Bernie Madoff's Guilty Plea Isn't Good Enough
On Thursday, March 12, 2009, the CNBC financial news network had a clock ticking down to 10 o'clock -- the time of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff's guilty plea. For many of Madoff's victims, his guilty plea and the sound of the click of handcuffs around his wrist provided a sense of closure that was soothing. It gave them a small measure of justice to know that Bernie would spend the rest of his days in jail for defrauding them of his life savings.
Since I was not looking for revenge, I found his performance in court chilling. The banality of his appearance scares me. His smirk conjured up for me the lyrics of an Okkervil River song. "They're looking for evil, thinking they can trace it, but evil don't look like anything."
His uttering of the word guilty in a soft voice was as disturbing to me as the loud and clear "not guilty" verdict in the OJ Simpson murder case in a Los Angeles courtroom all those years ago. By refusing to admit guilt to conspiracy charges, Bernie was able to pull one over on the government as easily as he was able to defraud his well-heeled investors. Once again, a rich defendant (courtesy of all the money he stole) rode roughshod over prosecutors.
If he had pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charges, Madoff would have been admitting that someone had helped him commit the fraud. He has steadfastly refused to do that because he is trying to protect his family and associates.
The elocution of his plea raised more questions than it answered because it did not address the issues everybody wanted to know. Namely, who helped him carry out the fraud and where is all the money? There is no question that others are guilty in this fraud, either actively or through deliberate ignorance. I have seen several sets of statements of their accounts from Madoff victims. Bernie would not have been able to prepare the multi-page statements without assistance from at least one other person -- and maybe more. There are already reports that longtime Madoff employee, Annette Borgiorno, had workers look up stock prices and write up fake tickets.
I suspect that Madoff and his wife Ruth are the aristocratic version of Bonnie and Clyde. Together, they stole from unsuspecting investors. The couple did not need shotguns because their smile and charm were more potent.