Friday, December 17, 2010

Integrity! A Rare Bird?

Integrity: (1) the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
(2) the state of being whole and undivided:
* the condition of being unified or sound in construction;
* internal consistency or lack of corruption in electronic data.
- Oxford Dictionary
$7.2B is recovered for Madoff's victims
Businessman's widow gives back $7.2 billion for Madoff's victims in biggest settlement yet
Tom Hays and David B. Caruso, Associated Press
Friday December 17, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) -- Many of Bernard Madoff's victims who thought they lost everything could get at least half their money back after the widow of a Florida philanthropist agreed Friday to return a staggering $7.2 billion that her husband reaped from the giant Ponzi scheme.
Federal prosecutors reached the settlement with the estate of Jeffry Picower, a businessman who drowned after suffering a heart attack in the swimming pool of his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion in October 2009. Picower was the single biggest beneficiary of Madoff's fraud.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the forfeiture the largest in Justice Department history and a "game changer" for those swindled by Madoff. He commended Picower's widow, Barbara, "for agreeing to turn over this truly staggering sum, which really was always other people's money."
"We will return every penny received from almost 35 years of investing with Bernard Madoff," Barbara Picower said in a statement. "I believe the Madoff Ponzi scheme was deplorable, and I am deeply saddened by the tragic impact it continues to have on the lives of its victims. It is my hope that this settlement will ease that suffering."
The settlement means roughly half of the $20 billion that investors entrusted to Madoff has now been recovered, authorities said.
The $7.2 billion eclipses by far the deals reached with other defendants sued by Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee who is recovering victims' money. The next largest -- $625 million -- was announced earlier this month in a settlement with Massachusetts businessman and philanthropist Carl Shapiro.
Madoff's burned clients greeted the news warily.
Willard Foxton, a British journalist whose father committed suicide after losing his life savings, said he was stunned that a major investor decided to return so much money.
"I don't think he would have killed himself if he thought a few years down the line that he was going to be getting a good amount of his money back," he said. He added: "I thought we had zero chance of getting any money back, and I still am very, very skeptical. If I see a penny before 2015 I'd be amazed."
Lawrence Velvel, a law school dean who lost money he had invested with Madoff for decades, said Picower's widow "did the right thing."
But he was wary about who, in the end, would benefit more -- the multitude of small and mid-sized investors who had been counting on their investments for their retirement, or the big hedge funds that did business with Madoff.
"It's going to go to the hedge funds," he said.
Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year prison sentence.
Jeffry Picower, who was 67 when he died, was one of Madoff's oldest clients. Over the decades, he
withdrew about $7 billion in bogus profits, or more than a third of the sum that disappeared in the scandal. The money paid out to Picower was supposedly made on stock trades, but authorities said it was simply stolen from other investors.
Picower's lawyers claimed he knew nothing about the scheme, but Picard had argued in court papers that the businessman must have known the returns were "implausibly high" and based on fraud.
Barbara Picower said she was "absolutely confident that my husband, Jeffry, was in no way complicit in Madoff's fraud and want to underscore the fact that neither the trustee, nor the U.S. attorney, has charged him with any illegal act."
Asked whether criminal investigators had any suspicions about Picower, Bharara would say only that the
question became moot when he died. He gave the same response to questions about Mark Madoff, the son who committed suicide on Dec. 11.
Lawyers for Picower's estate have been in negotiations with the trustee for some time. In his will, Picower had earmarked most of his fortune for charity.
A huge charitable foundation that Picower had created closed in 2009 after its assets were wiped out in the Madoff fraud. It had donated hundreds of millions to colleges, libraries and other groups.
Thousands of people, banks and hedge funds that invested with Madoff saw their savings wiped out when the fraud was revealed two years ago. Many, though, like Picower, had been drawing bogus profits from their Madoff accounts for years and walked away from the scheme having taken out more money than they put in.
