Monday, June 29, 2009

A few questions about Bernard Madoff

I just read the verdict of 150 years for Bernard Madoff and all I can really think is "Why is it that someone who set up a Ponzi scheme gets more jail time than the majority of murderers?" I realize that many people were involved and yes, I would be angry if someone cheated me out of my life's savings (though I would not give only one person all of my money to invest but that is beside the point). Is Madoff just a symbol of Wall Street greed, which in today's society is worse than murder to so many? Is it because the people feel they trusted him and were ripped off and therefore justify any horrible thing they can think of to happen to him? Can anyone explain to me how what Madoff did is worse than murder?

65 Comments:

Blogger JohnMcG said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:32 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger JohnMcG said...

First of all, many murders get life in prison, and some receive the death penalty, so it is not necessary for Madoff's crime to be "worse than murder" in order for him to receive the sentence he did.

That being said, I would think that someone who thinks Obama's policies spell doom for the economy would be able to see why this is a big deal. What Madoff did was undermine trust in the American financial system. One way people respond to that is to elect leaders who will impose severe restrictions on financiers, and in general look to the government to solve their problems rather than the market. For someone as opposed to Obama's policies as this blog's author, that could be seen as bad a development as a single murder.

I would think that severely punishing agents who so obviously betray the public trust would have to be part of a free-market program. Personal accountability and all that.

You can't have it both ways -- you can't complain about how bad it is for the government to get involved in finance, and at the same time weep when someone who abuses that trust is punished for it.

2:33 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger clintp said...

He's offended the rich and powerful on a personal level. That kind of offense must be punished with excessive vindictiveness as a lesson to us all.

It's not right, but that's how it is.

2:48 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Omnibus Driver said...

Let's not forget that at least two of his victims committed suicide when they learned they'd lost it all.

2:50 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Erik said...

Madoff made the mistake of stealing from the rich. After all, ponzi schemes aren't illegal per se, its just that one has to be an arm of the government to do it. Alternatively he could have gone into a business with either a government mandated monopoly (telecoms until recently) or an industry with government mandated customers (car insurance.) Madoff's problem is that he tried to go about getting his wealth the old-fashioned and "honest" way by personally scamming people. If he were smarter and less honest he would have used the force of Government to steal.

2:53 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Eric said...

You are absolutely right to raise the issue of such discrepancies in sentencing.

Last year, an Alabama man was convicted of "possessing dogs with the intent to train the animals for fighting" and received a sentence of 102 years in prison.

http://legacy.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/news/071115/dog.shtml

Now, I love my dogs as much as anyone, and I disapprove of dogfighting, but dogs are animals. Can anyone explain to me training dogs to fight is worse than murdering humans?

3:01 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger MikeT said...

At some point, if you screw over a sufficient number of people, out of a sufficient amount of their income, you become worthy of even capital punishment. If Madoff had destroyed the life savings of a few thousand elderly people with severe medical problems, then the amount of damage he would have done would have been at least proportionally bad in the suffering it inflicted, as a murderer.

3:06 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger JohnMcG said...

How does the apparent parity between the sentencing of Madoff (or dog catchers) and the sentencing of murderers compare to the parity in prices or compensation that the market arrives at?

e.g. Tom Hanks was $50 million paid for Angels and Demons. Could someone explain to me how Tom Hanks making Dan Brown's dialogue believable is more valuable than a doctor or a teacher?

Yes, it's a stupid question. But so was Dr. Helen's.

3:25 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Jason said...

Time is money. Money is time. When you steal money, you're stealing the time and effort it took your victim to earn that money. It is a form of enslavement. Bernie Madoff enslaved thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people for his own profit and pleasure.

Rather than asking why Madoff gets such a harsh sentence, ask yourself why we let so many other frauds get away with it, just because they used a fountain pen to steal the lives of their victims instead of a gun.

3:29 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger quadrupole said...

I agree with Jason.

When you murder someone, you take away what is left of their life.

When you rob someone, you steal the portion of their life they spent to acquire what you stole.

What Madoff did was effectively equivalent to murdering thousands of people.

3:44 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Jack said...

