Dan Frishber’s BizRadio: Tax Relief for Scammed Investors – Maybe? Section 165

January 3, 2011

So…I’m not a tax adviser!  I used to be, but frankly screwed that up many years ago based on the unethical choices I made.  My choices cost me my license, my career and earned me a coveted (just kidding) spot in the federal pen!  How’s that for a disclaimer?

That now said, I know many of you who have followed my work on the Dan Frishberg – BizRadio scam have lost substantial sums of money with little hope of any significant recovery.  So, as the pages of the year 2010 turn into a new year – 2011 – the question is – what kind of tax relief can you expect to receive considering your losses at the hand of Dan “The Money Man”?

Last year this time I was reporting on the same thing, but this time it was for those who had losses from other Ponzi schemer’s like Bernie Madoff and Gordon Grigg.  So let me dredge through some past information and see if this might be of help to the Frishberg’s victims.

As a busines ethics and fraud prevention speaker, I believe in giving credit where credit is due.  Today I received a response to two blog postings I made by Moira Souza Shiver who reminded me about a provision of the Internal Revenue Code that, in many ways, is little known.  Her website can be found here and it states the following:

My name is Moira Souza-Shiver and I am the founder and President of MSS Advocacy Group, LLC (MSSAG).  I’m extremely proud to have established an organization whose main mission is bringing help to victims by attaining the assistance they deserve and were promised.  Working in the investment fraud industry for the past 10 years has created in me a passion to fight for what’s right and even more, has instilled in me a deep respect for victims and the suffering they endure.

My decision to establish MSSAG came from what I describe as a desperate need within the 165 industry.  After serving 6 years with JK Harris 165 Services, LLC, it was clear there was little being done in the form of victims’ advocacy and an organization was needed to help alleviate their suffering.   Believing that investment fraud victims deserve the same rights allotted to other victims, MSSAG was born.

MSSAG is committed to doing everything it can for this cause, including aligning itself with other organizations and advocates that can provide complimentary assistance through established programs.  By combining forces with these types of organizations, we intend to maximize all available sources of assistance and bring hope back to victim’s lives.

Now, before you assume that I have a financial interest in promoting Moira or Section 165, let me clarify that I do not.  But like Moira, I do have an interest in making sure that all aspects of ethics and fraud (including prevention and recovery) are explored.

An excellent article was written in the Journal of Accountancy related to Section 165.  A portion of the article is reproduced below:

When a client is the victim of fraud or embezzlement, for example, CPAs can reduce the client’s ordinary income, recoup any previously paid taxes and minimize future tax obligations by using IRC section 165(c)(2).

Be aware that CPAs who prepare and defend an investment loss deduction under IRC section 165(c)(2) must meet numerous technical requirements and make certain determinations based on examining the circumstances. Section 165(c)(2) deductions also frequently prompt IRS oversight, and in many instances, the standard tax preparation software does not adequately address this deduction, since it’s generally geared to the more familiar section 1211 capital loss treatment. But while section 1211 is an appropriate treatment, using it may result in clients’ paying more taxes than are required.

If a client suffers an investment loss as a result of a fraudulent investment or unethical sales practice, probably the most prudent action a CPA can take, even though there is no requirement to do so, is to suggest the client first discuss it with his or her lawyer. Taxpayers are required to take reasonable action to recover a loss and not doing so disqualifies it for section 165(c)(2) treatment. If the lawyer feels there was malfeasance and it is not practical to pursue recovery due to a lack of recoverable assets, the cost of litigation or other reasons, the loss probably is deductible in the current period. Losses from embezzlement, blackmail, kidnapping for ransom, burglary, larceny, extortion and threats also may qualify for section 165 treatment.

A WORD OF CAUTION:

If you’re considering taking advantage of this section of the Internal Revenue Code – FIND A COMPETENT ADVISER.  Not every CPA or tax specialist is competent to assist you with this complicated section of the Internal Revenue Code.  I strong suggest that you find someone who will provide references and that you verify the results those references received.  DON’T BE SCAMMED TWICE!

Here are some other links that were provided to me that might be of help as well.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/04/AR2009040404341.html

http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/Issues/2005/Apr/MaximizeTaxBenefitsUnderIrcSection165.htm

http://www.traderstatus.com/section165theftloss.htm

http://www.taxreliefinc.com/165services2.htm

https://chuckgallagher.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/madoff-grigg-dryer-investment-fraud-victims-tax-relief-through-irc-section-165-c2/

http://www.crimes-of-persuasion.com/Victims/theft_loss_deduction.htm

Thanks to Vince Rowe for reminding me of the tax provisions that might help the Frishberg victims.  By the way, if any of you have a recommendation of someone who is competent to provide tax help in this matter in the Dallas or Houston area…feel free to respond to this blog and I’ll be delighted to share.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

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David G. Friehling, CPA for Bernie Madoff Investment Securities Charged with Fraud! And The Dominios Begin To Fall…

March 19, 2009

With a $65 Billion Ponzi scheme in play and Bernie Madoff electing to plead guilty, it is no great surprise that others will being to fall as the government widens the responsibility net for the largest Ponzi scheme in US history.

