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Madoff Sentenced To 150 Years 602

Posted by kdawson
from the bye-bye dept.
selven was one of several readers to send in the news that Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. "Bernard Madoff's victims gasped and cheered when he was sentenced to 150 years in prison, but they walked away knowing little more about how he carried out the biggest robbery in Wall Street history. In one of the most dramatic courtroom conclusions to a corporate fraud case, the 71-year-old swindler was unemotional as he was berated by distraught investors during the 90-minute proceeding. Many former clients had hoped he would shed more light on his crime and explain why he victimized so many for so long. But he did not. Madoff called his crime 'an error of judgment' and his 'failure,' reiterating previous statements that he alone was responsible for the $65 billion investment fraud. His victims said they did not hear much new from Madoff in his five-minute statement. They also said they did not believe anything he said. As he handed down the maximum penalty allowed, US District Judge Denny Chin... [said], 'I simply do not get the sense that Mr. Madoff has done all that he could or told all that he knows.'"
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Madoff Sentenced To 150 Years

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  • Good... although (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:06PM (#28521373)

    Will this send a message to other would-be scammers? Nope.

  • by Shikaku (1129753) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:07PM (#28521381)

    The message to would-be scammers is: don't get caught.

  • Now what about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by al0ha (1262684) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:07PM (#28521391) Journal
    all the jackasses at the SEC that ignored data again and again which pointed to fraud and enabled him to get away with this for so many years?
  • DOOOOOOPED! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 7-Vodka (195504) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:07PM (#28521395) Journal

    What is the funniest thing ever to me, is that the people who have been dooped once already into losing their money are getting dooped for a second time with all of this disinfo about madolf being the only guy involved.

    There must have been dozens to hundreds of people orchestrating this. But it's ok, we'll pin it all on one guy and see how gullible the public is. This guy is up there with the Lee Harvey Oswalds of patsies.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:08PM (#28521403)

    I'm not sure he really did know how bad things were, except for perhaps at the very end... for a long time I'm not sure he thought himself he was defrauding anyone.

    I'm not sure even he himself can tell us exactly how this happened, beyond the fact it just did...

    Sad how many people grew to be hurt by one mans illusions.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by helbent (1244274) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:10PM (#28521421)
    Really. The SEC investigated him 3 times over the years and they didn't seem to catch on to the poignant fact that Madoff didn't do a single trade in the past 13 years or so. I wonder what kind of genius you have to be to have those kind of rock-solid blinders on?
  • Tricky (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:14PM (#28521489)
    Often court judgments have more advertising value than real value. "Madoff Sentenced To 150 Years" should be "A 71-year-old man was sentenced to about 15 years, his normal lifetime".
  • Re:DOOOOOOPED! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:21PM (#28521569) Journal

    There must have been dozens to hundreds of people orchestrating this. But it's ok, we'll pin it all on one guy and see how gullible the public is. This guy is up there with the Lee Harvey Oswalds of patsies.

    I'm not sure you're aware of how the world of high-finance works. There have been hedge funds handling over $10B with FIVE employees. Seriously.

    I think it's very likely that there were others in-the-know. But they probably worked out a plea to provide documentation to nail the case against Madoff, which is why they won't be prosecuted. Or Madoff is looking for redemption after perpetrating this fraud, and decided to shoulder the rap for everyone else involved. I think the last option is the most likely, and I think that his sons were who he was protecting.

    But it doesn't really matter, does it? These were the extremely wealthy who were conned. As long as someone gets hanged (or imprisoned forever) we don't care. Hell, look at the swindling by Enron execs... that directly affected the retirement savings of millions of people, and in the end, we didn't really care.

    As far as the general public is concerned, it's not a big deal when the wealthy steal from the wealthy. That's business by another name. And it's not a big deal when the wealthy steal from the poor -- that's business as usual. All we really care about is when the poor steal from the wealthy, because we always look down on those poorer than us, we like to imagine ourselves as wealthy, and so when the poor steal, it's an affront to our ideals.

    Anyway, I'm rambling a bit... so I'll just sum up by saying: Yes, others were likely involved. Yes, he took the fall. But no one cares, as long as there's a spectacle.

  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:21PM (#28521575) Homepage

    Seriously, it's impossible to get rid of $65 Billion without having something valuable to show for it. So far they've gathered the low 9 figures of $ from him, less than 1% of the money.

