Monday, January 26, 2009

Legal asymmetry --- Madoff and Dreier

Within a few weeks of each other, Bernard Madoff and Marc Dreier were arrested for financial fraud in Manhattan. Madoff, the investment manager, defrauded his investors of $50 billion through a Ponzi scheme over many years supported by falsified investment statements and backed by virtually no trading or retention of his clients' assets. In the last year Dreier, a New York securities lawyer, sold $400 million of completely fraudulent securities to former or current clients.

The legal result is this. Madoff is living in his penthouse, as he posted required bond of $10 million. Dreier is living in jail as he is unable to post required bond of $20 million. On the surface this does not make sense. Dig deeper and it makes less sense. Madoff stole 125 times the amount of money as Dreier. Madoff's obviously well thought through swindle apparently continued for decades while Dreier's scam over the last year seems to be the result of some sort of breakdown. If Dreier's bail formula, amount stolen relative to bail, were applied to Madoff, then Madoff's required bail should have been $2.5 billion. That's absurd I guess, but a way of underscoring the asymmetry here.

Having stolen $50 billion, of course Madoff can handle $10 million in bail money easily and hire a load of the best attorneys. Dreier, in the midst of a meltdown and not having stolen enough money, can't meet his bail.

This is no Free Marc Dreier commentary. It's a Hold Bernard Madoff Accountable one, meaning require appropriate bail or jail him. What's the moral here? If you steal, be sure you steal enough?


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