Madoff's clients had thought, based on his fraudulent account statements, that they had more than $60 billion invested in stocks with Madoff. Investigators found, though, that no investments were made, and that an estimated $20 billion in principal was simply being paid out bit by bit to other investors.
The Emperor and the Seed
Here is one of the inspirational stories about integrity
by unknown author
Once there was an emperor in the Far East who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or one of his own children, he decided to do something different.
He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, "It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you." The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued. "I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the one I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!"
There was one boy named Ling who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.
After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept going home and checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing.
By now others were talking about their plants but Ling didn't have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by, still nothing in Ling's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn't say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection.
Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.
When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other youths. They were beautiful, in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kinds laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey nice try."
When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!"
All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. "The emperor knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!"
When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!" Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?
Then the emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grown, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"
The wholeness of integrity
Church News
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Published: Saturday, June 26, 1999
When something is complete within itself, possessing an inner strength and soundness, we say it has integrity. And we trust it.
A bridge, for example, can have integrity. It will hold the weight for which it was designed and probably more. It will withstand both pounding weather and the constant vibration of traffic without cracking. Its foundations are solid and the pressure points have been strengthened.
But what if the builders decided to substitute a poorer quality of material? What if they failed to make the right measurements because they ran out of time? In short, what if their own personal integrity was lacking?
In that case, both the bridge and its builders would eventually fail, and the results would be catastrophic for each.
We probably can't give a person a higher compliment than to say that she or he has integrity. It is a keystone virtue that encompasses both honesty and trustworthiness.
It's a sad moment when we conclude that the person we're dealing with lacks integrity. Integrity, said
President Spencer W. Kimball, is one of the foundation stones of good character.
The essential fact of integrity is that no one can give it to us. We can't inherit it, and we certainly can't buy it.
We have to earn it, and the process is a long one that allows very few second chances. It's a trait that almost has to be tested in order to be perceived, because the world is full of people who claim to have integrity but their actions say otherwise. We learn to be wary of people who claim to be honest until we see them actually being honest.
Happily, because integrity is such a personal attribute, anyone can attain it, no matter our personal circumstances of wealth, creed or origin. Whatever our character is, we have a hand in creating it. That is, after all, why we're here. It's one of the great underlying goals of the gospel.
President Kimball, who spoke eloquently about moral character and integrity, noted that in every walk of life we run into stories of dishonesty. They include professional people charging prohibitive prices for their services, colored water sold as a costly prescription, a few cents worth of medications selling for many dollars, improper billing practices, workers who steal time, employers who oppress and take advantage of their employees, merchants selling inferior goods, merchandise marked up before being put on sale, rents raised simply because the market will bear it and not because of increased costs.
He lamented the employee who comes late and leaves early, the shopper who buys more than he can ever pay for and the tendency to cut corners. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.196.)
We can easily spot the characteristics of someone with integrity. They're honest. They do the right thing when nobody is watching. They keep their word and they keep our confidences. They repay their debts, and they clean up their own messes. They accept responsibility for their actions. They are serene because they know that the decisions they make are based on time-honored principles that they've made a personal commitment
to honor.
They understand and follow the Law of the Harvest: Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Gal. 6:7) So they plant wisely.
Integrity isn't an abstract quality that has no bearing on our world. President David O. McKay said that the foundation of a noble character is integrity. "By this virtue the strength of a nation, as of an individual, may be judged. No nation will become great whose trusted officers will pass legislation for personal gain, who will take advantage of public office for personal preferment, or to gratify vain ambition or who will, through forgery, chicanery, and fraud, rob the government, or be false in office to a public trust." (Conference Report, April 1964.)
We live in a world where integrity is a universally admired moral trait, perhaps because it seems so rare. When we discover people of integrity, we treasure them and seek their company, hoping to gain strength from their example.
Long ago, the French dramatist Moliere commented wryly that if everyone were clothed with integrity, and if every heart were just, frank and kindly, then we wouldn't need the other virtues. They only exist to make us bear with patience the injustices of our fellows.