I must admit this hits home and was something I expected.  Although I wish I could say something different, I, too, was a CPA, created a Ponzi scheme and spent time in Federal prison.  It is no fun.  And, without a doubt, Friehling will spend time there himself – although my guess – his sentence will much longer than mine.

Yesterday, David G. Friehling, CPA (licensed in the State of New York) was charged with securities fraud, aiding and abetting investment adviser fraud, and 19madoff190 four counts of filing false audit reports with theExchange Commission (“SEC”).   Friehling is the sole practitioner at Friehling & Horowitz, CPAs, P.C. in New York.  As a point of reference, Friehling was the son-in-law of Jerome Horowitz (his former accounting partner) who didn’t live to see it all unravel.  He dided on March 12, the day Madoff plead guilty.

According to a news release issued by the US Attorney’s office:

From 1991 through 2008, F&H was the accounting firm retained by BLMIS (Bernie L. Madoff Investment Securities) purportedly to audit BLMIS’s financial statements. FRIEHLING created BLMIS’s certified and purportedly audited financial statements, including balance sheets, statements of income, statements of cash flows, and reports on internal control. FRIEHLING falsely certified that he had prepared such statements in accordance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (“GAAS”) and in conformity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”). Those financial  statements were filed with the SEC and sent to clients of BLMIS.   BLMIS paid FRIEHLING approximately $12,000 to $14,500 per month for his services between 2004 and 2007.

Sorry, but before going any further, one must question the payment.  $14,500 a month is a small price to pay for disgusing a fraud considering that Friehling will be facing certain loss of his license and a lot of time in Federal Prison.  But, there is more…  the news release goes on to say:

FRIEHLING failed to conduct audits that complied with GAAS and GAAP by, among other things, failing to: (a) conduct independent verification of BLMIS assets; (b) review material sources of BLMIS revenue, including commissions; (c) examine a bank account through which billions of dollars of BLMIS client funds flowed; (d) verify liabilities related to BLMIS client accounts; or (e) verify the purchase and custody of securities by BLMIS. FRIEHLING also failed to test internal controls as required under GAAP and GAAS standards. For example, FRIEHLING did not take any steps to test internal controls over areas such as BLMIS’s redemption of client funds, the payment of invoices for corporate expenses, or the purchase of securities by BLMIS on behalf of its clients. Further, commencing at least as far back as 1995, FRIEHLING did not maintain professional independence from his audit client, BLMIS.   Specifically, FRIEHLING and/or his wife had an account at BLMIS with a year-end net equity of more than $500,000 — the maximum amount that, under SEC rules, he could have invested with a broker-dealer client and still maintain his independence.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Friehling similarly did not conduct any audit procedures with respect to BMIS internal controls, and had no basis to represent that BMIS had no material inadequacies. Afraid that his work for BMIS would be subject to peer review, as required of accountants who conduct audits, Friehling lied to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants for years and denied that he conducted any audit work.

Articles in Forbes stated the following:

“Friehling essentially sold his license to Madoff for more than 17 years while Madoff’s Ponzi scheme went undetected,” said James Clarkson, acting director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “For all those years, Friehling deceived investors and regulators by declaring that Madoff’s enterprise had a clean audit record.”

Madoff has said his business didn’t become a Ponzi scheme until the early 1990s, around the time that Horowitz retired and Friehling took over. He was not accused of wrongdoing in the court complaint.

Numerous reports claim that Friehling and family had $14 million invested with Madoff two months before his confession to the largest financial fraud in US history.  Since 2000, Friehling withdrew about $5.5 million from those accounts, the SEC stated.

WHERE FROM HERE?

Bernie Madoff, while perhaps brilliant (in his own way) is not capable – in my opinion – of pulling off a fraud of this magnitude without help.  I am not suggesting that Friehling knew about the Ponzi scheme (he says he didn’t), but it is likely that he’ll be found guilty on most of the charges as there is no doubt that he’s (at a minimum) negligent.  Selling his license for money seems very clear.

But, from these headlines, I suspect there will be a demand for more “accountability” for audited financial statements and regulations placed on compliant CPA’s.  That is not the answer.  I have stated before and will again, you cannot legislate or regulate ethics or morality.  If a person elects to be dishonest…they will be dishonest regardless of the rules in place.