  • by Abreu (173023) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:23PM (#28521585)

    There are several sites I no longer bother opening links for:

    digg

    facebook

    televisa

    foxnews

  • by powerslave12r (1389937) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:23PM (#28521587)
    It sounds almost like omerta [wikipedia.org] where he is trying to prevent the system from being fixed from loopholes so that fellow scammers (and perhaps accomplices?) keep making money.
  • by jonbryce (703250) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:27PM (#28521625) Homepage

    Most of the $65bn never existed in the first place. The rest would have been handed out to customers who had withdrawn money in the past.

    The $65bn is what his clients thought they had in their accounts with him, but a lot of that can be attributed to fictitious gains that he reported on their accounts.

  • News For Nerds??!! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:32PM (#28521699)

    C'mon now.. what the fuck does this have to with my rights online??!
    Oh wait, it's kdawson, using slashdot as his personal blog, yet again.

    I understand it now.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Danse (1026) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:38PM (#28521777)

    You do not expect the head of the major exchange to be a Ponzi schemer. Just like a head of police is very unlikely to be a drug dealer.

    Sure, but when people keep providing information that suggests that such a thing is true (and really the info did more than just suggest in this case), you should probably really look pretty closely at it.

  • by microbee (682094) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:46PM (#28521859)

    How about all the clients who did everything they could to have the privilege of being Madoff's clients? I mean heck what were they thinking while they saw their accounts having unbelievable returns? They might as well take some responsibilities.

  • No, but maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by istartedi (132515) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:47PM (#28521875) Journal

    ...it will send a message to investors.

    Message? Entrusting all your money to one guy is a bad idea. It's the same message they should have received when people lost all their retirement at Enron. Yes, there were people who tried to diversify towards the end and got unfairly shut out; but they should have been diversifying all along.

    The Madoff lesson is that you don't just diversify your investments, you diversify your managers. In other words, one manager who says the portfolio is diversified is not enough. You should be employing more than one manager. One of them should be YOU. You may find out that they aren't any better than you. In that case, perhaps you should simply cut them out entirely; although I'm not convinced there aren't at least some managers who are worth their fees. It's just that I've never actually met one. It's become a truism over the years that a basket of stocks meeting certain criteria will beat most managers. That's why index funds have become so popular.

    Of course, this falls under the category of "good problems to have" since many in the US now have a negative or very small net worth.

  • Tag "republicans" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mathx314 (1365325) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:51PM (#28521911)
    Can I ask why this article is tagged "republicans"? Bernard Madoff isn't one, since he gave 88% of his political spending to the Democratic party (source [latimes.com]). Nor is Judge Denny Chin a definite Republican (his affiliation is unknown). Alright, so some of the victims were, and probably some of the conspirators, but there's no reason this should be tagged the way it is.
  • Re:Now what about (Score:2, Insightful)

    by node 3 (115640) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:51PM (#28521919)

    Or because you can't punish the people in power for making bad choices because no one would be willing to risk it.

    Greenspan, for all the harm he did, actually believed that Ayn Rand crap would work. It only took the decimation of the world economy to convince him otherwise.

    The problem isn't the leaders, it's those that keep the leaders in power, year after year, making the same mistakes, and to a large extent, the media which dupes so many people into voting against their own self interests.

  • Re:Tricky (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AVee (557523) <slashdot@@@avee...org> on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:53PM (#28521949) Homepage
    Better yet, when he retired from his career as a fraud he managed to secure himself of free breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of his life.
  • Re:DOOOOOOPED! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:03PM (#28522063) Homepage

    But it doesn't really matter, does it? These were the extremely wealthy who were conned.

    Sure. The extremely wealthy. And, also, charities. What do you think of stealing $15 million from The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity? Maybe $24 mill from New York University or $3 million from Bard College bothers you? I wonder what United Association Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 267 in Syracuse thinks about your blanket characterization which indicates that their loss (still under calculation) doesn't matter.

    (For reference, the victim list [wsj.net].)

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:08PM (#28522099) Journal

    Now the message is, "if you get caught, your life is ruined."

    But if you're old, and you've lived a full life, you can rest assured that your kids and your wife will still get to live a life of luxury, while you live a life of leisure in a state-run old age home. And you'll have plenty of influence to ensure you get a comfy life inside prison, since you can pay off anyone you need.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by youngone (975102) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:10PM (#28522123)
    So, the point seems to be that the system's broke, but as the rule makers get to profit, it won't get fixed. I have read no real comment on the fact that a former head of the Nasdaq is a crook, beyond the mere mention of the fact. Remarkable.
  • Re:Now what about (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:10PM (#28522133) Journal

    Greenspan, for all the harm he did, actually believed that Ayn Rand crap would work.

    It would have worked if he and Congress would have allowed the large banks to actually go bankrupt when they deserved it. Failure is the ultimate regulator, unfortunately the people who fund all the reelection campaigns in this country mysteriously became "too big to fail".