The scale of the damage he did is enormous. There are charities that were shut down over night.

Institutions of learning that laid off chunks of people because they had no choice.

It wasn't just the wealthy who were hurt here, it hit multiple levels.

Should murderers be punished severely? Absolutely. But I wouldn't hesitate to say that this man was the architect of enormous destruction that will take years to undo.

4:29 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Jack said...

The scale of the damage he did is enormous. There are charities that were shut down over night.

Institutions of learning that laid off chunks of people because they had no choice.

It wasn't just the wealthy who were hurt here, it hit multiple levels.

Should murderers be punished severely? Absolutely. But I wouldn't hesitate to say that this man was the architect of enormous destruction that will take years to undo.

4:29 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger I R A Darth Aggie said...

You can't have it both ways -- you can't complain about how bad it is for the government to get involved in finance, and at the same time weep when someone who abuses that trust is punished for it.

Ah, but is 150 years a just sentence? I'm thinking "no", but that's me.

Of course, that ignores the greedy marks who got fleeced. Yes, they got taken to the cleaners, but they sure did want that promised return on investment. That's why it is hard to cheat the honest person: their greed does not get the better of them and they do not fall prey to the con.

4:42 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Jack said...

Of course, that ignores the greedy marks who got fleeced

How do you know that they were greedy?

4:49 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger vivictius said...

His promised returns where massively out of line with anyone else. Anyone who wasn’t blinded with greed would see that as a massive red flag and look into his operation. At which point they would be told it was all "secret". Anyone who knowingly put their money with him was a fool.

He was not a representative of the regulators or government so there was no implied public trust for him to betray. The government regulators failed in their duty to oversee his activity and the cause of their failure should be investigated.

This, of course, will not happen as their are far greater crimes being committed by the Fed and Treasury right now.

5:01 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

"Can anyone explain to me how what Madoff did is worse than murder?"

It's not. But then, most murderers don't collude with the federal regulatory bureaucracy. Most murderers can't spill the beans on the corruption of high-ranking Treasury officials. And most murderers don't successfully steal from private persons and the Leviathan in Washington simultaneously.

Madoff is being silenced. There's no chance, at this point, that anything he has to say about his "public servant" collaborators will ever receive a hearing. He has nothing on his co-conspirators other than his own crimes, so they didn't have to bribe him; they could merely lock him away for life, under the strictest possible regime.

And with all that, I'll bet his collaborators are still jumpier than the mouse at the cat show. If I were Bernard Madoff, I'd be very careful going through doors and such for the next 150 years.

5:19 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

Jason sez: "Time is money. Money is time. When you steal money, you're stealing the time and effort it took your victim to earn that money. It is a form of enslavement. Bernie Madoff enslaved thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people for his own profit and pleasure."

----

Well, don't get too over-dramatic. Most of the people who EARNED the money that was invested with him were either long since dead (since there were lots of heirs) or the ultimate earner didn't expect to get the money back (because Madoff, especially at the end, had a lot of charities, and the ultimate earner going back in the chain had donated the money to the charity).

It's amazing that people on this board can't see, or refuse to see, the difference between people with lots of money and people who produce something for society. Sometimes they coincide, sometimes (mostly) they don't.

As a side note, Bernie's wife is STILL far richer than YOU ("you" being the generic reader), and she didn't do jack shit for her money. And she has more than the $2.5 million the Feds let her keep, trust me.

5:50 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

Keep in mind that billions and billions of dollars are "missing" and unaccounted for.

Also keep in mind that the wife withdrew over $15 million from the bank the day BEFORE Bernie supposedly told his sons the truth (and supposedly his wife along with it).

She's rolling in money, he'll be in jail for the rest of his life. Sounds like a pretty good deal.

5:55 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

Very interesting question, and one that will probably be discussed for years. Here are my two cents:

Although it now appears that Madoff only stole $13 billion from investors, he also created the illusion that those investors had assets of over $60 billion. Based upon reliance upon the information in his investor “statements”, all sorts of commitments were made throughout the economy based upon what people thought they had. Loans were no doubt made to Madoff account holders by banks and other providers of capital based on those statements; contracts were made throughout the economy based upon Madoff investors’ fictitious financial strength.