Friehling was a puppet for Bernard Madoff.  Most people (although most will deny it) have a price.  It appears that Friehling’s price wasn’t all that much.  Comfortable yes – rich no!  And knowing that his reputation is ruined, his license all but gone and many many years in prison facing him, I know that Friehling wishes he’d never met Bernie Madoff.  Hind sight is 20/20 and there is no doubt with all that is facing this CPA – Friehling is just beginning to face the consequences of his choices.

Every choice has a consequence!

My prediction – Friehling isn’t the only pawn is this massive fraud to fall.  There will be others so stay tuned…

FRIEHLING, 49, faces a statutory maximum sentence of 105 years in prison.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!

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Bernie Madoff – The Human Tragedy. Is Compassion Possible?

March 14, 2009

At the end of the movie – Saving Private Ryan – Ryan, as an old man speaks these words to his wife who walks up to his side:

“Tell me I’ve have led a good life.  Tell me I’m a good man.”

I must say that, although I’ve seen that movie many times, I am always brought to tears.  I am touched knowing that others come into our lives for a reason and, through their efforts, we find that our lives are shaped.  In Ryan’s case, his concern was living up to the sacrifice made for him and on his behalf.  Ryan wanted to know if the life he lived and the legacy he left was worth the price.

As the movie ended, I could not help but feel sadness for the tragedy that came to light some four months ago when Bernie Madoff admitted that his work wa nothing but a ponzi scheme.  As those words were spoken – lives were changed and, at least for now, not for the better.  The reality of lost investments came to light, financial futures were changed and Madoff’s legacy was forever etched in history.

THE HUMAN TRAGEDY:

From the standpoint of those who were victimized the loss is great.  But the tragedy goes much deeper than lost money.  I do not wish to minimize the loss bernie-madoffof treasure, but it is – afterall – just money.  Money can be made and often is lost.  The question is how do we react to that loss?

I heard one of Madoff’s victims on a radio clip Thursday the day Madoff was sentenced.  She said, “My life is over…”  I cringed when I heard her comments.  I, too, (admittedly for different reasons) lost everything material.  I know the feeling of loss and despair, but LIFE IS NOT OVER.  In fact, while life will most certainly change, she still has her freedom and the ability to make choices to improve her life.

One part of the human tragedy is the natural feeling of anger that lost trust naturally brings.  That anger and the negative emotion that is a part of what we hear about Madoff does little to promote joy and healing.  Perhaps over time that will come.

There is grief over loss.  In this case the loss is not only the obvious – the investments that didn’t exist, but the grief over loss is the trust that forever is gone.  Many people have come to learn the pain of betrayed trust, and that is hard to heal from.  As I have talked with victims from other similar scams, many have said that they have a hard time trusting anyone.

MADOFF’S LEGACY:

Beyond the victims, I have to say that I feel for Madoff.  I do not condone his actions – they are abhorent.  But, I feel for the man.  Imagine for a moment the feeling inside as Madoff once again crawls into his prison bed.  As a child, as a teen as a young man, never would he have imagined that the end of his life would be spent in prison.  In his early years he was able to use his intellect to benefit others and himself.  Madoff is not dumb and certainly has a vast compentency.  Unfortunately, he elected to miguide his brilliance.

Again, at the risk of offending his victims, I do not express my feelings for Madoff in support of his actions.  He has earned every night he spends in prison.  The empathetic feelings I have are for him as a human being.  How tragic that his actions have not only hurt those whom he was entrusted with investments, but his actions have harmed his family and others closely connected to him.

As a human being, it is difficult to find your life relegated to the structure and environment of prison.  Here’s a man who has a brilliant mind, who now will wake at 6ish each day, eat prison food at designated times and eat only what is offered.  He will eventually be assigned a location which will likely be a medium to minimum security facility.  It is NOT “Club Fed” – the days are filled with counts, structure and work.  You quickly lose the feeling for the outside world as contact is kept to a minimum and while you may read the newspaper, you find that reading or TV is no replacement for contact that free people have with each other.

As time goes on as he languishes away in prison, those close to him will die – but, he’ll find himself disconnected.  He will have gone from high flying financier to just another inmate.  He will withdraw for his own protection finding that the culture in federal prison is something foreign to him.  He will hear and learn things that will repulse him and there will be those who will leach on to him hoping to make him their prey.  Perhaps, they might think, “If I can threaten or endanger him, I might get some money for my family on the outside.”  He may become a target or he may just fade into oblivion.

