all supposed to feel some kind of joy at his captivity. For decades we've been told by sociologists that the real criminals in society are not muggers and murderers and rapists but rather "white-collars criminals" who are capitalists sneakily stealing money using fancy finance. They are the ones who should be in jail.
And so now, those educated by the sociologists, forever soft on real crime but oddly tough on financial crime, have their way, as the bourgeoisie cries out for vengeance against a guy whose sole victims were the rich people who were his own customers.
Can there be anyone doubt that Madoff has been set up as a scapegoat, a person on which to blame the downturn so that we will be distracted from the greatest scams of all that enjoy the cover of law?
So let us ask the unaskable: Just how unusually evil were Madoff's actions? Not that unusual. In fact, the whole notion of paying off past investors with the funds of present investors is at the very core of the Social Security system.
At least Madoff sought the consent of his investors who let him care for their money based on their own volition. And at least he didn't attempt to defend himself with the claim that he was conducting wise public policy.
Jeffrey Tucker is the editor of Mises.org.