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:15PM (#28522203) Homepage
    Speaking of his wife, there's this little piece on how Ruth Madoff Faces Living Off a Scant $2.5 Million [wsj.com].

    Her $2.5 million settlement should give her an annual income of maybe $125,000 a year [...] That's a pretty good income. It's a lot more than many of her husband's ruined victims will have. But it will hardly support her past lifestyle. [...] The irony, of course, is that Mrs Madoff really needs right now a financial adviser she can trust to handle her money.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:4, Insightful)

    by boombaard (1001577) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:26PM (#28522317) Journal
    And everyone who had put money in those banks, trusting that the SEC and Fed would make sure those banks couldn't fuck them over should've just be thrown to the wolves?
    "Bankruptcy" at this level has nothing whatsoever to do with "taking your responsibility"; if your downfall means you'll be taking 200.000 others with you, your rhetoric about "the market decides what's fair" notwithstanding. 90-95% of Americans have zero control over what others do with their money, so why was it their responsibility to see through fraud schemes that even those with 'training' in the field couldn't (or wouldn't) grasp? That's why you have regulative agencies (and that's why they were neutered through lobbying).
    Sure, it would be nice if all CEOs from the 1990s onward would be put in front of a firing squad and shot (either with or without a trial), but that's an entirely different point.
  • Re:DOOOOOOPED! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:27PM (#28522333) Journal
    I know how he supposedly worked.

    I've also consulted for a legitimate hedge fund.

    If you go to a legitimate investor, they're not operating out of their fucking house. Those 5 guys overseeing the fund are 5 guys that work for a huge megabank.

    No. Hedge funds are not run by huge megabanks. That's the whole point -- they escape regulation by NOT operating as a large investment house or bank.

    The fund I consulted for controlled at least 2.2 Bn when I consulted there, and there were five employees. The principal, a research director, two traders, and an office manager ("VP of Operations"). That's it. Of those five, only two would need to know the whole picture -- the research director and the principal. The traders might have an inkling (probably would).

    If you go to a hedge fund, it shouldn't be surprising if they operate out of their house if their in Manhattan (short lag time to the markets) or in a small sublet office.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:39PM (#28522467)

    If you rape or murder over 13000 people, you'll probably get a long sentence too.

  • Re:Not a Bad Trade (Score:4, Insightful)

    by demachina (71715) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:39PM (#28522477)

    "read and relax where he is safe"

    They haven't decided where he is serving his sentence yet. If its a minimum security country club prison your assessment might be correct. If it a real federal penitentiary with violent criminals it might not be so safe or easy. There are also more than a few people who might wish him harm and people can be harmed in prison for a price.

    All in all I really don't feel any sympathy for his victims. To me it was a greedy crook fleecing greedy people who were borderline themselves. It is more than a little unrealistic to expect 10-12% annual returns year after year with no risk. You can make a LOT of money compounding at that rate. Getting that kind of annual return pretty much always entails high risk. There is an old saying you should be very afraid when you are making a lot of money because its usually too good to be true and wont last, and you can make a lot of money when everyone else is afraid.

    His victims were in a lot of ways just as greedy as he was. His feeder funds and victims must have suspected it was fishy, but went along as long as they got theirs out of it. They mostly seem to have thought they were special and privileged and deserved to get returns ordinary people couldn't. I feel no sympathy for people like that. They gambled in the casino Wall Street has turned in to and lost. Tough luck, nothing to see here and time to move on. Stop crying. Your own fault you put all your money in to an investment that was too good to be true.

    About the only good thing that could come out of it is to compel meaningful reform and regulation of Wall Steet and and all indications are that isn't going to happen. Wall Street is rapidly going back to business as usual. Wall Street cost people like 14 trillion in wealth in the last collapse and most of it was due to criminal fraud and Ponzi schemes just as bad as Madoff and very few of those fat cats are going to jail. Obama and Geitner's proposed reforms are toothless.