For a time, he will continue to have notoriety as the federal government seeks to unravel the true scope of his actions.  Did his wife and/or children know?  Were they involved?  Was his accounting firm in the know or where they just incompetent?  How was he able to maintain the grandeur of his illusion for so long?  These questions and many more will arise – but all the while, the human tragedy is that someone – Bernie Madoff – through his choices is ending his life sitting in a prison cell.

Beyond Madoff – for a moment – imagine being one of his children, grandchildren or greatgrandchildren – the name Madoff is tainted.  He will be remembered for his crime – for the effect he had on the lives of thousands who trusted him – for his last days spent in prison.  If you were a grandchild – think of what happens when you enter college and for the first time the teach calls the role.  When they get to your name and say “Madoff” – think of the looks you’ll get when folks quickly begin to wonder – “is he connected to that guy”?   Their lives have been changed forever as well – and not by their doing.

Charles Ponzi created this scheme.  The name “Ponzi” is forever associated with something negative – just like the name Hitler.  As we live our lives today, the same is true with “Madoff” – his name has been etched in history never to be associated with positive thougths.

FINAL THOUGTHS:

As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, I know what it must be like for Madoff – this his first weekend in prison.  While I wish I could say otherwise, I know because I’ve been there.   I earned my time there.  It was no fun, but punishment is a consequence of choices.  My choices led me to prison, and Madoff’s have led him there as well.

Perhaps, when the dust settles, we can all take a moment and, like Private Ryan from the movie, ask “have I led a good life?”  I pray when my life ends that I’ll be able to look back and see a life well lived.  I wonder though for Madoff if it is possible for people to find compassion while at the same time accepting that his life is prison is a clear consequence for the choices he made?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Bernie Madoff – Text of Court Statement

March 12, 2009

madoff-moneyYour Honor, for many years up until my arrest on December 11, 2008, I operated a Ponzi scheme through the investment advisory side of my business, Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC, which was located here in Manhattan, New York at 885 Third Avenue. I am actually grateful for this first opportunity to publicly speak about my crimes, for which I am so deeply sorry and ashamed. As I engaged in my fraud, I knew what I was doing was wrong, indeed criminal. When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme. However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come. I am painfully aware that I have deeply hurt many, many people, including the members of my family, my closest friends, business associates and the thousands of clients who gave me their money. I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done. I am here today to accept responsibility for my crimes by pleading guilty and, with this plea allocution, explain the means by which I carried out and concealed my fraud.

The essence of my scheme was that I represented to clients and prospective clients who wished to open investment advisory and individual trading accounts with me that I would invest their money in shares of common stock, options and other securities of large well-known corporations, and upon request, would return to them their profits and principal. Those representations were false because for many years up and until I was arrested on December 11, 2008, I never invested those funds in the securities, as I had promised. Instead, those funds were deposited in a bank account at Chase Manhattan Bank. When clients wished to receive the profits they believed they had earned with me or to redeem their principal, I used the money in the Chase Manhattan bank account that belonged to them or other clients to pay the requested funds. The victims of my scheme included individuals, charitable organizations, trusts, pension funds and hedge funds. Among other means, I obtained their funds through interstate wire transfers they sent from financial institutions located outside New York State to the bank account of my investment advisory business, located here in Manhattan, New York and through mailings delivered by the United States Postal Service and private interstate carriers to my firm here in Manhattan.

I want to emphasize today that while my investment advisory business — the vehicle of my wrongdoing — was part of my firm Bernard L. Madoff Securities, the other businesses my firm engaged in, proprietary trading and market making, were legitimate, profitable and successful in all respects. Those businesses were managed by my brother and two sons.

To the best of my recollection, my fraud began in the early 1990s. At that time, the country was in a recession and this posed a problem for investments in the securities markets. Nevertheless, I had received investment commitments from certain institutional clients and understood that those clients, like all professional investors, expected to see their investments out-perform the market. While I never promised a specific rate of return to any client, I felt compelled to satisfy my clients’ expectations, at any cost. I therefore claimed that I employed an investment strategy I had developed, called a “split strike conversion strategy,” to falsely give the appearance to clients that I had achieved the results I believed they expected.

Through the split-strike conversion strategy, I promised to clients and prospective clients that client funds would be invested in a basket of common stocks within the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index, a collection of the 100 largest publicly traded companies in terms of their market capitalization. I promised that I would select a basket of stocks that would closely mimic the price movements of the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index. I promised that I would opportunistically time these purchases and would be out of the market intermittently, investing client funds during these periods in United States Government-issued securities such as United States Treasury bills. In addition, I promised that as part of the split strike conversion strategy, I would hedge the investments I made in the basket of common stocks by using client funds to buy and sell option contracts related to those stocks, thereby limiting potential client losses caused by unpredictable changes in stock prices. In fact, I never made the investments I promised clients, who believed they were invested with me in the split strike conversion strategy.