Just as a relatively small action by a central bank, such as our Federal Reserve, can cause massive economic effects (so-called multiplier effects) throughout the economy, so can the injection of false capital (essentially counterfeit money), through fictitious account statements. The overall toll of Madoff’s actions on the economy is not the just $13 billion, or even $60 billion – it is probably 10 times that. His actions have therefore contributed in no insignificant way to the financial mess we are now in, and have played a part in undermining our economic foundations.

The strong sentence is not punishment for the pain he caused to his investors, but for the pain he has caused the entire country. He basically committed treason.

If you look at the history of war, you will see constant attempts by the warring countries to counterfeit each other’s currencies and financial instruments. They do this because it is an incredibly powerful weapon.

Of course I have to say shame on the Government for letting the situation go so far before discovering it; but having discovered it, to do anything other than make the strongest possible example out of Madoff would be irresponsible.

5:59 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger By The Sword said...

It's simple really, Madoff messed with the wrong people. Expect prison justice.

6:05 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

I wonder what sentence Mary Winkler would get if she defrauded people out of money?

6:16 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Roman said...

This is not a stupid question. Mr Madoff compounded his offense by not getting caught much sooner by the government regulators. There is not much said in the dinosaur media of this but I believe the Feds are, and should be, embarrassed that he was able to get away with so much for so long.

6:19 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

Mr. Madoff stole from the rich, the connected, the popular, and those of light complexion. This is a bit different from murdering a poor black man. Regardless of what they teach you in high school, justice is not blind nor is it fair.

7:47 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

I know my above post is a little theoretical and assumes a bit of knowledge of central banking. If you have a chance and live near a Federal Reserve branch, go take a tour and have a look at the enormous effort which goes into identifying counterfeiters. If that isn't interesting to you, maybe you will still be impressed by the plexiglas cubes on castor wheels, each filled with millions of dollars in cash, just sitting around in the halls on the vault level.

To put it simply, every one of us, rich or poor, is significantly less financially secure because of what he did; with the exception (temporarily, as described below) of those who received direct payments, known fraudulent investment returns, or "commissions" from the scam.

Those who unfairly profited by being involved in any way will soon be receiving Federal subpeonas, which will make them wish they never heard the word "Madoff".

8:38 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Madoff stole from many on the Left, and that certainly did not help his cause any at all. He he had been careful to rob only Republicans, we might expect a presidential pardon for him, but not with what he did. No, he took from too many in the very Liberal Left, and it hit them right in the pocket book, and unforgivable sin!

8:43 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger J.R. said...

Dr Helen...I live and work in Maryville. I'm a full time single dad to my daughter who is eight. BTW, I have a small blog at singleparent8000.blogspot.com

I am headed back to school for my Masters in Mental Health Couseling with my specialization in Forensics...starting in the fall. I was wondering if you had a forum where I could ask a question or two....thanks:)

Ross Fischesser

10:13 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

The real bafflement is how Madoff got away with a plea bargain that required him to cough up no information.

But now that we're down this path, why does someone charged with possession get more time than a rapist? Why is there even a charge of solicitation?

10:27 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Crimso said...

Considering that the Federal Govt. perpetrates the largest Ponzi in history, can we send them all away for life? And very few of us have any choice whatsoever in whether we participate. Madoff's marks did so willingly. The rest of us do so under threat of imprisonment.

10:31 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Major-General said...

Well JohnMcG, if you turn to our friend Economics, you will find an answer with supply and demand.

How many people have the talent and experience of Tom Hanks to make a $50 million investment worthwhile? Perhaps a few hundred? Maybe a few thousand?

How many teachers are there in the US? Around 3 million. How many people could be trained to be as good an actor as Tom Hanks? Perhaps a couple of hundred thousand. How many people could be trained as a teacher? Pretty much anyone with a 1000 or higher SAT, so let's say 100 million.

Supply and demand.

11:33 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger JohnMcG said...

How many people do as much damage as Bernie Madoff?

--

"Supply and demand" is fine, but you have to admit that in this case it yields a result that is less than just. And you're apparently fine with it, as long it's not the government that's doing it.