    I saw in passing a week or so some British lord and financial type was testifying in front of an EU commission. His take was the big banks and hedge funds were threatening regulators with blackmail. If the EU and the US go too far with regulation, they would move to Switzerland or the Caribbean and take their money with them. His take was the fat cats were racing to get back to were they were in 2006, demanding ridiculously high compensation, resuming the high risk investments, undermining reforms and he fully expects another bubble and collapse in 10 or 15 years. The tax payers and ordinary Joe's will be screwed again and the rich will just keep getting richer. It seems almost inevitable because the banks conned all their governments in to bailing them out. The essential concept of moral hazard has been completely undermined. The fat cats now know they can gamble and take all the winnings and when they lose taxpayers will take all the losses. If the banks were "too big to fail" before its even worse now because due to the forced mergers of the last year America three biggest banks are now bigger than ever. JP Morgan, B of A and Citibank are now the three largest banks in the world based on tier 1 capital due to mergers.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:40PM (#28522489)

    Or more likely, buy low was a few months ago when it was below 7K. Now is the remain flat for a decade or so that Japan has been in for more than 10 years. The stock market is still overinflated, there is no way that it should be 10x its value in 1982 when it had barely grown a factor of 10 in the 60 years preceding that.

    As long as people continue to pump money like mad into the market and continue to invest for "growth" in anything other than IPOs the stock market will continue to be a giant Ponzi scheme. You can get rich with it if you cash out at the right time, but the money is all smoke and mirrors.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FiloEleven (602040) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:48PM (#28522571)

    That's what FDIC insurance is for. It would have cost less than $750 billion to pay FDIC on all those accounts, and that money would have gone to people who would be more likely to spend it and "kick-start the economy" from the ground up instead of hoarding it like the bankers.

    Giving more money to bankers is throwing people to the wolves.

  • by computerman413 (1122419) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:59PM (#28522673)
    But if you didn't lose money, it wouldn't be a scam.
  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mprx (82435) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:05PM (#28522727)
    In a country without socialized healthcare, fraud *is* a violent crime.
  • by mgblst (80109) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:06PM (#28522741) Homepage

    No, he hung around, kept on making money. Made loads, but never left. He could have left at anytime, disappeared, with billions. But he though he would never be caught, or didn't care. He could have his own secret island, never to be touched again. But he got greedy...

  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:12PM (#28522805) Journal

    I agree with your post completely but I don't think Madoff stashed most of that $65 billion in a Swiss bank account or anything else that might leave a paper trail. Since he was running a pyramid scheme, most of it probably when to pay off other investors.

    Of course, he undoubtedly skimmed off a tidy sum for use by he and his spouse.

  • Ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Morosoph (693565) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:13PM (#28522813) Homepage Journal

    5 years hell. Now come all the appeals. Is he out on bail?

    This is money we're talking about. That makes for a looong sentence.

    Now if he'd killed someone, you'd be right.

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Evil Shabazz (937088) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:14PM (#28522817)
    I think that the sentence indicates an argument that he is a danger to society. One could argue that he has been more of a danger to society than most violent criminals already incarcerated. Who's to say he won't go out and conduct more scams? Just because he seems sorry now that he's in trouble? How can you bar a person from being a con-artist? The man ruined more lives than most other criminals ever have...
  • by Doug52392 (1094585) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:30PM (#28522919)

    The message to would-be scammers is: don't get caught.

    Correction: The message to would-be scammers is: Don't get caught until your an old geezer with ~5 years left.

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:31PM (#28522925)
    monitoring his finances to the level that you propose would probably cost as much as locking him up. i think in this case, life in prison is the only fitting outcome for this scumbag.
  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ObiWanKenblowme (718510) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:35PM (#28522979)
    So your alternative to locking him up at taxpayer expense is to hire round-the-clock surveillance at taxpayer expense?
  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover (150551) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:37PM (#28523009) Homepage Journal

    There were at least two people who took their own lives directly because of their losses from his theft:

    These men are equally as dead as any two other murder victims, and were apparently in no trouble or danger prior to Madoff's criminal activity.

    And just in case you want to blame the victims, consider the phrase "danger to society" doesn't necessarily mean "physical danger". Compare what he did to a mugger pointing a gun at you, but not shooting you: you might lose $200 bucks from your wallet, you might have crapped your pants, but you're still alive, and still have a job. Causing the collapse of hundreds of businesses, the unemployment of thousands, the destruction of retirement funds of tens of thousands of people -- I'd say he ranks right up there with any weapon of mass destruction in terms of the damage done to our society. "Danger to society" isn't exclusively the province of the barrel of a gun.

    Prison is exactly the right place for him to spend the next 150 years. My only complaint is that he didn't start serving it when he began his fraud, which federal investigators place about 1975. He got to live too many good years outside of the gray bars.

  • Re:DOOOOOOPED! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:38PM (#28523015) Homepage

    He was talking about it not mattering from the perspective of the general public's reaction and outrage. He was explaining why we let a patsy like Madoff take the rap and that's it. And he's right. Yes people get mad, and the people directly affected by it stay mad, but the rest of the country just kinda shrugs and moves on. Same with Enron. There just aren't the same kinds of reactions to this white-collar crime, even if it ends up being more devastating than other kinds of crime.

