The Victims Speak Out Against Peter Madoff

       

On the day of Peter Madoff’s sentencing, it is only fitting that the victims be heard.  In a stark contrast to the image of the man portrayed by those who wrote in support of Peter Madoff, Document 298 filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on December 19, 2012 contains eleven additional victim impact statements that were presented to the Honorable Laura Taylor Swain.

Perhaps you have the impression that all of the Madoff Victims were either very wealthy individuals or institutional investors.  While it’s clear that many of the victims fit this profile, it was painful to read about the financial position that many of these folks now find themselves in.

The first Impact Statement was submitted by email to the U.S. Justice Department by Marcia Ellis on behalf of Victim Martin & Marcia Ellis.  The Ellis couple was comfortably retired and living in Maine when they learned from their daughter that they had lost all of their money in the Madoff Ponzi Scheme. Their losses extended to brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles. The Ellis Family filed amended tax returns with the IRS which were rejected.  An appeal, which took them more than two years, resulted in a a tax adjustment of only 75% of their actual losses.

Mrs. Ellis now describes her life as one of:

“discount stores and living as in expensively as we can. Will we be able to support ourselves in our golden years – we can not plea bargain that reality away”.

The second victim statement came from Jill and Nancy Miller and was filed in order to express their dissatisfaction with the sentencing extension that Peter Madoff received from the court in order to be able to file amended tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.  The victims reported that Mr. Madoff was not using his time to get his tax situation resolved but rather:

“he was out an about enjoying a leisurely lunch in an expensive upper east side restaurant where many of his victims would like to eat but can’t afford to. Yet miraculously he can. I saw him personally eating in this restaurant. He has nerve showing his face and flaunting his freedom (extra). I hope he savored the food cause that’s not what he will get in PRISON!”

Perhaps the most heart breaking Victim Impact Statement was iled by Morton J. Chalek, a World War II Veteran.  Mr. Chalek’s short statement made such an impact that it has been included in its entirety:

I welcome the opportunity to vent my spleen regarding the Madoff fiasco.

In the way of an introduction:

  1. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, I stood online overnight in order to enlist in the Air Force. I then flew 23 combat missions.
  2. After I was discharged, I worked hard, built a successful business and saved enough for a comfortable (well earned) retirement.
  3. Then my attorney introduced me to his golf partner, Bernie Madoff.

I am now 90 years old and bankrupt. I have been waiting hopelessly to recover the money Madoff stole from me. At the very least, I expected to receive some compensation from my SIPC insurance. Four years have passed and I have received nothing and, I see no help coming from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Mr. Picard and his clan seem to be thriving while my cause seems to be helpless.”

Morton J. Chalek

Victim Natalie, who signed her statement with the title: Direct Investor Sentenced to a Lifetime of Financial Ruin and Emotional Unrest provided perhaps the most interesting perspective for Judge Swain to consider when sentencing Peter Madoff today:

Peter Madoff was educated in the law. He was savvy enough to help create the computerized trading system. He worked closely with his brother for years. He aided and abetted his brother and helped the scheme to continue and thrive. He did a lot of damage over a long period of time. He ran the daily operations for the past 20 years and should be sentenced to the same amount of time. 20 years.

While the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are extremely complex, we would like to commend Natalie Erger for her wisdom and simplicity.  Moreover for her courage and those of all who have spoken out with respect to this financial disaster.  We express our sympathy for all of those who have had their lives impacted by the Madoff Ponzi Scheme and hope that the sentence imposed today on Peter Madoff by Judge Swain provides each and every one of them with some small measure of justice for their losses.

Peter Madoff Awaits Sentencing – Victim or Villain?

  

On Monday, December 17, 2012, Defense attorneys John R. Wing, Charles T. Spada and Jeannie Rose Rubin of Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP filed a 44 page Sentencing Memorandum on behalf of their client Peter B. Madoff.  The document was submitted to the Honorable Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York.  Judge Swain is expected to sentence Mr. Madoff on Thursday, December 20, 2012.

 Peter Madoff is the younger brother of Bernie Madoff who was sentenced on June 29, 2009 to 150 years in Federal Prison for masterminding one of the largest Ponzi Schemes in history.  Principle losses to investors were nearly $20 Billion.  Including recorded fictional investment gains, investors lost close to $65 billion.

The sentence imposed on Bernie Madoff by Federal District Judge Denny Chin was nearly three times longer than what had been recommended by the federal probation office and more than ten times longer than that requested by Mr. Madoff’s defense lawyers.  At the time of sentencing, Judge Chin condemned Mr. Madoff’s crimes as being “extroadinarily evil”.

