After yesterday’s New York Times story alleging that the Wilpons steered others toward Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme, the Wilpons have decided not to take this lying down. The Wilpons’ lawyer to the Daily News:
“We believe the complaint is baseless, both factually and legally. We have conveyed that to the trustee’s counsel. Fred Wilpon, Saul and the other partners did not know that Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.” … None of the evidence, they added, suggests Wilpon and his associates knew that Madoff was engaged in the massive fraud that earned the former Wall Street star a 150-year prison sentence.
An anonymous source close to the Wilpons added “this is total extortion.” And while the Wilpons or their lawyers have to be mindful of what they say publicly, Mike Lupica doesn’t, and today he rails at the bankruptcy trustee and the Times coverage, calling it a smear and calling Wilpon a victim in all of this.
A court will ultimately weigh in on all of this, so neither yesterday’s Times story nor today’s News story decides anything, of course. Each can and probably should be read as a p.r. offensive by the bankruptcy trustee (Times story) and the Wilpons (today’s story in the News). That doesn’t mean that anything in either story is false. It just means that we can’t take it at face value. Every plaintiff I have ever known has began a case by painting the defendant as an evil doer. Every defendant I have ever known has claimed that he’s the victim of a shakedown. This is par for the course.
What will really shed the most light on what’s going on is when and if the pleadings in the case are unsealed, as multiple media outlets are currently seeking to have done. Because it’s one thing to leak or say something to a newspaper. It’s a totally different thing to say something in a legal document. Allegations in the complaint and subsequent filings by the trustee must be made in good faith and he is subject to legal sanction if they are truly “baseless” or if the case is really just “total extortion.” I’d like to see those allegations and the exhibits the trustee contends supports them.
I suspect this settles before then. But I would really like to know what the trustee thinks he has on the Wilpons. Wouldn’t you?