02/04/2011 10:46 AM ET
Statement from Fred Wilpon, co-founder and chairman, and Saul B. Katz, co-founder and president of Sterling Equities, on behalf of the Sterling Equities partners and their families
GREAT NECK, N.Y., February 4, 2011 -- Following days of leaks and press speculation, the Court - with the agreement of the Sterling partners - has released the complaint that was previously filed under seal.
The Trustee's lawsuit is an outrageous "strong arm" effort to try to force a settlement by threatening to ruin our reputations and businesses which we have built for over 50 years. This is a flagrant abuse of the Trustee's authority and we will not succumb to his pressure. The conclusions in the complaint are not supported by the facts. While they may make for good headlines, they are abusive, unfair and untrue. We categorically reject them. We should not be made victims twice over - the first time by Madoff, and again by the Trustee's actions.
The plain truth is that not one of the Sterling partners ever knew or suspected that Madoff ran a Ponzi scheme. Because the Trustee has no evidence to support his claims even after a year-and-a-half review of over 700,000 pages of documents and many, many hours of depositions, he has created a claim that we "knew or should have known" that Madoff was a fraud. Why should we "have known" when the SEC and other government agencies that had oversight responsibilities did not know? In fact, the SEC reported that Madoff was above board and legitimate, even after it investigated him many times. Madoff was not a hedge fund, but an SEC regulated broker dealer and like millions of other Americans, we trusted the brokerage statements we received. The Trustee is suing not only for what he defines as "fictitious profits" but for monies that we deposited with Madoff over almost 25 years. That is outrageous, unfounded and inconsistent with the law. Let us be clear, the Trustee is attempting to seize money originally invested with Madoff, which was earned from the Sterling businesses.
The Trustee also alleges that we were blinded to Madoff's crimes because our businesses "depended" on the returns. That is complete nonsense. We have good, sound businesses that were successful years before we invested with Madoff, including both real estate and the New York Mets. Those businesses never depended on returns from Madoff. Our previous statements
All of the public statements we have issued to date have been accurate and true. We said when the fraud was first disclosed that the losses we suffered in the Madoff scheme would have no impact on the operations of the New York Mets and that was true. At the time, we could not have anticipated that a trustee would file a lawsuit seeking to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to the substantial amounts that Madoff had stolen from us.
As we announced last Friday, we are now seeking one or more strategic partners in the New York Mets specifically because of the uncertainty created by the lawsuit filed by the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy.
We thought that Madoff was a friend for 25 years. That is why his betrayal was so painful. Each of the Sterling partners and their families invested with Madoff in good faith right up to the day his crime was exposed. We were as shocked as the rest of the world when the money in our accounts vanished along with the billions he swindled from thousands of other innocent people.
In summary, we are proud of what we have built and achieved as a family. We have worked very hard for our entire lives, always with character and integrity. We will not sit still while the Trustee or anyone else makes these outrageous and irresponsible allegations. People who know us know the truth about who we are and what our life's work represents.
Again, we have done nothing wrong. We played by the rules. We abided by the court order not to discuss the lawsuit. Others did not. We are confident we will win in court.