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:41PM (#28523039)
    OK, then explain the part where getting caught is bad. Because if you're under house arrest, even if it is a modest dwelling, there's no punishment there. You've had your toys and then you're banished to the middle class.

    I'm sorry, but I just don't buy that house arrest, even a strict house arrest, is any sort of actual punishment for this sort of thing.
  • by coryking (104614) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:52PM (#28523125) Homepage Journal

    Which honestly is pointless.

    Guess what, most criminals* are a drain on society. That is why they are criminals. They do things that harm all of us for their own benifit. No matter what we do with them, they are a drain on taxpayer money--not to mention the damage they do to the victims.

    Madoff is a pointless drain on society. You should be pissed he exists and we have to spend our taxpayer money to lock the son of a bitch up. It isn't the government or societies fault he is costing us a bagillion dollars. It is his own selfish nature.

    The only reason we don't burn these people at the stake is this thing we call civilization. The fact we get a fair trial and *dont* get burnt at the stake on the whims of random people costs a lot of money. Personally, I'll pay my taxes and avoid being burnt at the stake and having a fair trial. Wouldn't you agree?

    * Obviously there are exceptions... are dudes busted for smoking a joint really a drain on society? I'd argue not.

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m.ducharme (1082683) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:06PM (#28523237)

    There are some sicknesses that socialized healthcare either will not cover or will not cover thoroughly enough to really cure.

    Bullshit.

    with socialized healthcare you get placed in "review hell" because A) the doctors get paid the same really no matter what they do

    Also bullshit. In Ontario, doctors get paid per treatment/visit, more or less depending on what kind of treatment they do. No different than in the US.

    and B) there are many other doctors/clinics.

    I'm not even sure what the hell this has to do with anything.

    If you say you need antibiotics for something, chances are in the US you can get them for whatever weak reason, with socialized healtcare if you have a non-common illness the answer will always be to wait longer.

    Again, bullshit. If I need antibiotics for something, my doctor writes me a prescription for antibiotics, and I go get it filled. Of course, if I don't actually need antibiotics, my doctor doesn't have an incentive to feed me medication that I don't actually need. If you want to talk intelligently about universal or public health care, go learn something about the subject instead of repeating the lies you've been told. Here's an interesting fact for you. Of the top 40 or so countries in the world, the US has the most inefficient health care system. It's twice as inefficient as the next most inefficient health care system.

    Universal public healthcare systems are operating right now, that are at least twice as efficient as the health care system in the US. Stop and think about that. This isn't theorizing about what a public health system might do, this is real actual performance in the real world. Of course, there are also many nations with fully private health care that are at least twice as efficient as your own system, which should be ringing bells in your head right about now. The problem isn't about public/private, the problem lies elsewhere. Many Americans will say that the discrepancy is caused by the "cheeseburger nation", but here in Canada we're just as obese as you are, and we do much better than you in terms of health care efficiency.

    So what is the real problem? Why is it that in the US, you have absurdly high numbers of people with no coverage at all, and yet you spend more per person on health care than any other country? Follow the money....

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:1, Insightful)

    by LingNoi (1066278) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:09PM (#28523263)

    I don't see the difference between him and someone robbing a house. Since I don't see you campaigning for the latter I think it's pretty obvious that he should be in jail. Just because he's a rich white collar worker doesn't mean he should get special treatment.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by node 3 (115640) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:11PM (#28523285)

    Greenspan, for all the harm he did, actually believed that Ayn Rand crap would work.

    It would have worked if he and Congress would have allowed the large banks to actually go bankrupt when they deserved it. Failure is the ultimate regulator, unfortunately the people who fund all the reelection campaigns in this country mysteriously became "too big to fail".

    Uh, no. The fact that the banks were failing was the failure of the Ayn Rand bullshit.

    The fact that your only defense is, "they should have been allowed to fail" demonstrates how bankrupt your philosophy is. Glass-Steagall told the banks that they could take risks, but only up to a point. This, combined with FDIC allowed people a certain level of confidence in their banks. By repealing Glass-Steagall, the banks were now free to take excessive risks. Greenspan thought, as Ayn Rand had taught him, that the self-interest of the bankers would keep them in check, but it didn't. Once one bank took the risks, and saw the immediate profits, the others had to follow suit, or see their value plummet.

    So they all took on the risks. And when the house of cards fell (as they tend to do), the banks were set to fail, leaving the taxpayers on the hook from the FDIC, and leaving Washington with a choice. Let them fail entirely, and rebuild anew, or keep them afloat as needed until they can recover.

