Irving Picard, the trustee trying to get back some of the money Bernie Madoff stole, looks like he is willing to settle with the Wilpons. The man who at one point was suing the Mets owners for $1 billion now wants just the relative paltry sum of $83 million.
Newsday reported late Friday that Picard asked the judge to order the Wilpons to hand over the cash in lieu of a trial that is set to start in March. The figure represents the minimum the judge set last year, which Picard said is the “fictitious profit” the Wilpons got from Madoff in the two years prior to his scam collapsing.
The judge said Picard could get $295 million more if he was able to prove that the Wilpons knew Madoff was running a fraudulent operation. The New York Daily News reports that according to a Wilpon court filing, following the ruling Picard sent out teams of investigators to find proof that the Wilpons knew, but he couldn’t find anything. Hence the settlement offer.
There’s no word yet if the Wilpons will accept and close the door on this ugly chapter. They have also filed a $160 million claim saying they were “net losers” in the Madoff scam.
This lawsuit was dubious at the start. Picard’s contention that the Wilpons “knew or should have known” it was a scam was a bunch of nonsense. I always thought the fair thing would be for the Wilpons to pay back the net amount of money, if any, that they made with Madoff. That figure was reported at around $40 million, but if they now say they were net losers, then that’s another issue.
In any case, this can only be good news for Mets fans. Fred Wilpon is determined to hang onto the team, so the sooner this can be settled and the Mets can stabilize their finances, the better.
Well, I may have read the story wrong. It appears Picard is asking for the $83 million before the trial starts, not in lieu of it, and will still pursue the $295 million in court. The Newsday story could have been written clearer, but still, I apologize. Thanks to Michael Baron of Mets Blog for nicely pointing out my apparent error.
The Wilpons are still pushing for the case to be thrown out. I don’t think that will happen, but if the recent filing does indeed show no evidence that the Wilpons “knew or should have known” about the scam, I could see the judge tossing the $295 million part of the lawsuit, leading to an eventual settlement.
By the way, how many millions and millions of the trustees’ dollars has Picard wasted investigating his ridiculous line of thinking?Perhaps he needs to be tossed as well.