Madoff, Picard, the Wilpons and the Federal District Court: Will Judge Rakoff Provide a More Level Playing Field for the Mets Owners? - Installment 54
This is the fifty-fourth in a series of Installments on this blog that are discussing issues arising in the aftermath of the global Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard L. Madoff (“Madoff”). A number of recent Installments in this series, such as Installment 52 and, earlier, Installment 17 have used public filings and media publications to highlight the apparently inconsistent and peremptory approach that Irving Picard, the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy (“Picard”) has taken with respect to the Wilpon/Katz families, the owners of the New York Mets, and their Section 501(c)(3) private foundations (collectively, “Wilpon/Katz”), in contrast to other charitable organizations.
Now, however, there will be a new playing field and environment to be confronted by Mr. Picard and his army of attorneys in his crusade against the Wilpon/Katz families. In contrast to the friendly home field advantage for Mr. Picard in the bankruptcy court, Judge Jed S. Rakoff, a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan, has taken jurisdiction of the Wilpon/Katz matter. A July 6, 2011 article by Richard Sandomir in The New York Times characterized Judge Rakoff as
a former federal prosecutor and defense lawyer with an independent streak and a flair for phrase-making. He has been called an activist judge. He has been called a maverick. He has been called other things, a number of them probably unprintable. But few observers of the federal bench would dispute that he is capable of the unexpected.
The article by Mr. Sandomir goes on to say that “lawyers familiar with Rakoff and his appetite for novel rulings said this week that they would not be shocked if he tried try to say something larger about the law.” Indeed Judge Rakoff indicated some skepticism as to “a question that is critical to Katz and Wilpon’s case. How, he wondered, can investors like them not be judged by the securities laws that governed their 25 years of investing with Madoff, but by the bankruptcy laws that came into play after Madoff’s collapse.”
It is clear that Judge Rakoff may bring a bold new and perhaps refreshing and enlightening direction to the Wilpon/Katz matter. He does not appear to be willing to limit his review to the scope that has been so far carefully defined by Mr. Picard and the bankruptcy court. His involvement may have significant impact on the entire Madoff case. It is hoped that an enlarged field of inquiry by Judge Rakoff will address some of the peremptory and perplexing decisions of Mr. Picard in the Madoff bankruptcy that appear to be inconsistent and perhaps even unfair.
[To be continued in Installment 55].
(Michael J. Kline, the author of this entry and a co-author of this blog, is a partner with Fox Rothschild LLP, based in our Princeton, NJ office, and is a past Chair of the firm's Corporate Department. He concentrates his practice in the areas of corporate, securities, and health law, and frequently writes and speaks on topics such as corporate compliance, governance and business and nonprofit law and ethics.)