Now in what may very well be the final chapter in a painful saga that began on December 10, 2008 when Madoff’s sons told authorities that their father had confessed to them that the asset management unit of his firm was a massive Ponzi scheme, Peter Madoff will stand before Swain to learn his fate.

The question that needs to be answered by the sentenced that will be imposed on Thursday by Judge Swain is whether Peter Madoff is a victim or a villain.  Keeping in mind that Peter Madoff has already pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate various federal statutes and one count of falsifying books and records of an investment adviser, the Sentencing Memorandum submitted by defense counsel portrays Peter Madoff as another victim who was duped by his older brother’s Ponzi Scheme. Under his Plea Agreement, Mr. Madoff has agreed to accept a minimum sentence of no less than ten years in federal prison.

In the Draft Sentencing Report, it was reported that Peter Madoff had only learned of his brother’s Ponzi Scheme on December 9, 2008, a few days before it had been disclosed to the world.  Peter Madoff’s attorneys described him as being in shock and realizing that his world had been destroyed by the loss of his reputation and any future ability to support his family financially.  They further reported that Peter Madoff had been reviled by strangers, as well as former friends who all assumed that he must have had full and complete knowledge of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme.

Peter is described by his attorneys as being someone who believed that his older brother was a brilliant securities trader. As a result, he encouraged his own family to invest millions of dollars into accounts that were managed by Bernie Madoff.  The fraud committed by Bernie Madoff resulted in Peter’s wife losing millions of dollars in her Madoff account, as well as his daughter, granddaughter, sister and other relatives also suffering significant losses.

Mr. Madoff’s attorneys state: “Moreover, at the time of his plea this past June, Peter Madoff consented to a Draconian forfeiture order that in one stroke stripped him of all existing assets, his home, his pension, his savings, his personal property, etc. and all future assets and income should he even have the opportunity to earn any income after serving his prison sentence.  After a lifetime of hard work, this man has been denied the ability to even collect social security”.

The facts, as presented in the Sentencing Memorandum, are as follows:

  • On June 29, 2012, Peter Madoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy and falsifying records of an investment advisor.
  • He has accepted responsibility for his conduct, which he knows was wrong, and is deeply ashamed of his conduct.
  • Peter worked for his older brother’s business (Bernie was the sole owner) for 39 years.
  • On several occasions, and at Bernie’s instigation, Bernie and Peter engaged in money transfers in ways specifically designed to avoid payment of taxes.
  • At Peter’s request, his wife Marion was placed on the BLMIS payroll and for many years received compensation for what was essentially a “no-show” job.
  • Peter pled guilty because he conspired with others to commit the following violations of law: (1) Attempts to interfere with the administration of internal revenue laws; (2) falsifying the books and records of an investment adviser; (3) false filings with the SEC; and (4) mail and securities fraud.
  • Regarding the interference of internal revenue laws, Peter conspired with others to prevent the IRS from collecting proper revenue taxes in the following ways: (1) He received various fringe benefits from BLMIS, including meals, travel, leased cars, country club costs, apartment rentals, payment of household employees, and life insurance premiums which he failed to report on his income tax returns; (2) He placed his wife on the BLMIS payroll, although tax was paid on her income, he caused her to receive untaxed 401(k) contributions to which she was not entitled; (3) In 2005, Bernie gave Peter a substantial sum of money in the form of a completed securities transaction.
  • In July of 2006, BLMIS Peter became the Chief Compliance Officer as the Company registered with the SEC as an investment adviser despite the fact that at this time Peter did not have any substantial knowledge or experience with the rules governing Investment Advisers.
  • As the Chief Compliance Officer, Peter failed to implement any meaningful supervision of his brother’s management of the customer business and failed to test or confirm his brother’s representation that he was trading and managing the Investment Advisory accounts in compliance with the customers’ directions.
  • In 2006 and 2007, Peter allowed Bernie to file false reports with the SEC.

The list of disclosures contained in the Sentencing Report goes on and on.  It makes for very fascinating reading.  It will be very interesting to see what kind of sentence Judge Swain will impose on Thursday.  Will she take the same hard line position imposed by Judge Chin when older brother Bernie was sentenced or will she buy the fact that Peter was duped by his older brother?  Stay tuned as Thursday is only a few days away.

More Than 25,000 Americans Want the Death Star Built

 

A Petition entitled Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016 that may have begun as a “lark” by John D of Longmont, CO on November 14, 2012 on Thursday reached the required 25,000-plus signature threshold necessary for the United States Government to provide a formal response.  The petition states:

Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016.

By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.

