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“I’ve got the complaint,” TBF said on Friday afternoon. “All 360 pages.” There was some grumbling in his voice, that he hated that he felt he had to read it, but he also felt that he had to read it. There was no way there would be an important legal decision surrounding the New York Mets that he had access to, and wasn’t going to read and form his own opinions about. I was curious myself, given the drama and the volume and general tone of the internets Friday afternoon after the document was unsealed.

By the time I got home on Friday night, around 10 pm, his tone had changed. “There’s a lot of dramatic liberties being taken with the interpretation of the document. It’s called a ‘complaint’ for a reason.”

I picked it up on Sunday, and I will say this: Friends, I come not to bury the Wilpons, but not to praise them either. But don’t take my word for it, and don’t take the media’s word for it either. Here’s a quick and dirty guide of how to make sense of this document, if you’d like to give it a go.

First of all, it is now a matter of public record. Both the New York Times and ESPN have the complaint available, for free, in PDF format on their websites.

Now, to begin:

  • The Table of Contents: You get an excellent sense of the tone of the entire document just by reading the Table of Contents. It’s written in a style reminiscent of 1950’s horror movies, with chapter headings titled things like “STERLING’S QUARTER-CENTURY RELATIONSHIP WITH MADOFF,” or “THE STERLING PARTNERS WILLFULLY TURNED A BLIND EYE TO SUBSTANTIAL INDICIA OF MADOFF’S FRAUD” and of course “Madoff’s Returns Were Too Good To Be True And Sterling Knew It.”
  • Chapter I: Nature Of The Action: This is only six pages long, and it’s your executive summary to the basis of the complaint. After reading the table of contents, it’s not like any of this will be a surprise, but it’s written in plain language that anyone can understand.

    “There are thousands of victims of Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme. But Saul Katz is not one of them. Neither is Fred Wilpon. And neither are the rest of the partners at Sterling Equities who, along with Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, are sophisticated investors who ovesee and control Sterling and its many businesses and investments.”

  • Next is a lot of legalese about the appointment of the Trustee. Skip to page 11, THE FRAUDULENT PONZI SCHEME, if you need a refresher course in Madoff. Otherwise, skip.
  • Otherwise, skip to page 14: STERLING DEFENDANTS. This is where the relationship between the Wilpons, the various family members and Sterling associates and Madoff is described in detail. This is, I believe, the first reference to Fictitious Profits, which is not a new hipster band from Williamsburg.
  • Page 18-117: The Wilpon/Sterling Family tree. Skim through. It’s basically the same content repeated over and over for each individual. It is interesting to see how many holding companies there actually are, but, again, skim.
  • Page 117: STERLING’S INVESTMENTS WITH MADOFF WERE PART OF ITS REAL ESTATE, PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL, PRIVATE EQUITY AND HEDGE FUND BUSINESS. Now we’re talking. “The Sterling Partners structured their Madoff investments to ensure that Madoff money flowed through every arm of their business.” This is the chapter that shows you exactly how that was arranged, and it’s worth reading in its entirety. Take it slow, read a few pages, go think about it, make a sandwich, come back. That’s how I did it, anyway.
  • Pages 205-349: This section has every single detail of every single transfer to every single person or entity within the Sterling/Madoff continuum. I fell asleep reading this part, twice.
  • Page 349-364: These are the actual counts, which take some slogging through, probably the biggest slog you’ll need to do through true legalese.

Some of this will be interesting to some of you. Other people couldn’t care less. My biggest personal opinions after reading this damn thing is that rich people got greedy and turned a blind eye because no one likes confrontation with people you are socially enmeshed with and getting out wasn’t as easy as pushing a button and if they really thought there was something wrong, they would not have been so neck deep in it.

I think they owe the profits they made, to be certain, but I don’t think they owe more than that…but that and $2.25 (hey, I use a monthly Metrocard) will get you on the subway. Seriously, it’s an opinion, and not one that matters. But at least I have one that I formed myself, which is all I care about.

The Wilpons are rich and arrogant. We knew that already. We wish they didn’t own the Mets. This is nothing new. I’m not going to get worried about them needing to sell the team until we get there. Then I’ll get worried when I have something to worry about.

Personally, right now I’m more worried about actual Mets baseball than any of this. I can get more worked up about the 2011 season than I can this (and that’s saying a lot, given that I’m rooting for nothing more than watchable baseball). Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

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