PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz publicly defended themselves in court papers filed Sunday, claiming that the trustee seeking to recoup money lost in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme has made false allegations and charges against them.
In a press release, Mets parent company Sterling Equities revealed that it moved to dismiss the complaint filed by trustee Irving Picard, saying that he made false allegations against Wilpon and Katz in an attempt to force a settlement, made false charges that "are directly contrary to evidence available," omitted evidence "overwhelmingly favorable to the Sterling partners," ignored warnings that the complaint would "inflict harm upon the Sterling Partners' reputations and businesses" and ignored established laws governing the liquidation of a federally regulated broker-dealer institution.
"The Sterling Partners' response motion categorically and unequivocally rejects each of the trustee's charges, demonstrating how the complaint makes allegations that are contradicted by the evidence," read Sterling's release. "Examination of the evidence makes clear the trustee's complaint was crafted to pressure the Sterling partners to pay a huge settlement."
The public defense came two days after Picard filed an amended complaint seeking more than $1 billion from Sterling Equities, citing alleged fraudulent transfers of $700 million in principal received from Madoff, as well as the $300 million in "fictitious profits" detailed in Picard's original complaint. Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo was appointed mediator in the case in an attempt to avoid a trial.
Picard has alleged that Wilpon and Katz should have been aware of Madoff's fraud, a charge they refuted in Sunday's response.
"After months of damaging leaks, false accusations and withholding of evidence, we can finally legally respond to the work of fiction created by the trustee," Wilpon and Katz said in the release. "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. It's important to remember that before Madoff confessed his crimes, most of the world, including the [Securities and Exchange Commission], viewed Madoff as a legendary Wall Street figure who was a pioneer in electronic trading and had served with distinction as the chairman of NASDAQ.
"At every step in this process, the trustee has dismissed our requests for information in his possession when we have cooperated fully with him. We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously and set the record straight."
In response to the legal issues, Sterling Equities has received at least one loan from Major League Baseball and is seeking to sell a minority stake in the team. Wilpon has been firm in saying that he will not sell a controlling share of the Mets.