    Were we to follow the insane Ayn Rand choice of "let them fail", we'd be throwing away vast amounts of banking infrastructure which would just have to be rebuilt. It's like throwing out your car because the engine failed instead of just putting in a new engine. Wasteful and unnecessary. In the meantime, that would have caused inordinate hardship on Americans who would have to scramble to find a new bank, but finding a shortage of banks. That shortage would lead to fly-by-night banks of questionable character, and leading most people to go without any bank whatsoever. This might sound well and good from the individualistic idealism of Ayn Rand, but would lead to all sorts of mayhem with regards to things like credit cards, payroll deposits, and automated bill payments. It's just not feasible for our economy to run on people keeping piles of cash under their mattresses, or carrying around bags of gold on their belts.

    It's like the railroads in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand thinks that as long as the railroads are free to do as they wish, then naturally the Dagney Taggarts will rise to the top, pushing out the James Taggarts. It's a nice fantasy, but reality shows otherwise. The banking failure wasn't because the Dagney's weren't allowed the freedom to do what they wanted, it failed because they were allowed the freedom to take undue risks that had far reaching consequences. James might have fucked things up quicker, but even Dagney would have made a mistake, bringing the whole thing down on top of the American people.

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:1, Insightful)

    by LingNoi (1066278) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:13PM (#28523315)

    Prison is a punishment, not a holding area for the violent.

    He should be forced to work like the rest of us and pay back those he scammed.

    No, he should be punished for the crimes he commited. Not slapped him an impossible to pay back fine and all the freedom he wants.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by node 3 (115640) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:17PM (#28523371)

    So in order to avoid panic we reward felons with bailouts instead of indictments? How is that more sane than bankrupting the bad actors and selling their assets to the banks that didn't get involved with mortgage fraud?

    By Ayn Rand's standards, it wasn't a fraud. The banks chose, willfully, to over leverage their assets.

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by modecx (130548) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:21PM (#28523401)

    punishment
    Function: noun
    1 : the act of punishing
    2 : a penalty (as a fine or imprisonment) inflicted on an
    offender through the judicial and esp. criminal process

    He's not going to prison because he's currently a danger to anyone. He's going to prison because The People decided he should be punished for his misdeeds. The People have decided that probation is just not enough punishment for destroying the pensions of thousands--maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of victims. Maybe he didn't physically assault these people--but he didn't just rob them of money, he robbed many of these people of YEARS of their hard work... Remember, some people have to get along by trading their, blood, sweat and tears; ultimately trading time for currency. When you annihilate someone's retirement account, I think an argument could be made that you're literally stealing time from their lives. Isn't that what murderers do, if more suddenly or brutally?

    And before you try to use a reasoning of "setting an example" that is not justice.

    The way I see it, prisons have two primary services to society: Deterrence before the act, and reformation after sentencing. You're welcome to argue their effectiveness in either of these roles (rather dismal, IMO)--but that's not the point. The point is, laws are useless unless they're backed by a set of mean and nasty, pointy teeth when it's appropriate. So what if it is "setting an example"? Maybe the prior examples just weren't harsh enough to dissuade ol' Bernie? Perhaps this might deter the next douche who starts on the path of stealing 65-70 billion, and contributing in no small part to a globally upset economy?

  • by node 3 (115640) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:22PM (#28523417)

    Now the message is, "if you get caught, your life is ruined."

    But if you're old, and you've lived a full life, you can rest assured that your kids and your wife will still get to live a life of luxury, while you live a life of leisure in a state-run old age home. And you'll have plenty of influence to ensure you get a comfy life inside prison, since you can pay off anyone you need.

    But that's true of any crime, isn't it? If you're a serial killer, and get the death penalty, if you do it once you're old, not so big a loss, right?

    By your own standards, "you've lived a full life" means you had to commit the fraud while you were still young enough for it to contribute to that "full life". In so doing, you risk getting caught when a life sentence still holds significant consequences.

    And I fail to see how people think that living your last years of life in prison is somehow not so bad. Would you be happy being confined such that you can't leave a campus-sized compound ever? No trips to the beach, no family reunions, no camping, no European vacations, etc? Ever again.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:39PM (#28523511) Journal

    Greenspan thought, as Ayn Rand had taught him, that the self-interest of the bankers would keep them in check, but it didn't. Once one bank took the risks, and saw the immediate profits, the others had to follow suit, or see their value plummet.

    You don't think the safety nets affected their decision making? No one does due diligance any more because they know the government will bail them out.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:52PM (#28523611) Journal

    He could have left at anytime, disappeared, with billions.

    "When you steal $600, you can just disappear. When you steal 600 million, they will find you."

  • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewkNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:55PM (#28523633)

    On the contrary, I was under the impression that by the nature of his ponzi scheme he had to keep it going because the moment he stopped everyone would realize what happened. I'm not sure how you just "walk away" from thousands of investors without giving them their money (and he couldn't, their money didn't really exist, hence the scam) and not raise any alarms.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:09PM (#28523717) Journal

    Letting our banking system collapse and watching Great Depression II start is hardly a good move forward from that point.

    Guess what? GD 2.0 will be worse because of the bailouts.

    If you think they (both the current president, and the prior one) fixed anything by showering the same criminals who caused the original problem with money then you've got a reality distortion field rivaling Steve Job's.

    Our "banking system" was never in danger. About half a dozen large banks are insolvent and should be bankrupt. The thousands of smaller, prudent banks could have picked up the pieces.

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bnenning (58349) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:19PM (#28523777)

    Bullshit.

    Not bullshit. There is not an unlimited supply of health care in either public or private systems. Rationing *always* happens in one form or another.

    Of course, there are also many nations with fully private health care that are at least twice as efficient as your own system, which should be ringing bells in your head right about now. The problem isn't about public/private, the problem lies elsewhere.

    Absolutely correct. The US healthcare manages to combine the worst of both worlds: the lack of guaranteed coverage, and the lack of competition and pricing signals. I primarily blame the ridiculous concept we have that our employers should pay for our health insurance. This makes no sense whatsoever; it eliminates direct competition and routes people into one-size-fits-all plans, and it means if you lose your job you're doubly screwed. It makes no more sense for my employer to pay for my health insurance than it does for them to pay for my house or car.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maxwell'sSilverLART (596756) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:23PM (#28523791) Homepage

    Because, absent any risk of actual failure, the banks have no incentive not to go down the same destructive path next week.

    If failure carried serious negative outcomes--like the risk of bankruptcy--banks would have a reason to be far more cautious. A few people are better off in the short term, but all of us are worse off in the long run.

  • Re:Tricky -- NOT (Score:4, Insightful)

    by m.ducharme (1082683) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:38PM (#28523883)

    Not bullshit. There is not an unlimited supply of health care in either public or private systems. Rationing *always* happens in one form or another.

    That's not what the GGP was arguing. He implied that rationing is peculiar to socialized health care. That is bullshit.

    I primarily blame the ridiculous concept we have that our employers should pay for our health insurance. This makes no sense whatsoever; it eliminates direct competition and routes people into one-size-fits-all plans, and it means if you lose your job you're doubly screwed. It makes no more sense for my employer to pay for my health insurance than it does for them to pay for my house or car.

    Is that really it? I think it might be more complicated. I get really suspicious of the fact that insurance companies have so much control over what they cover, and get to deny coverage for strictly financial reasons. In the private health care transaction, the one who controls access to the treatment (insurance companies) has all the power. The health care consumer is stuck. They need the treatment, they have no choice. They either pay, or go without and get sicker or die. Any transaction with that much power imbalance between two of the parties is ripe for exploitation. You're certainly on the right track though, I think.

  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity.yahoo@com> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:50AM (#28524369) Homepage

    What madoff did was 100x times worse than your average 7-11 robber.

    Yeah, I said it. It's worse than even a violent crime. 7-11 is insured and gets their money back, the crime is far from victimless but there is typically just 1-2 victims and they recover.

    Because of madoff, thousands will suffer through the last years of their lives living from social security check to check, will not have access to the medications they need or the mobility required to live a healthy senior life.

    I have no pity for the man. 150 years wasn't enough. Sadly, he will die of old age before any possible recompense can be served.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @01:57AM (#28524743)

    The small prudent banks were not isolated from the rest of the economy by any means. Consider a bank that only loaned to individual borrowers with a very high credit score and a stable income, say in the automaking business, or perhaps working at a top financial firm. Or only loaned to a very well managed document shredding company who spent all their time on wall street shredding the evidence of failure. There is absolutely no way to make sane loans in an economy where the largest banks and the largest loans and investments are unsound.

    The recession will also significantly reduce deposits, which will have an impact on all banks large or small, insane or prudent.

    For your idea to work, the truly smart companies and individuals would need to predict the recession years in advance and determine which businesses and investments would survive unscathed and loan and invest accordingly. Like most libertarian principles, the unrestricted free market requires the "winners" to possess the power of supernatural prediction.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:15AM (#28524829)

    And those half-dozen large banks comprise 90% of the financial system...

  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @04:28AM (#28525497)

    That's basically what bugs me about it. What's the worth of a life sentence for someone who is 77?