To conceal my fraud, I misrepresented to clients, employees and others, that I purchased securities for clients in overseas markets. Indeed, when the United States Securities and Exchange Commission asked me to testify as part of an investigation they were conducting about my investment advisory business, I knowingly gave false testimony under oath to the staff of the SEC on May 19, 2006 that I executed trades of common stock on behalf of my investment advisory clients and that I purchased and sold the equities that were part of my investment strategy in European markets. In that session with the SEC, which took place here in Manhattan, New York, I also knowingly gave false testimony under oath that I had executed options contracts on behalf of my investment advisory clients and that my firm had custody of the assets managed on behalf of my investment advisory clients.

To further cover-up the fact that I had not executed trades on behalf of my investment advisory clients, I knowingly caused false trading confirmations and client account statements that reflected the bogus transactions and positions to be created and sent to clients purportedly involved in the split strike conversion strategy, as well as other individual clients I defrauded who believed they had invested in securities through me. The clients receiving trade confirmations and account statements had no way of knowing by reviewing these documents that I had never engaged in the transactions represented on the statements and confirmations. I knew those false confirmations and account statements would be and were sent to clients through the U.S. mails from my office here in Manhattan.

Another way that I concealed my fraud was through the filing of false and misleading certified audit reports and financial statements with the SEC. I knew that these audit reports and financial statements were false and that they would also be sent to clients. These reports, which were prepared here in the Southern District of New York, among things, falsely reflected my firm’s liabilities as a result of my intentional failure to purchase securities on behalf of my advisory clients.

Similarly, when I recently caused my firm in 2006 to register as an investment advisor with the SEC, I subsequently filed with the SEC a document called a Form ADV Uniform Application for Investment Adviser Registration. On this form, I intentionally and falsely certified under penalty of perjury that Bernard L. Madoff Investment and Securities had custody of my advisory clients’ securities. That was not true and I knew it when I completed and filed the form with the SEC, which I did from my office on the 17th floor of 855 Third Avenue, here in Manhattan.

In more recent years, I used yet another method to conceal my fraud. I wired money between the United States and the United Kingdom to make it appear as though there were actual securities transactions executed on behalf of my investment advisory clients. Specifically, I had money transferred from the U.S. bank account of my investment advisory business to the London bank account of Madoff Securities International Ltd., a United Kingdom corporation that was an affiliate of my business in New York. Madoff Securities International Ltd. was principally engaged in proprietary trading and was a legitimate, honestly run and operated business.

Nevertheless, to support my false claim that I purchased and sold securities for my investment advisory clients in European markets, I caused money from the bank account of my fraudulent advisory business, located here in Manhattan, to be wire transferred to the London bank account of Madoff Securities International Limited.

There were also times in recent years when I had money, which had originated in the New York Chase Manhattan bank account of my investment advisory business, transferred from the London bank account of Madoff Securities International Ltd. to the Bank of New York operating bank account of my firm’s legitimate proprietary and market making business. That Bank of New York account was located in New York. I did this as a way of ensuring that the expenses associated with the operation of the fraudulent investment advisory business would not be paid from the operations of the legitimate proprietary trading and market making businesses.

In connection with the purported trades, I caused the fraudulent investment advisory side of my business to charge the investment advisory clients $0.04 per share as a commission. At times in the last few years, these commissions were transferred from Chase Manhattan bank account of the fraudulent investment advisory side of my firm to the account at the Bank of New York, which was the operating account for the legitimate side of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities — the proprietary trading and market making side of my firm. I did this to ensure that the expenses associated with the operation of my fraudulent investment advisory business would not be paid from the operations of the legitimate proprietary trading and market making businesses. It is my belief that the salaries and bonuses of the personnel involved in the operation of the legitimate side of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities were funded by the operations of the firm’s successful proprietary trading and market making businesses.

Your Honor, I hope I have conveyed with some particularity in my own words, the crimes I committed and the means by which I committed them. Thank you.


Bernie Madoff in Jail! It’s Not “Club Fed” I Know – I’ve Been There…

March 12, 2009

madoff-cp-6397978There was cheering from the crowd when Madoff was immediately taken to jail.  Emotions are running high and will do so for years to come.   But this is not a joyous day.  Many victims lives have been radically transformed by the financial crime Madoff effected.  Likewise, Madoff’s life as he knew it is over.  Leaving the comfort of normal life to go to prison is a radically different experience as well.

I know – regretably I have been there for exactly the same crime Madoff plead guilty to today.

Every choice has a consequence.  Many were victimized by Madoff et al and both the victims and Madoff, himself, are facing the consequences of choices made.

Madoff made the following comments in court today.

