Monday, January 12, 2009

Madoff Stays Free

If you listened to the business pundits, you knew Madoff was going to jail. After all, he is accused of stealing over $50 billion from his victims. To make matters worse, FBI agents discovered checks made out in Madoff's apartment to family members in what appears to be an attempt to hide his wealth. To the surprise of pundits, neighbors, victims, and more, Madoff is not going anywhere. He remains in his comfortable New York City apartment.

It seems odd that a person who is in such a terrible mess would find any day to be a "good one." But considering the pressure he is currently under, he probably feels as giddy as a kid at the amusement park. This was a close one. Fox News is reporting Madoff could stay in this apartment for years as they proceed through the legal process, but I wonder how he can afford to do such. His apartment is very expensive, he is under house arrest (making it difficult for him to "get a job"), and he doesn't strike me as the type that would start a home business.

Bloomberg reports that "U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis in Manhattan today said Madoff, arrested last month for running an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, may continue to live under house arrest in his Manhattan apartment on the Upper East Side. Ellis imposed new conditions, ordering Madoff to compile an inventory of all items in his home and barring him from transferring property." So although he remains far more free than he would be in jail, he is far from off the hook and, in fact, he has additional requirements on his release.

Everything from a TV remote to every spoon in his kitchen will have to be made accounted for, put on the records, and stay in his possession until the issues surrounding his case are settled. He will be spending months getting this job done. Furthermore, he has every incentive to drag this process on in order to delay the judicial process.

What I find odd about Madoff is that he is so incredibly cool. He acts as though he was slapped with a parking ticket and not the type of crime that could keep him in jail for the rest of his life. Don't get me wrong, I'm not impressed. In fact, I think that his apparent detachment from this reality may be an indication of serious mental health issues. Imagine if he wins his case due to being not guilty, due to insanity. Anything is possible and it would make quite a news day.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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