11:42 PM, June 29, 2009  
Blogger Micha Elyi said...

"The strong sentence is not punishment for the pain he [Bernard Madoff] caused to his investors, but for the pain he has caused the entire country. "
--tomcal 5:59 PM, June 29, 2009

This principle that punishment for a crime should also expand as the harm to the wider community done by the criminal act(s) expands suggests that convicted vandals, taggers, etc. should face much tougher sentences than they presently do. They too do widespread damage to the quality of life within and perception of security in the communities in which they commit their crimes.

4:16 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Micha Elyi said...

"'Supply and demand' is fine, but you have to admit that in this case it yields a result that is less than just. And you're apparently fine with it, as long it's not the government that's doing it."
--JohnMcG 11:42 PM, June 29, 2009

Exactly what do you mean when you say "just" and why do you assume that there could be any government made up of the same human beings who buy tickets to Tom Hanks movies, choose school teaching as a career, etc. that has some extra-human competence to arrange a more just result?

The sum of peaceful, voluntary human actions that you call "supply and demand," JohnMcG, may not yield the most perfectly just result but, for any reasonable definition of "just," it does yield the most just results humanly possible more often than any other system yet devised.

This is why so many people of good will are "fine with it" while most greedy and envious people aren't.

4:30 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger fred said...

The assumption in the question is that there is a fairness in sentencing...this is not so in many cases.

BM got the book tossed at him and Obama noted that this would be a warning to those abusing the system. To badmouth Obama, as one comment did, is simply expressing anguish that Your Guy Lost...in fact BM did what he did under the GOP rule and it took place because both parties have over the years stripped away regulatory oversight.

BM got life; murderers get executed or life, so he got no more or less actually than killers do. Should he have less? You decide.

7:23 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

BM got caught for sure, but he got caught years after frustrated people who had an inkling that wrongdoing was occurring begged federal regulators and the judicial system to investigate. Instead, they did (we did) almost nothing. Shame on BM for thievery, but maybe we should be looking at ourselves as to why he got away with what he did for so long. Free markets are all well and good, but don't expect corporate American and bankers to police themselves.

7:57 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Wealth is health. A richer society spends more on health care, safety measures, better sanitation, better food, and so on. If you destroy wealth, you are killing people. Unlike murder, you can't identify the people you killed, but more people are dead regardless.

Madoff stole $50 billion. But he also did much to destroy trust in the financial system, making it harder for factories, new business and so forth to get financing. That destroys wealth and indirectly kills.

A friend likes to hypothesize that England had its industrial revolution first (and the start of the phenomenal and unprecedented increase in living standards) because if you killed a man for sleeping with your wife, you maybe were executed, but if you stole a cow, you were drawn and quartered (tortured to death). They took property rights seriously.

10:54 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger fred said...

One comment makes the interesting distinction between people who get money by producing something and those who don't--hedge fund types etc. But would the same commenter propose no inherited wealth because the heir did not produce the things that begot the wealth?

11:24 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger ThreeDimen said...

He's serving several people's sentences. I don't buy for one second that his sons are innocent. This plea bargain kept them out of jail -- hence the long sentence.

11:31 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

Yes, Fred, I even proposed that here. No one here likes the idea, so I just shut up.

[Aside: if you're going to tax someone, don't tax a person who contributes to society (income tax), tax people who get their money without contributing (like Heather Mills). It's just the opposite today, and everyone on this board is peachy with that]

But just to be clear about this one issue: Here, specifically, it's not about who earned it or who deserves it or anything else EXCEPT for the fact that a poster or posters above me made the assumption that all people with money are people who produce something for society (for instance the post about "time is money").

I just pointed out that it's not the case. In fact, most rich people did not do anything to earn that money (start with spouses of rich people - you're already at half).

Although that statement is absolutely true, it is ignored each time I say it, and posters continue to equate being rich with doing something productive for society.

That's simply sloppy thinking. That's living in your preconceived ideas without taking reality into account. But there you go.

11:34 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

And I'm kind of surprised, because aside from several arrogant wind-bags (who I expect sloppy thinking from), there seems to be some insightful people here.

