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Wilpon and Katz fire back. Which provides an opportunity for perspective.

Mar 21, 2011, 9:09 AM EDT

Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon

Sticking with the legal beat, Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and the Mets fired back at the bankruptcy trustee in the Madoff case yesterday, filing a 94-page brief  (a copy of which is available at their website if you’re curious) accusing Irving Picard of — and there’s really no other way to put this — of being a liar:

“After months of leaks, false accusations and withholding of evidence, we can finally legally respond to the work of fiction created by the trustee. Let us be very clear: we did not know that Madoff was engaged in a fraud. There were no red flags and we received no warnings.”

That wasn’t in the brief actually. That was an official statement which came in a lengthy email which contained an outline of the “false allegations” from Picard rebutted with “the facts” as seen by Wilpon, Katz and the Mets, set out in clear and plain terms for media consumption by someone at the Abernathy MacGregor Group, Inc., who are handling the Wilpons’ “strategic communications.”  Someone spent a lot of time on it.

I mentioned in Friday’s post that I got Wilpon’s last statement from his P.R. people too. I’m quite tickled, actually, that the obviously sophisticated P.R. machine of the Wilpons saw fit to include me in their propaganda efforts.  It’s likewise amusing to me that the relatively primitive P.R. operation of the bankruptcy trustee — who relies on more austere press releases and not mini-legal briefs like Wilpon’s P.R. firm cranks out — is still winning the P.R. battle as far as I can tell. Most people, rightly or wrongly, are assuming that Wilpon and the Mets are screwed. It has me wondering exactly why that is this morning.

This is a highly complex case involving some very technical and rather esoteric areas of law and a lot of financial data to which we’re either not privy or, even if we are, isn’t easily understood or interpreted. At trial it will require tons of expert testimony for a jury to figure out if Picard is right or if Wilpon and Katz are. I have a legal degree and 11 years of experience, but in this kind of case I and most lawyers who lack bankruptcy law experience would be malpractice on wheels. Yet so many — even those who couldn’t define the terms “hedge fund,” “fraudulent transfer” or who have never encountered the term “bankruptcy” outside of a game of Monopoly — are sure that they have a handle on it.

And on some level I get that. Assuming the worse about things involving the Mets is almost hard-wired in people these days.  Anyone who was friendly with a criminal like Madoff tends to become the subject of suspicion among most people. And while we like to pretend that we live in a classless society, ignoring the distrust and disdain between rich and poor (and poor and rich) is rather silly.  You put the Mets, the Wilpon-Madoff relationship and some good old fashioned class resentment in a pot and you’re bound to have something like the environment which currently exists begin to simmer.

But it doesn’t get us any closer to the truth, and anyone who isn’t neck-deep in this case — which includes everyone but the lawyers for the parties at this point — doesn’t know enough to say highly intelligent things about where the case is headed. We can (as I have) say that it’s much better to not have this suit pending against you if you’re Wilpon than to have it pending against you. We can make some general assumptions about what it could all mean if the case goes bad for them.  We can voice skepticism about one claim or defense or another in a manner that stops short of certainty.  Beyond that, however, we’re just guessing. Or else we’re being taken for a ride by the people who issue those press releases and who send those emails.

My interest in covering this is because it has implications for the Mets, so I’m going to continue to cover it.  But I’m not going to get into the business of regurgitating the details of the press releases of the trustee or the emails from the Wilpons’ P.R. firm.  Some overview and a juicy quote or two is where I’m going to draw the line.  I’d urge you as readers to not get too hung up on these details yourselves. Partially because it’s pretty depressing business. But mostly because there isn’t much out there at the moment that isn’t being pushed by someone with a public relations agenda. Give me a judge’s ruling over bullet-pointed and spoon-fed talking points.

Besides. Baseball games that count start in just over a week, and that’s a way better pursuit on which to spend one’s energies.

  1. BC - Mar 21, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    Mommy, mommy… make them go away!!!!!!

  2. BC - Mar 21, 2011 at 9:16 AM


    • BC - Mar 21, 2011 at 9:17 AM

      Aw darn, the superscript HTML tag didn’t work. Bummer.

  3. steve keane - Mar 21, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    As a Mets fan today is a celebration day not just because of the release of Oliver Perez but the fact that Sandy Alderson is running the baseball operations and has final say on who stays and who goes.

    Alderson put Baby Jeffey in the corner!!!!

  4. jgraening - Mar 21, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    I don’t know how anything 94 pages long can be called a brief.

    • steve keane - Mar 21, 2011 at 10:11 AM

      more like a large boxer

  5. Professor Longnose - Mar 21, 2011 at 10:37 AM


    As a lawyer do you have any idea how long this might take to settle?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 21, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      Not really. But given the rhetoric right now — when parties are accusing one another of lying, it’s VERY personal — I’d say that we’re not anywhere close to that. Things are in ramp-up stage right now. Settlements tend to come after things plateau for a bit or as a trial grows closer.

  6. cur68 - Mar 21, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Craig; 1 line you wrote sticks out “And while we like to pretend that we live in a classless society, ignoring the distrust and disdain between rich and poor (and poor and rich) is rather silly.” It seems to partially answer a question that’s been bugging me. Bear with me please;
    I seem to recall some amount of dislike for Louis Castillo (scrappy ballplayer that he is). He simply wasn’t very good in his role for the team. He possessed largely poor stats , was overpaid, and the team lost a lot, some of which was directly attributable to his moves. If you take the name “Louis Castillo” out of that previous sentence and stick “Fred Wilpon” into it, you’d still get a very justifiable statement. And yet there are those who will vigorously defend the latter while vigorously castigating the former. Unaccountable, eh?

  7. Reflex - Mar 21, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    I can take a wild guess as to why Craig got included in thier release. It might involve an employee working in thier PR or legal department being an active regular here. Not going to name names, of course. Wouldn’t want to influence the jury pool.

  8. paperlions - Mar 21, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    It is hard to trust people who keep the nature of their operations secret, and whose public proclamations are regularly shown to be inconsistent with fact. No one likes people they know they can’t trust and no one likes being lied to.

  9. iranuke - Mar 21, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Judging by all the stuff thrown out there, I’m reminded of the old saw “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” The extremes for the old saw are a small fire with lots of wet straw or a raging inferno. You won’t know which until you go look, and my opinion is that the legal process will take about as long as the Barry Bonds trial has taken to get to trial.

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