Monday, December 20, 2010

799 Honor Among Thieves. Sort of.

799 Honor Among Thieves. Sort of.

Until the other day, if you heard the name Jeffry Picower, you'd probably ask "Jeffry Who?" Now, he's a famous dead guy, and maybe a hero from beyond the grave. Picower was an accountant and investor and filthy rich. And he made a lot of that filth by investing with Bernie "we Madoff with your money." Over the years, Jeff took out seven billion dollars more than he put in. Invested with Bern-bag for 35 years before dying in '09.

The real hero in this story, of course, is not the dead guy, but his widow, Barbara. What she did was send her lawyer to the U.S. Attorney in charge of the Madoff case and the trustee in charge of trying to find funds to repay the Bernie Bilked 'em Club. Once he had their attention, the lawyer said something like "okay, guys, Mrs. Picower wants to give everything back except the money they put in." This doesn't happen a lot. And there was a lot of fluttering and fussing and asking of questions like "how's she going to do that?" And the lawyer said something along the lines of "which would you rather, a check or cash?"

This will go a long way to reimbursing the victims of the Mad Madoff.

Sounds like a wonderful act of compassion by someone in a position to perform a seven billion dollar wonderful act of compassion. A woman of conscience, without a doubt. A woman who knows right from wrong. Her late husband? Maybe another story. He was known well for philanthropy. He was a CPA also well known for... um ... artful accounting. He also was well known by various prosecutors. Conflict of interest, creation of shadow companies. He found or created "tax shelters" that won the attention of every agency in charge of taxation, plus the SEC. He turned at least one of the charities he founded into a for-profit corporation, once his scientists found some new ways to help deal with some old diseases.

Mrs. P is standing by her man. She says in her statement that she's sure her husband "knew nothing" of The Sins of the Made-Off.
But, she said "returning the windfall is the right thing to do." Someone without this extraordinary sense of ethics might have said "My Jeffry started off so poor, he had to sell the "e" in his name to feed his family." She didn't say that or anything like it.

But... note to Trustee Irving Piccard and to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: take the cash, not the check.


--Lovely house we have. Builder spared no expense. Unfortunately, most of the expenses he didn't spare have turned out to be ours.

--Note to readers: This is the penultimate new Wessay™ of 2010. Wednesday 12/22, you'll find the Annual WestraDamus postdictions in this space. Friday, we will start reprising some older items and continue that for at least a week -- maybe two.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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