11:36 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

Clearly he had help,there is no way he could have handled all of the paperwork, balancing of fictitious activity against actual market prices, etc. But so far has revealed no details.

It will be interesting to see how they handle him in prison. I imagine the plan is to make him as miserable as possible and offer the possibility of more creature comforts as he beins to sing.

11:41 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Obviously, money is more valuable than life. That's the story of this fiasco.

Do I think 150 years for what is basically fraud is excessive? Yeah. No one could live that long, certainly not in prison. If you want to sentence someone to life, just sentence him to life. There's no reason or sense to sentencing him to a term that exceeds his life. It's ridiculous, but you know close enough for government work.

Personally, I'd prefer to see him impoverished. Just seize all of his assets and money, then throw him out on the streets to beg for dimes to buy Top Rammen noodles.

It's a far worse fate for a confidence man than getting food, shelter, clothing, and medical care from the taxpayers.

11:47 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Shanna said...

I don't mind this so much because Madoff harmed others. What I care about are drug convictions that results in longer sentences than murder/rape/theft. I think in general any crime that hurts someone else should be punished higher than a crime that doesn't. Period.

11:57 AM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger kinbote said...

As far as Madoff's rate of return, many of his ordinary investors got 8-10% or so a year. True, few if any honest investments give positive returns every year, but we've all heard the old maxim that US equities have historically returned an average of 9% a year-- which is about what these ordinary Madoff investors "earned." It wasn't so unbelievable, and it wasn't so greedy of them.

Those associates and "feeders" who got staggering returns in the double or triple digits were clearly in on the scam, and I hope they're caught and punished as well.

12:06 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Keith said...

Dante passed the same sentence reckoning fraud as a crime of the mind being more evil that physical crimes or crimes of passion.

12:21 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Patrick said...

The question is not why Madoff got such a long sentence, but why murderers don't get even longer sentences. I am personally delighted Madoff got such a long sentence, and Dr. Helen's post suggests "come on, what he did wasn't that bad!" - give me a break! I suspect from the way they write about it, certain hard line conservative Wall Street apologists kind of think what Bernie Madoff did was kind of clever, and there is a hint of admiration. He didn't merely set up "a ponzi scheme," (Dr. Helen's use of the simple article implies we are all overreacting) - he set up the largest, most hurtful Ponzi scheme in the history of the world. Sorry, that is evil. Tolerance of the degree of dishonesty that Madoff perpetrated would be deeply cynical and would incrementally degrade the morality of our whole society.

12:30 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Nan said...

I've been asking the same question since this story broke. I mean, yes, he's a really bad guy. Really bad. But c'mon... there are child rapists and murderers who get slaps on the hand compared to this. Some of his victims have said some pretty vituperative things about how they would like to see him spending eternity. It just doesn't seem to match up to the rather posh arrangements often given to convicted rapists and murderers. It's just a messed up world.

1:07 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Amos said...

I'm sympathetic to the money=time equation, but really, how far are you going to take it?

People who do stupid things in traffic that cause accidents and congestion also "steal" hours of thousands - indeed tens of thousands - of people's lives. Do we get to add those up and start taking fingers? Of course not.

In a way, I might be happier. People who don't figure out what they want to eat until they get to the counter are worthy of imprisonment or death in my ideal world. But, hey, not all ideals should be implemented in society.

And Patrick, you're wrong, alas. FDR set up the largest, most hurtful Ponzi scheme in the history of the world; Madoff's isn't even a rounding error in comparison to what Congress persists in doing every single year.

1:49 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Amos said...

I'm sympathetic to the money=time equation, but really, how far are you going to take it?

People who do stupid things in traffic that cause accidents and congestion also "steal" hours of thousands - indeed tens of thousands - of people's lives. Do we get to add those up and start taking fingers? Of course not.

In a way, I might be happier. People who don't figure out what they want to eat until they get to the counter are worthy of imprisonment or death in my ideal world. But, hey, not all ideals should be implemented in society.

And Patrick, you're wrong, alas. FDR set up the largest, most hurtful Ponzi scheme in the history of the world; Madoff's isn't even a rounding error in comparison to what Congress persists in doing every single year.

