A judge on Monday refused to dismiss the lawsuit against the Wilpons in the Madoff matter and ruled that they must pay back at least $83 million in fictitious profits. But most of any money collected will go to the attorney who has not let up in his pursuit of the Wilpons, the increasingly sleazy Irving Picard.
As we all know, Picard (left, looking like a typical ambulance-chaser) is seeking $386 million from the Wilpons after the judge shot down his quest for $1 billion. He claims they “knew or should have known” that Madoff was running a massive fraud. So the Wilpons were supposed to know what was going on while no one else knew, including the SEC which investigated Madoff and decided everything was all right? That argument is asinine, something U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff all-but acknowledged when he said he “remains skeptical that the Trustee can ultimately rebut the defendants’ showing of good faith, let alone impute bad faith to all the defendants.”
Today’s ruling seems fair — if indeed the Wilpons withdrew $83 million more than they put it, then they should have to pay that back. But that’s it. They thought they had $500 million in their accounts, and suddenly, it was gone. They were victims as well and should not have to pay a dime more than they took out.
The one person who is profiting from all of this is Picard. The Daily News points out he has thus far billed $273 million for his firm’s legal service. $273 million! Of course Picard and his crew deserve to be paid for what must be thousands of hours of tedious work, but $273 million and counting? That is a huge chunk of the money Picard will recover, which is supposed to go to Madoff’s victims, not him.
Several local Congress members have raised questions about Picard’s fees and tactics, and the Government Accountability Office said it will conduct a “comprehensive evaluation” of Picard’s work. That should be very interesting.
The trial is set to start March 19.