N.Y. Mets owners settle with Madoff trustee for $162 million (+video)
The ownership group of Major League Baseball's New York Mets has agreed to a settlement deal with the trustee trying to recoup billions of dollars in the wake of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
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The formal agreement read aloud by Rakoff included a statement by the trustee "that he has reviewed the evidence and will no longer pursue the willful blindness claim against the defendants."Skip to next paragraph
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The trial was set to showcase what the trustee said was a conscious decision by the Mets owners to ignore warnings that Madoff was operating a multibillion-dollar fraud over several decades, costing thousands of investors about $20 billion.
Outside court, Wilpon and Katz seemed relieved that they were freed from the accusation. They have always insisted they knew nothing of Madoff's fraud.
"We are not willfully blind," Wilpon said. "We never was. We acted in good faith."
Katz called litigation "negative energy."
"We are very pleased to have this behind us," he said. "We have done everything in good faith. The settlement itself bears that out."
Picard originally sought $1 billion from the owners, putting a dark cloud over the team that led to an effort over the past year to raise money through new investors. The club also has slashed payroll as its revenue has suffered with declining attendance and product sales as the team has struggled on the field.
As he stepped into a car, Wilpon declined to discuss how the settlement might affect the club's efforts to raise additional cash.
"We'll address that," he said.
Earlier, he said he was "very, very pleased for ourselves and our families. This was really a team effort."
He said he was going to Florida Tuesday to resume work at "trying to bring the New York Mets back to prominence."
Rakoff already had ruled the team's owners must pay up to $83.3 million in profits they received from Madoff. That amount would now be included in the $162 million.
The way to a settlement may have been cleared weeks ago when Rakoff ruled that Picard could only try to recoup $386 million from the Mets owners.
Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who acted as mediator in the deal, said the settlement allows Picard to focus on another 800 pending lawsuits against those who profited from their investment with Madoff.
He said Picard and the Mets owners "avoided the risks and uncertainty of ... a long, bitter and expensive trial."
As to the financial condition of the Mets, Cuomo said: "As far as I'm concerned, they're not broke."
He called the deal "fair and reasonable, as fair and reasonable as it could be," though he added, "Nobody gets everything they want in a settlement. But both sides helped their causes."
"Although this is something of an anticlimax, it is always helpful and positive when the parties are mutually able to resolve their dispute," Rakoff said.