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Advisers Weigh in on Bernie Madoff’s 150-Year Prison

Posted on 07 Jul 09

Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for orchestrating a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. Now people are left wondering whether his stiff sentencing will deter future large-scale frauds from occurring. Following is what some advisors have to say.

“I think that the sentence is absolutely just and was the right thing to do,” said Scott Kays, president of Kays Financial Advisory Corp. of Atlanta, which has $120 million in assets under management. “He ruined the financial lives of so many people. Anything less would have been very unjust.”

“I think he deserved every bit of it,” said Carolyn McClanahan, founder of Life Planning Partners Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., which has $25 million in assets under management. “People are fed up with white-collar crime that destroys lives.”

“With the high-profile nature of his case, it was kind of necessary,” said Steve Medland, partner in TABR Capital Management LLC of Orange, Calif., which has $135 million in assets under management.

But whether the severity of the sentence will deter others is doubtful. Mr. Kay added, “those who are intent on committing a crime already understand what the punishment is going to be if they get caught.”

“I would like to think that 150 years would scare anyone from doing any Ponzi scheme again,” said Matthew Illian, wealth manager at the Richmond, Va. office of Marotta Wealth Management Inc. of Charlottesville, Va., which has $130 million in assets under management.

If anything, the sentencing sends a message to investors as well as advisers about communications, Mr. Medland said. “Investors need to do their homework and check out the background of anybody they want to work with,” he said. “It makes advisers realize that we need to focus on these issues and communicate with clients.”

“It’s incumbent on advisers to demonstrate to clients and assure them that their money is safe in terms of custody,” Mr. Kays said.

Government tends to over-regulate in the wake of high-profile crime, Mr. Kay said. “A simple thing would be to require advisers to have independent, third-party custodianship of assets. “That would not totally eliminate the possibility of anybody sending out fraudulent statements, but it would reduce it.”