1:49 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

I know exactly how I want Bernie Madoff to spend the rest of his life. He's received a sentence of 150 years, so hopefully he will be going to a medium security prison, which is fine with me. The down side is that it will be a federal prison but I can swallow that, a state pen would be better. Then I would like to see Mr. Madoff spend the rest of his life sharing a cell with a drug dealer or someone convicted of a violent crime. Ideally his cell mate should be black, uneducated and poor. I am hoping all his blockmates are black, uneducated and poor.

Then I would like to see Mr. Madoff get to work in the prison kitchen or laundry. I would like to see him be able to visit with friends and family for 2 hours every month. I would like to see him be able to consult with the other inmates on their legal matters of which Mr. Madoff may be a help to them with reading and interpreting paperwork. I would like to see Mr. Madoff be able to take a lukewarm shower for 15 minutes every other day.

Unlike every single other person on the planet, I think Mr. Madoff is going to get exactly what I want to see come to him. He'll be just fine and maybe he will be able to have a long honest talk with God when his time comes.

2:05 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Jason said...

We might not start taking fingers, but we don't take fingers for other crimes either. There's no reason we couldn't treat traffic infractions with far greater seriousness, and in my opinion, we could and should. There is precedent. In Scandinavian countries traffic tickets are sometimes levied as a percentage of income, leading to one famous case in which 15km over the limit drew a $103,000 ticket.

Just as a close examination of one's expenses often leads to a rearranging of priorities, a close examination of where the largest costs to society are being incurred naturally leads to a reassessment of our law enforcement efforts and punishments.

In too many cases our justice system is penny wise and pound foolish, handing down heavy sentences for relatively minor offenses and light ones for crimes that affect thousands or millions of lives.

I'm just surprised at the number of people who are shocked on the rare occasion - like this one - that we get it right.

2:15 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Steven Knoerr said...

In the U.S., we have a judicial system that allows incarceration for such various crimes as theft, rape, and murder. On the face of it, a murder is certainly worse than a rape, and rape worse than theft.

We also have a system that requires maximum sentences for crimes. So, a jealous husband murders his wife: let's give it 20 years. A man steals from his neighbor: 2 years. But then we learn he stole from his other neighbor: 2 years. And another. And another. Suddenly the thefts have added up to much more than the murder. If the judge chooses consecutive sentencing, then we have a thief in jail for the rest of his life, while, the murderer gets off after 7 years with good behavior. It's process.

Bernie Madoff isn't in there for 150 years because he's stolen from rich people, or because money is worth more than human lives. It's because a lot of small (well, in his case, pretty large) criminal acts add up in a big way.

I believe parole boards are supposed to take these things into account when considering criminals for release.

3:03 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger George Weiss said...

economists routinly give a value to human life as a dollar figure (either by estimating future earning potential after tax or by adding what people are willing to pay in money and time for safty features like seat belts and smoke detectors)

i think the EPA's current estimate is about 5-6 million for the avrage life (higher than most agencies) its a figure they use in economic analisis of the benfits and costs of certian regulaitons and where to set them.

but even using the 6 million figure...if you steal 50 billion thats equivlent to killing about 833 people.

so from that perpective id say 150 years is too leaniant...expet that is the statutory maximum for his charged offeses aggragated and served consecutively.

not that i agree entirely with this or the implications of it but i cnat help thinking this way.

3:34 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Jim Carroll, CRNA said...

The individual most commonly associated with the largest Ponzi scheme in history didn't go to jail at all, in fact, he has highways, schools and Federal buildings named after him.

I speak, of course, of FDR, the "father" of the Social Security system.

3:45 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger K said...

Hmm... I have come to realize that our justice system has very little to do with actual justice.

What if there were a way for him to actually do something productive to provide at least some restitution to those he cheated? And do they themselves bear any responsibilty?

"When we invest our money, do we ask ourselves whether the enterprise represents anything useful, or merely whether it is a safe thing that returns a good dividend?"

- Dorothy Sayers

5:56 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger ZZMike said...