“I operated a Ponzi scheme.  I thought it would end quickly, but it proved impossible.  I am ashamed for these criminal acts. I always knew madoff_sketch_09031203this day would come.”

I was asked today on CBS radio – KRLD – by Ernie and Jay about the mentality of how something like this could happen.  Is it possible that Madoff just was out to steal from folks?  The answer is simply – NO.

While I don’t personally know Bernie Madoff, I know the thought process that ends in federal prison.  Madoff is a smart man.  In fact, I would say that he was brilliant in his ability to effect such a scheme successfully for so long.  That is rather amazing.  But, for a time, I suspect when he first got started, Madoff was legitimate.

To effect a fraud like this, there must be three components: (1) need; (2) opportunity and (3) rationalization.  My best guess is that Madoff had two needs that came together when he began this in the early 90’s – (a) emotional need – he would not admit that he was faliable; and (b) money – in that he likely lost money and was unwilling to admit that fact.  Hence, he entered into the second  part of creating such a fraud – he took advantage of his name and notariety to gain more money – more investors or more victims.

CNN reported: Madoff admitted that he never invested his clients’ money, and that he deposited the funds into a “Chase Manhattan” bank.

At that point, Madoff crossed the line of investing and became an outright fraud.  Amazingly, instead of continuing to invest clients money hoping for the big win, Madoff just deposited the money in the bank.  Of all revelations, that was the most amazing.  Effectively he just gave up, committed the crime and waiting until the house of cards fell.

TONIGHT FOR MADOFF:

As I type this I can speak first hand from experience, Madoff just entered a phase of life that is totally foreign and for which he is unprepared.  Likely, as he was removed from the court room, he went to processing where he removed his clothing and was issued prison issue clothing.  It is doubtful that he was madoff_jail_cell03allowed to keep much other than one set of “street” clothes that might be used for limited visiting privileges or meetings with legal counsel, etc.  He would have likely been handed his bed linens and escourted to his holding cell.   Unless because of his age he was assigned a lower bunk, he would be given the upper bunk as those with more time in the facility get the privilege of lower.  His meals would be a step above a Swanson’s TV dinner – maybe – and the routine is strict.

Counted multiple times per day, Madoff will soon find that he’s no more than anyone else incarcerated, an inmate.  Inmates will likely acknowledge him, but not consider him any more than they.  In fact, it is likely that many will avoid him fearing that what they might say to him will be used against them (they fear he’d become a snitch) in order to gain favor with the judge for a lighter sentence.

Tonight will be one of the longest nights of Madoff’s life.  He will wonder to himself – time and time again – what he has done and why.  Those thoughts will haunt him for the rest of his life, which from a free man’s perspective, has ended.

THE VICTIMS:

Now here’s where I should stop, but for whatever reason, I can’t.  I understand the anger, and desire for revenge that many feel.  It is natural as your trust has been violated.  This is no different than feeling that one has when a marriage ends with the distrust created by adultery.

Many would say that I am the least to offer advice.  Perhaps that is true, but I’m going to try.  First, from a practical perspective seek the legal help you need to recover what you can.  Know that there are possible sources for some recovery including the application of IRC Section 165(c)(2).  I am not an expert in that area, but I have a guest blog from someone who is.  Go there it might be helpful.

Beyond the legal recourse against Madoff and those involved – and I suspect that others will fall from this as well, may I say – with respect – put your loss into perspective.  We come into this world with nothing and leave that way as well.  Money – security – certainly are important, but it is afterall only material.  The longer one harbors anger or hate, the worse life becomes.  Finding the ability to recognize that Madoff will suffer and reap the consequences of his choices is significant.

Your life has changed – so has his.  No one walks away from this feeling good or whole.  The ultimate outcome, however, for you and your well being will, in large part, be a function of your ability to forgive.

IN THE LONG RUN:

Having been there, I know the pain of prison.  Some learn from their experience and others never get it.  In Madoff’s case we may never know what the true effect of his life changing experience will bring.  In my case, prison was life changing.  While I am thrilled with freedom, I understand that my time there changed my life and gave me an opportuity to do something positive today that, in fact, helps others.

Sometimes you can actually get lemonade from lemons!

As always – COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.

HERE is what Madoff read to the court.


Madoff – Grigg – Dryer: Investment Fraud Victims Tax Relief Through IRC SECTION 165 (c)(2)

March 2, 2009

misc-pics-2008-073Moira Souza Shiver, expert on the application of IRC Section 165, has been asked by me to write this guest blog.  The benefits of Section 165 can be substantial, yet there are few who are qualified to understand how to effectively navigate the regulatory maze to gain maximum benefit.  As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, I try, through this blog, to provide a useful forum for discussing issues, and there is none more important at this time than the effective use of legal methods to recover loss.