    Given the chance, would you not do what he did? Live in luxury for 30ish years of your life, then spend the last 2-3 in prison?

    What bugs me even more is that he is now found guilty, we're happy about it, and that's the last we'll hear about it. Provisions to keep this from repeating? Oversight of financial markets? Bah, what for, we got the bad guy...

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @04:39AM (#28525533) Homepage Journal

    My opinion: He needs his fucking legs cheese gratered off and his face given a date with a belt sander. That wouldn't be cruel or unusual

    Yes it is cruel and unusual. We as a society don't do that to serial killers who torture and cut up young women. You think we should do that to a guy who stole people's money? Good thing your opinion counts for nothing.

  • Re:Now what about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by donj (1588293) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @05:58AM (#28525871)
    Sorry, but this post being moderated 5 completely discredits the competence slashdot's user base. I used to work in the financial institutions group (advising banks & insurers) of a major US Investment Bank for the last two years and witnessed the impact of the Lehman Brothers collapse on the financial system and especially other banks first hand. The global financial systems are too interlinked that ANY significant bank would have survived the collapse of even Lehman Brothers without significant government intervention - and no being a prudent bank would NOT have helped! Being prudent only impacts the asset side of the banks balance sheet i.e. a prudent bank will take less losses, however, this really doesn't help in staying solvent. The business model of banks is very simple. They borrow money from - investors - other banks - from customer deposits - central banks (repo'ing assets) add a charge (spread) on top of their funding costs (i.e. what they pay for the above) and lend it to out again. Sure, they can also trade themselves and do advisory business but borrowing and lending is really the core. Quite simply, after the Lehman collapse banks weren't able to borrow money any more: - investors were not willing to buy bank bonds any more - banks stopped lending to each other - customers withdraw money from their bank accounts - Central banks tried to relax requirements to borrow money from them but this doesn't make up for the above (moreover, this already is government intervention) This happens because investors & customers lost faith in the banking system and were afraid of another insolvency. Moreover it's a vicious circle, as soon as people are aware a bank has issues they withdraw their money making it even harder for the bank to survive. As banks have to continuously refinance themselves (as bonds they issued mature etc), not being able to borrow money any more will let a bank that is perfectly fine on the asset side go belly up within days or weeks. I've seen it, post Lehman every other week a new (PRUDENT) bank almost went bankrupt and could only survive with government intervention. You see being a prudent bank helps on the asset side and in the medium term on the liability side but in the short term after a major bank collapsed EVERY bank can go bankrupt within days given that they are extremely vulnerable on the liability side.
  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:17AM (#28525953)

    Your point is appreciated. Murderers usually serve 25 years in my state. I don't find it much of a surprise that stealing money gets a bigger sentence than murder. If society isn't careful
    the message that wealth is more important than life itself to some people just might become obvious to the masses.

  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @08:06AM (#28526495)

    That's why we don't need more laws but sensible application of those that exist. More laws, especially more rigid laws, that allow little leeway to the judge, only help the truely crafty criminals rather than be a deterrent for them. The more rigid and defined a law is, the more loopholes it has. Simply due to the nature of definition, the more and more detailed you define something, the less you actually cover with it.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not at all for handing the judge the ultimate power to decide what's allowed and what's not (i.e. "it's illegal if the judge says so" is no way to word a law). But the opposite (i.e. "it is illegal, unless this, then it's legal, but only in these circumstances, else it's illegal, unless there is this or that condition...") is at least as bad. It opens the law for loopholes and those that make it their business to find them.

    You cannot protect the stupid. But (even though the law is more and more abused for this) this isn't what the law is here for. The law should protect everyone equally so you don't have to defend yourself constantly.

    And those that play a system fairly are usually the first to suffer from it. They usually also suffer the worst. Because they didn't look for loopholes, they didn't try to abuse and manipulate the system, and they actually played by the rules, not only by word but also by spirit. Of course they are at a disadvantage over those that weaseled out.

  • Re:Tricky (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @03:27PM (#28533357) Homepage Journal

    Indeed, he's already bought and played with all the toys he wanted

    The old canard "he who dies with the most toys, wins" is backwards, and my grandmother obviously realized this. By the time she died at age 99, she'd given all her belongings away. No probate for her!

    The more you have, the more you have to lose, and poets and songwriters know this. "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. Nothin' ain't worth nothin', but it's free" (Kristofferson, Bobby McGee). "When he lost his life, that's all he had to lose" (Skynard, Curtis Lowe).

    He who dies with the FEWEST toys wins! Because there's another old canard, "you can't take it with you."

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