Now, compared to Tom Hicks’ current ordeal with the Rangers, the Mets’ situation doesn’t look all that bad. Except, there’s one biiig catch which suggests that this will all end in tears, which is briefly touched on at the end of the ESPN article above.
Picard, the liquidator appointed by the court, has filed lawsuits against some Madoff investors who profited from the Ponzi scheme, seeking to recover approximately $15 billion. The Mets Limited Partnership hasn’t been sued.
Bradley Simon, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved with the case, told Bloomberg that he expects Picard to try to recover the money from the Wilpons.
“It cannot be argued on Wilpon’s behalf that these were legitimate investment returns,” Simon told Bloomberg. “It would be a violation of his fiduciary duty for Picard to not seek the return of that money.”
Herein lies the rub. In previous ponzi schemes, trustees have gone after investors who withdrew their money previous to the fraud’s exposure, in an effort to even out the losses amongst all investors. The most well known example of this was fake-suicide-artist Sam Israel’s Bayou Management. In that case, the court trustee took back all monies withdrawn from the fund going back two years, combined that amount with money made through liquidation of the fund’s actual assets, and then paid all investors back proportionally.
This article on portfolio.com writes that “New York law only permits pursuing the return of assets — principal as well as profit — over the six years prior to the investment firm’s bankruptcy in December.” This entire phenomen is referred to as claw back, and I’m uncertain as to how long the lookback will be (though it’ll be somewhere between the Bayou-suggested 2 years, and the maximum of 6). However, it’s very likely that Sterling will end up trading the $570.6 million that they withdrew from Madoff for some appreciably smaller number. Given the size of the Madoff scheme (and the length of time it went on for) that number will probably be significantly lower than the 33% returned in the Bayou case.
For Mets’ fans hoping to see big name (and big money) acquisitions this offseason, to help make baseball’s second most expensive team competitive again, don’t hold your breath. For those of you hoping the Wilpons’ will have to sell (paving the way for someone not named Omar Minaya to take the reins), well, it may be a good year.
And for those of you wondering why on earth a Yankees’ blog is going into such detail regarding Bernie Madoff, the answer is simple:
It’s about the money, stupid.