Facts, Fiction and Future

Victims, taxpayers and citizens, in general, are experiencing an extraordinary chapter in American financial history.  Economic challenges, budget deficits and tax implications lead the list of many issues confronting citizens and legislators.  Surfacing in the midst of what appears to be mass chaos is yet another disturbing issue – victims of investment theft suffering irrecoverable losses in their life savings.  One bright spot, with the uncovering of these massive investment scams, the media is finally bringing attention to the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people across this great country who are suffering tremendously at no fault of their own.

For the last ten years, I have been fighting for financial recovery for victims of investment theft.  There’s been a law on the books since 1954 that helps some victims, but most often it ignores the truly needy in favor of the wealthy.  Unfortunately, it also requires a monumental struggle with the IRS to get the deserved relief.  The pain and suffering these issues caused demanded I shift my focus and become an advocate for victims in three ways:

Investment Fraud Prevention Through Education
Maximize Recovery Through Legitimate Sources
Changes in the Tax Code to Carry Out the Intention of the Law

PROBLEM – LACK OF CLARITY, COUNTLESS (MIS)INTERPRETATIONS & INEXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS

The $50 billion dollar Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme brought this subject to the public, but sadly, and very importantly, it also surfaced so-called experts that began advising victims on the recovery option under Internal Revenue Code Section 165 (c)(2).  Adding to the tragedy of these losses is the fact that those same experts are supplying incorrect information.  As an example: Stanford Law School and a former senior tax attorney for the IRS are both normally sources you can depend on for tax law advice.  They are both valuable sources of information, but in trying to help victims of investment fraud, they recently published information that could cause more problems than they solve.

An article, Long And Winding Path To Tax Relief For Madoff Victims, appeared on accountingweb.com dated February 19, 2009.  Stanford University provided information on the IRC 165 (c)(2) tax deduction, quoting a former IRS official.  This article is an example of a long list of experts serving up misconceptions, serious omissions, wrong answers and lost opportunities.  Add The Wall Street Journal, MSN, the New York Times and even the IRS to your list of experts providing incorrect information, and you begin to understand the seriousness of the problem.

FACTS – CURRENT TAX LAW HELPING VICTIMS OF INVESTMENT THEFT

Current law includes but is not limited to, the following facts:

IRC 165 (c)(2)
•    Law was established in 1954 to help investment fraud victims recover a portion of their losses through tax benefits (much like that of natural disaster loss victims or casualty losses such as a destroyed automobile not covered by insurance).  It was readdressed in 1984 by the Tax Reform Act, which did away with the 10% exclusion/$100 per item reduction.
•    Deduction allows qualifying victims to take their total net loss against ordinary income in a single year.
•    Deduction allows for the taxpayer to go back three years after declaring the loss in the “Year of Discovery” if a Net Operating Loss (NOL) remains, or, they can waive their right to go back, and carry the NOL forward up to 20 years.
•    Deduction allows for up to a 20 year carry forward, with the exception of when the 3 year carry back is utilized, which subsequently creates the potential for a 23 year benefit.
•    Losses in IRA and Pension Funds Do Not Qualify.
•    The taxpayer must prove the investment was made and lost by reasons of theft as defined in the state where the transaction took place.
•    Taxpayer must exhaust all reasonable means of recovery.
•    Taxpayer must be able to prove privity (Private or joint knowledge of a private matter; especially: cognizance implying concurrence (Merriam-Webster) or in practical terms, there was a first hand relationship between the thief and the victim) in order to qualify.  Ponzi scheme victims are generally not held to this requirement but that I’m aware, that exception is not written as fact.
•    (Some) IRS agents consider any form of pending legal action (individual, class action, federal indictments, bankruptcy or receivership) as potential recovery and will deny a claim until such time as that open pursuit of recovery is resolved.
•    IRS requires a victim to provide proof of cost basis (copies of checks, front and back, wire transfer confirmations, disbursements, withdrawals, recovery, etc.).
•    Taxes on phantom income are recoverable in full but are only allowed to be carried back 3 years.  The balance (NOL) can be carried forward up to 20 years.

