Bernie Madoff will take his 150 years, and like it

Bernard Madoff has decided that he will not appeal the 150-year prison sentence he received for orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme, according to his lawyer Ira Lee Sorkin. The decision was reached Monday when Sorkin and Madoff met, and although the Ponzi operator may have a "strong legal argument" because the maximum 150-year penalty may have been symbolic, Madoff will take his medicine.

As Sorkin said, even if the court said that 150 years was excessive and lowered the terms to 40 years, "what's the point? He undertands his future. He is not going to walk out of prison at age 106." Sorkin believes that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals would find a stiff penalty "well within reason for Madoff," suggesting that 30 to 40 years would not "be ridiculous." (Sorkin came to this number by comparing Madoff's crimes with those of WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers and Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.) Taking 15 percent of the jail time off for good behavior, Madoff would leave jail at 98 -- and that is with the shortened sentence.
His decision suggests that that Madoff may have a bit of a heart. Apparently, the resolution concerning his wife (she got her passport back, which suggests there may be no criminal prosecution) "is of great satisfaction to him." The Justice Department will not seek $2.5 million from Ruth Madoff, even though other litigators could aim for this cash.

I am glad that Madoff has decided not to fight these charges. He did it, he admitted it, and he will pay the price by sitting in a jail cell, eventually, with other criminals. Why fight it? Even if it is symbolic (which Sorkin argued and many believe), Madoff will take his medicine. Supposedly, Madoff feels upset about his victims; Sorkin has said that Madoff has "felt ashamed and upset . . . since Day 1." Even so, I'd bet that the millions of dollars that supported his lavish lifestyle cushioned the shame and guilt a bit.

What about the federal regulators who seemingly allowed this to happen? Lori Richards, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission's examinations division, is resigning. This division missed the multibillion-dollar fraud -- despite one investigator saying she told them so. Richards said that her resignation was not related to the Madoff case, but that seems unlikely. I wonder how trained investigators could have missed this sort of fraud after five different investigations during the past five years. Was this oversight simply oversight? Was it the work of incompetent investigators? Was this a case of someone simply looking the other way and allowing a crime to happen? No matter the reason, there is no excuse for the SEC missing Madoff's scam and Richardson is paying the price (whether she says it was her decision or not).

One thing is certain, this is not the last we will hear of the Madoff fraud. We are sure to learn more in the coming weeks and months, this kind of situation doesn't just disappear.
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