Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we get word of what sounds like a perfect partnership. Bernard Madoff’s wife, Ruth, allegedly withdrew about $15 million from the bank suspiciously close to the moment when her husband’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme came to light. Honey, you’re the best!
Ruth Madoff withdrew $10 million from Cohmad Securities (which, according to regulators, was "intertwined" with Bernie Madoff’s company) the day before her husband was arrested in December. A couple weeks beforehand, she had taken out $5.5 million.
I don’t know, maybe she just had a really massive shopping spree planned and was completely clueless that her husband’s jig was just about up, but ummm ... yeah, right. (And of course, shortly after the media firestorm surrounding Madoff’s rip-off, we all learned that Tiffany (NYSE: TIF ) and Cartier baubles had allegedly been sent to friends and family, despite a court order restricting asset movement. Um, can you say, “Let’s grab everything and hide it before the Feds find it”?)
Motley Fool co-founder Tom Gardner recently wrote an awesome article about how hundreds should go to jail, given all the bad actions that have been taking place, pointing out the outrageous pay awarded to CEOs who presided over Washington Mutual (now part of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) ), AIG (NYSE: AIG ) , and Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) ). These are the folks who arguably presided over ruin and yet managed to run off with big bucks anyway.
It’s true that we have seen too many instances of folks who have exhibited their greed in what should be considered a downright criminal manner. Yet Bernie Madoff still sits in his swanky penthouse instead of the big house.
True, Madoff did pay a $10 million bail, and I guess the judge’s thoughts that this dude wasn’t a danger to the community or a flight risk have some logic, but hello, grifting $50 billion out of people seems like a pretty major transgression against society.
And here’s a thought: Consider all the media hoopla about Olympic hero Michael Phelps’ marijuana smoking and the buzz about his possible arrest. Meanwhile, Madoff sits comfortably in his penthouse. That might really make you wonder where priorities are these days. Maybe runaway greed really has become a virtue -- or at least an understandable vice? Save us all, then.
I’ve heard a few people complain about the dangers of the hysterical, pitchfork-wielding “court of public opinion” here lately, but I believe in that sort of thing -- a little public shaming is freaking awesome and called for. I say, let’s shame these people and expect better behavior. This goes beyond simple legality, since people should know how to act like ethical human beings. The lack of remorse some of these villains have demonstrated shows an appalling absence of morals or responsibility.
There was a time when people were concerned about their reputations (or whether they might burn in hell for eternity for what they’d done). I have to wonder how many of these people whose bank accounts hover in the millions or billions think those numbers are what make them “good” people -- a terrifying thought. Do you want that kind of person living next door to you? I sure don’t. Because let’s face it, it’s more than clear that the uber-wealthy get away with a lot, and that’s shameful too.
Well, shame, shame, shame. And that’s the truth, Ruth.