FICTION – MISINFORMATION COMMONLY GIVEN TO THE PUBLIC

•    Before a taxpayer can claim a deduction, they must first exclude 10% of their Adjusted Gross Income and $100 per item – Wrong.  Although originally an aspect of the deduction, this exclusion was eliminated 25 years ago by the Tax Reform Act of 1984.
•    2 Year Net Operating Loss Carry Back – Common misconception.  Other than in 2002, when Congress allowed an exception allowing for 5 years, the carry back has always been 3.  The 2 year carry back does not apply to investment losses caused by theft.
•    Up to 50% recovery of loss – Misleading.  In my experience, taxpayers should expect to receive a total benefit between 10 – 20% of their loss.  Although there may be an exception out there somewhere, I’ve never seen any victims receive even close to a 50% benefit.
•    The deduction is taken in the year victims discover the money is gone – Maybe but not likely.  Convincing the IRS of the right year to take the deduction is complicated.  The big issue is the taxpayer having “exhausted all reasonable means of recovery”.  The “year of discovery” determination will vary from agent to agent.
•    The deduction is simple to obtain – Really?  It takes a knowledgeable and experienced 165 tax preparer to guide both taxpayers and the IRS agents through this process.  I promise you, you should be prepared to be fully prepared.  Taxpayers should expect to be reviewed carefully.

FUTURE – NEW PROPOSED LEGISLATION

For some time, I have been trying to get Congress to see the need for changes in the law.  The size of the Madoff ponzi scheme helped me with my mission to get congresses attention.  In doing so, they are now discovering how prevalent investment theft and ponzi schemes are in America.  Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida’s 17th district moved quickly and proposed new legislation on February 24, 2009.  I’m thrilled to see it happen, but it did not go far enough.

Proposed changes to current tax law.

•    Will allow a 10 year carry back (or length of time in fraudulent investment, whichever is lesser) on cost basis and taxes paid on phantom income verses the current carry back of 3 years.  Given the fact that a great deal of injured investors are in the retiree/elder categories and have had little to no income over the last several years, this change will hopefully increase the chance of them reaching a year where significant taxes were paid.
•    Proposes to provide assistance to individuals who contributed to charitable organizations.  This is a new aspect to the law and it needs to be further examined in order to determine just who gets what benefits?  It’s not clear on how this will work and I’ll have to wait for more details before I can comment.
•    New legislation uses the word “estimate” verses “ascertained”.  This may be a big help in the filing of the claims in a reasonable amount of time, but it is not definitive and more work needs to be done.

FUTURE – CONTINUED – QUESTIONS NOT ADDRESSED

•    Will the complicated terms “Year of Discovery, Privity, Scienter, Cost Basis and Complete and Final Transaction” be defined in a way that makes it reasonable for the taxpayer to meet the requirements for filing?  Regardless of what legislation is proposed or passed, unless these issues are defined in a way that tax payers, their tax professionals and the IRS alike can understand, little if any of this assistance will reach the intended recipients.
•    Why is this limited to just ponzi schemes?  Although certainly less publicized, other forms of investment fraud are still investment fraud and all qualifying victims should be given the same consideration,
•    Will the new legislation actually limit the amount of time before a victim can claim the deduction and the IRS can take to approve it? The current process often takes so long that victims lose everything, including benefits, their homes and even their lives, before the help arrives.
•    Will IRA and pension savings be added to the forms of acceptable losses/victims?  A huge constituency of victims falls into this category and although technically they never paid taxes, they still worked hard for their money and would have paid them when the time arose.  The money was withdrawn, the perpetrator was enriched and he or she should owe the taxes.  Regardless of whether the IRS actually receives them, the victim should be entitled.
•    Would a uniform tax rate potentially be the better and fairer way to go?  Although the current proposed legislation goes far in trying to help, there are still a group of individuals that will be left helpless.  As many of these individuals paid on average 15 – 20 % in taxes when the money was made, it doesn’t seem quite fair that they are penalized for having grown older or now having no income.

SOLUTION

I’d start with definable (and reasonable) guidelines for tax payers and professionals.  Next would be setting up fair opportunities for recovery across the board, regardless of tax bracket or age.  And finally would be the creation of an organization, or an IRS qualifying exam, that sets the standards for professional services.  Setting these guidelines and standards, much the same as what CPAs, doctors, attorneys, etc. must adhere to or lose their standing, would help satisfy the IRS that the claims are legitimate, would provide the relief that so far is nearly impossible to receive and insure that the professionals assisting these victims are qualified and making claims in good faith.  By enacting legislation that gives the IRS authority to qualify those who represent taxpayers, they’d not only protect the victims, they’d protect all taxpayers against fraudulent or unworthy claims.

It was a breath of fresh air to finally see someone step up and try to help these people and I applaud Congressman Meek.  He’s taken the first step, and with a few additions, he could make this law something to be proud of.

Join my voice and let Congressman Meek know that these other issues are important and will make a big difference.

Congressman Meek can be contacted at:

Kendrickmeek.house.gov
Washington, DC
1039 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-4506
Fax: 202-226-0777
Monday–Friday, 9 AM – 6 PM

Moira Souza Shiver
MSS Advocacy Group
mss165.com