The petition demands that the Obamma Administration build a Death Star much like the one that was featured in the 1977 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

What is even more fascinating than reaching the required threshold so quickly is the attention that is being demonstrated around the globe.  I am writing this article from Eastern Europe.  More specifically, Balti in the Republic of Moldova.  The petition was brought to my attention by several Java programmers working inside of the Alec Russo University. Apparently many of the students in the University are familiar with this petition so I can only assume that the Internet is spreading the news like wildfire.

In case you are wondering what the project would cost, a February 21, 2012 Forbes article written by Carol Pinchefsky entitled: How Much Would It Cost to Build the Death Star from Star Wars? had the following to say:

Even if you can imagine quite a bit, Centives, the economics blog of students of Lehigh University, says it would cost “$852,000,000,000,000,000. Or roughly 13,000 times the world’s GDP” to build the Death Star…and that’s just the cost of steel production.

 If only our government could be as organized and work as quickly as the construction in the video below:

 

Common Mistakes Attorneys Make When Writing Their Detailed Biography

 

If you or your law firm has a website, you are sure to have a biography or profile page on the site.  When is the last time that you updated your website or more specifically, your detailed biography?  For most attorneys, it’s probably been a few years.  Let’s face it.  You’ve been busy!  Moreover, even if you take the time to update your biography you are not able to make the changes to the web pages all by yourself.  You need to get your webmaster to make the changes and that takes both time and money.

Well, what’s the opportunity cost of not keeping your website and profile current?  Did you know that attorney bios are the most viewed pages on a law firm’s website?  That profile or biography pages generate more than 50% of the page views on your site?

Stop and think for a moment.  Why would a visitor to your website be so interested in reading your biography?  Well, what you do and who you are can make for very interesting reading.  When a consumer is in need of legal services, it’s often a very traumatic time in their life.  Perhaps they had a serious car accident or are getting divorced.  They know that they need help but do not necessarily know where to go.

Legal services has historically been a referral based business. In fact, that’s probably how you or your law firm get most of your business.  Did you know that a study commissioned by the American Bar Association concluded that the market for legal services should be 50% bigger but that many people elect not to retain a lawyer because the process is too confusing or intimidating?  The study is entitled LEGAL NEEDS AND CIVIL JUSTICE – A Survey of Americans – Major Findings From the Comprehensive Legal Needs Study and is well worth reading.

So it certainly seems that your addressable market could be significantly larger if the process of hiring a lawyer were less confusing and intimidating.  Addressing this problem begins with improving your biography.  So what are the things that you can do to acquire new clients?

 #1 – MAKE IT FRESH

If you’ve recently settled a big case, written an article or changed something in your career, take the time to update your biography.  Everyone likes to read fresh and relevant content.  More often than not, an attorney biography has not been updated in quite some time.  Even worse, some biographies read like a legal version of War & Peace.  They simply go on and on and on and on and on.  If you’ve been out of law school for 10 years, is it really important to list some of your accomplishments while in school such as you were the Editor of the School’s Law Journal? Keep your biography fresh and it will be much more interesting for your readers.

#2 – DON’T TRY TO BE “ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE”

Even if you are a General Practitioner, keep in mind that old adage: Jack of all trades, MASTER OF NONE”.  Be honest with yourself.  While you may be capable of doing many different things, identify the things where you feel that you really excel.  How you market yourself does not necessarily have to match how you practice law.  While you may find yourself handling a broad range of legal services, it is always a best marketing practice to concentrate or focus your pitch.  As you are writing your detailed biography, keep in mind the concept of the Elevator Pitch.  Imagine yourself as being in an elevator with a potential client and having only the time that it takes for the elevator to go from the ground floor to the 10th floor to tell this client about who you are; what you do; and why you are the right attorney to handle their case.

#3 – PRESENT YOURSELF AS BOTH A PERSON AND A PROFESSIONAL

One of the most common mistakes that lawyers make is that they try and oversell themselves as a legal professional yet fail to present themselves as an interesting human being. The potential client who has a case that is expected to go on for many months or many years is going to want to retain an attorney with whom they can build a relationship.  While it’s certainly important for you to have all of the necessary legal skills to handle their case, it can be more important for the client to feel comfortable when engaging with you.

According to a study done by LinkedIn who has 187 million members worldwide, “People with photos are seven times more likely to have their profiles viewed”. Getting the potential client to view your page and read your profile is the first step towards acquiring a new client.  Without a photo, it’s very likely that you won’t even be in the game.

You want to find a balance between looking professional and relaxed.  If you are able to present several photos, then you should select at least one photo that shows you in action on your job and one that shows how you are in your personal life.

