March 7, 2009
Agreement Sets Stage for Madoff Plea
By DIANA B. HENRIQUES
Taking one step closer to his day in court, the money manager Bernard L. Madoff has agreed to waive his right to a formal grand jury review of accusations that he conducted a worldwide Ponzi scheme, according to a new filing Friday in a federal court in Manhattan.
The agreement sets the stage for a plea bargain between Mr. Madoff and federal prosecutors, who have been negotiating with his lawyers since his arrest on Dec. 11. Criminal charges filed against him at that time and subsequent court filings indicated that he confessed to his crime both to his family members and to the F.B.I agent who arrested him at his apartment.
Further, Mr. Madoff agreed last month to a partial settlement of regulatory charges filed against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In that settlement, he essentially agreed that he would not contest the accusations the agency made against him — a step that would have greatly complicated any effort by his lawyers to assert his innocence at a trial.
Still pending on the court calendar, however, is a hearing to review potential conflicts of interest by Mr. Madoff’s lead lawyer, Ira Lee Sorkin, whose parents had maintained investments with Mr. Madoff before their death several years ago. That hearing, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was adjourned to next week. It is not clear whether the federal courts will allow Mr. Madoff to plead guilty to the charges he faces until that issue has been resolved.
Mr. Sorkin could not be reached immediately for comment, but his colleague Daniel Horwitz, said: “The filing speaks for itself. He has waived his right to an indictment.”
Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, had no comment.
As the case plays out, the number of claims from Madoff clients has nearly doubled in the last two weeks.
The court-appointed trustee, Irving Picard of Baker & Hostetler, who has been working to identify and sell assets of the estate, has received 4,300 claims as of Wednesday, according to a spokesman, Kevin McCue.
At a hearing on Feb. 20, Mr. Picard said he had received about 2,350 claims, mostly from smaller investors, totaling $1 billion. Mr. McCue would not comment on the dollar value of the number of claims. The Securities Investor Protection Corporation has mailed more than 14,000 claim forms to Madoff clients since the beginning of January.
William K. Rashbaum and Zachery Kouwe contributed reporting.