NewsBits: Madoff (Still) in the News

from Charity Governance:

The Curious Case of Ira Millstein and Rumpelstiltskin

Bloomberg reported on January 1st that noted corporate-governance lawyer, Ira M. Millstein, of the Weil, Gotshal & Manages law firm issued an opinion stating that J. Ezra Merkin could continue accepting funds from Yeshiva University as long as Merkin disclosed his role. The article suggests that the opinion was issued to Yeshiva. The article doesn’t indicate whether Millstein was aware of an intention to invest all the funds with Madoff, who was another trustee. As we have pointed out before, that results in what looks to us like redundant fees, which we believe is hard to justify.

We have several reactions to the revelations about Millstein and the board’s reliance on his opinion.  Our basic one is the simplest and most direct:  If you have to ask for a legal opinion before taking action on what essentially come downs to a question of ethics, you shouldn’t take the action.

from the New York Times:

The Rules That Madoff’s Investors Ignored

Bernard L. Madoff, the Cheshire cat of financial swindlers, did what advisers to the very rich only dream about: he persuaded them to hand over a huge percentage of their net worth with less due diligence than they would do before purchasing a launch for their yacht.

from The Economist:

A giving recession?

Among the more difficult things to forecast for 2009 is what will happen to giving. On the one hand, the turmoil in financial markets has reduced the assets of many prominent givers, both foundations and individuals…

The collapse of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme has dealt a devastating blow to Jewish philanthropy in particular, as so many wealthy Jews invested their money with him, hitting several charities very hard…

So it was with great interest that your columnist listened to the views of two of the heads of America’s biggest foundations, who spoke at New York’s 92nd Street Y on January 4th.