I really don't understand your question. Madoff ruined the lives of many people. They entrusted him with their life savings (perhaps not the wisest choice on their part), and he gleefully stole it. And looked for more people to ruin.

I really believe he should be treated with the best life-extension drugs and treatments known to man, so that he can serve out the full 150 years.

6:26 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

He should at least be waterboarded until he discloses the names of his accomplices, as suggested by Larry Kudlow on his show last night.

6:52 PM, June 30, 2009  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

Just a few points, since you asked.

1. Since Madoff is an old man, there is really no difference between 10 years and 1000 years. Everything after 10 is just theater.

2. Just another reason why "victims impact statements" should not be allowed in court. What matters is the crime, not the impact and certainly not how the victim feels about being victimized.

3. Given the current political climate, was it even possible for Madoff to get a fair trial? Was he guilty of nothing more than being a bad investor?

4. The billions of dollars went somewhere. Where did they go? Madoff and his family could not have spent or hid it all. THe nature of Ponsi schemes is that early investors benefit from later investors. Who are the early investors? Why isn't anyone talking about getting the money back from them?

5. The government has impoverished many more people over a much larger amount of money and none of the government leaders will ever be brought to trial for it or be held personally responsible. Does anyone really know how many trillions of dollars are already obligated to social secutity and medicare but will never be paid?

3:58 PM, July 01, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

Professor:

From what I understand, could not have been a bad investor, because he never invested any of the money he received. He just took it, only setting enough aside for occasional redemptions. When the redemption requests became too large, he ran out of cash.

6:54 PM, July 01, 2009  
Blogger kermitt said...

One day for each victim?

10:16 PM, July 01, 2009  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Partial archetypes. Madoff is pure evil so that others may be pure good.

7:04 AM, July 02, 2009  
Blogger Mary said...

Let's just hope that the wife, the sons, and all the other "insiders" who benefitted from this decades-long evil plot are also brought to justice.

Plenty of jail space available for the criminals who kill lives and steal (over such a long period of time!!) with no sense of remorese or conscience.

Heck, even a murderer sometimes acts in impulse and regrets the act of killing. This man seems to have no conscience, and just because he didn't spill blood himself doesn't make him any less responsible for the actions his deeds caused.

I wonder what his victims would do to him, if he only received a typical white-collar slap on the wrist, and was out in 3 years to spend the millions you know they still have socked away.

8:33 AM, July 02, 2009  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Madoff did a remarkable amount of damage to a large number of people, pension funds and charities. Given that the damage cannot be undone in a meaningful way there is no punishment which fits the crime, whether it is ten years or 150 years.

But Madoff could not have succeeded without the failure of the SEC to investigate or the willingness of other Wall Street firms to stay away from him -- but not tell why to regulators. The real Madoff crime is not that he stole, it's that the system which is supposed to protect people failed.

Meanwhile, big banks and brokerages continue to screw the public within the rules. Why? Because if you have lots of PAC money you get to make the rules. Why we still have bank lobbyists in Washington remains a major mystery.

Peter G. Miller
OurBroker.com

9:49 AM, July 03, 2009  
Blogger DB said...

Is torture worse than murder? Is the torture of a single person worse than the torture of many? When there is a consensus here we will have a base to address the question: Can anyone explain to me how what Madoff did is worse than murder?

3:54 AM, July 04, 2009  
Blogger God Of Bacon said...

Human life is cheap.

The illusion of caring about victims of fraud is priceless.

9:50 PM, July 05, 2009  
Blogger Pat said...

There are some people who truly believe that there are people just waiting to get ripped off, as if it is the right of someone else - if they can.

That sleazy attitude arrived with the premise much like the one that claims it is women's fault if they are raped.

Any excuse will do, and the "suckers born every minute" premise doesn't help. It takes a truly immoral person to justify immorality in a way that allows him to sleep at night without being too concerned about it.

That may be the problem of religion; it is far too redemptive for the natural conscience that mankind would otherwise have.

Sadly, there is not much cure for these kinds of people, and they tend to operate like sexual predators where rehabilitation is unlikely to work, so convinced are they that it is there for the taking if one is cunning enough.

Integrity concepts never had it so bad.

11:34 PM, November 17, 2009  

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