Highlight those things that make you interesting as a person.  If you speak another language and/or have experience living or working in another country, include these things in your biography.  Perhaps you are an avid skier or tennis player.  Or maybe, you spend some of your spare time in the garden or in the kitchen.  Give your reader something that will help them to get to know you outside of the office.

We are not trying to suggest that a client is going to retain you simply because you are a gourmet chef.  The point is that many potential clients are intimidated by attorneys. They believe that lawyers can be unapproachable.  If you are able to find some common ground with your potential client that will help to break the ice, you have a much better chance of closing the deal.

LEGAL BISTRO OVERVIEW

Legal Bistro is a new online community for legal services where we bring together lawyers seeking new clients with customers who have legal needs.  The client remains anonymous throughout the entire process of reviewing and selecting an attorney.  Lawyers, on the other hand, are provided with many online tools to sell themselves and build online credibility with their potential Clients.

Legal Bistro profile matches your Areas of Practice and any Tag or Key Words that you used to further define your specialized expertise with the specific case needs of the consumer.  We are not a lawyer referral service and do not do anything other than our matching process to encourage a consumer to retain one lawyer over another.  It is up to you to sell yourself.  The first part of your sales process occurs online.

LEGAL BISTRO – ATTORNEY SHORT PROFILE

Your Legal Bistro Short Profile is the first thing that a consumer will see when they search for attorneys matching their specific case needs. The Short Profile includes the following:

  • Your Photo – Without a photo, it’s very likely that your profile will not either be seen or read by your potential client.
  • Title – Partner, Associate, etc.
  • Law Firm Name
  • Area of Practice – Your profile will only be displayed if your Area of Practice matches the case needs of the potential client.
  • Elevator Pitch – This is the most important component of your short profile.  It’s what the client will read about you to decide whether or not they have any further interest.  You have only five (5) lines to convince your potential client why you are the right lawyer or law firm to handle their case so make every word count.  Your primary objective is to get the client to click on your profile and read more about you in your Detailed Biography.
  • Detailed Biography Link – Your potential client Will be able to quickly access and read your Detailed Biography if you have completed this part of your registration process on Legal Bistro.
  • Recommendations Badge – Establishing online trust begins with obtaining Professional Recommendations from other colleague lawyers; business professionals and clients. You may also obtain Personal Recommendations from family members and friends. Keep in mind that according to a 3rd Qtr study by NielsenGlobal Trust in Advertising“70% trust consumer opinions that are posted online”.
  • Publications Badge – Establishing online credibility (i.e. presenting yourself as a subject matter expert) can be achieved by posting articles that you have written to your profile; by also copying the article content and creating a posting on Legal Bistro’s Blog; and/or by writing a new Blog Posting.  Earn your Publications Badge so that potential clients may read further about your specialized areas of knowledge or expertise. Keep in mind that 65.5% of people making purchases online have their purchasing decisions influenced by Bloggers (Media Burst – 2012).

The following screen shot is an example of what your Short Profile would look like on Legal Bistro:

LEGAL BISTRO – ATTORNEY DETAILED BIOGRAPHY

Legal Bistro provides you with all of the tools that you may need to create a professional looking Detailed Biography.  You have the ability to change font sizes, text colors and even insert images and photos.  The editing tools which we provide will enable you to publish a very professional web page with your biographical information.

Keep in mind the importance of first impressions.  Without a well developed and professional looking Detailed Biography, it’s unlikely that you will get the chance to speak with the potential client who learned about you online.  With more than 50,000 law firms and 1.2 million practicing lawyers in the United States, it’s fair to say that you are facing a great deal of competition.

The good news is that the Internet can become the Great Equalizer for you and/or your law firm.  The larger and more established law firms have significant resources and a long standing reputation which they are able to leverage.  As a smaller law firm or a solo practitioner, it’s most important for you to invest the time into creating a professional looking biography.  By doing so, a potential client will want to learn even more about you and hear what you might have to say about their case.

CONCLUSION

Whether you are writing your biography for your own website or when registering on Legal Bistro, we suggest that you consider using some or all of the suggestions that have been presented in this posting.  Put yourself in the role of the person who will be reading your biography and think about what you would find interesting about yourself.  As a highly educated professional, you should have very little difficult convincing your prospective client that you have the legal skills required to handle their case.  The $64,000 question – Are you able to do as good of a job in getting that potential client to trust and confide in you?  If you are able to find some common ground with your potential client, you should be able to succeed at both objectives.

Good luck and try to have some fun when writing your own biography.  It will show in the finished product!