Madoff investors brace for lawsuits; Redemptorists could be affected

by Tom Gallagher

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As I reported on February 11, 2009, with the assistance of NCR's Editor at Large, Tom Roberts, the Redemptorist Fathers of the Baltimore Province lost a substantial amount of money invested for years with Bernie Madoff.

"The Redemptorist Fathers of the Baltimore province may have to “reduce, suspend or cancel” some of their ministries because of “significant” losses they suffered as clients of Bernard Madoff, the New York financier charged with defrauding thousands of investors in an elaborate Ponzi scheme."

Besides an initial statement, the Redemptorist's immediately lawyered-up. I spoke at length with the Redemptorist's lawyer, who made a curious argument as to why he wouldn't tell me the actual amount of the investment loss. He compared my question to asking my neighbor how much my neighbor has in his checking account. In addition, the lawyer then began making an incredible argument under the U.S. Constitution that a religious order has a Free Exercise of Religion right to secrecy. I'm not kidding.

Today, The Wall Street Journal is reporting: "The court-appointed trustee recovering money for Bernard L. Madoff's victims is preparing a wave of new lawsuits seeking to wrest funds away from investors who also were duped by the Ponzi scheme." His target is about 1,000 individual investors he has called "net winners," investors who withdrew more from Madoff's firm than they invested.

One of these is Adele Fox. "Adele Fox is among the Madoff investors not jumping to negotiate with Mr. Picard. An 87-year-old former school secretary from New York City who now lives in south Florida, Ms. Fox says she received two letters late last year from a lawyer for Mr. Picard asking her to repay a total of $691,372."

If the Madoff Trustee is going after an 87-year old, he most assuredly has the constitutional fortitude to go after the Redemptorists.

One historical note is worth mentioning. "In 1866, Pope Pius IX gave the miraculous icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists and charged them with making her known throughout the world. Since then, her image has traveled far and wide, wherever the Redemptorists served. Hers is one of the most recognizable faces in the world."

My guess is that the Redemptorist's investment losses with Bernie Madoff and a possible lawsuit by the Madoff Trustee are causing a re-dedication by the Redemptorists to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Just a guess.

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