March 12th, 2009
08:27 PM GMT
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NEW YORK– Bernard Madoff will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, but that is little comfort to the thousands of investors who lost their life savings because of his actions.

Madoff arrives at court Thursday.
Madoff arrives at court Thursday.

After he entered his guilty plea, Madoff addressed the court and said he was deeply sorry and ashamed.

Sorry ... Sorry? This was not a one-time mistake, but a multi-billion dollar fraud carried out over decades. He ripped off friends, neighbors, charities and pensioners.

It seems incredible that he asks anyone to believe he has a conscience.

At the end of the hearing Madoff was ordered to go directly to jail while he waits for his official sentencing, scheduled for June 16.

Government prosecutors will no doubt declare victory, but victims are angry there was not a trial.

Richard Friedman, who lost $4 million in savings, told CNN: "It's not enough just to say, 'OK, I'm guilty, put me away.'

"What about all the other people involved? What about his family? I want to know. What about the money? I don't think there's $50 billion out there. I think a lot of it is with the IRS, but whatever money he had, I think that that should come out. Where is that money?"

Legal experts say we may never know where the money went.

Right now investigators have found just under $1 billion, a fraction of the $60 billion that some estimate he swindled.

The other unanswered question that I struggle with is: Why?

When people commit a crime it helps to understand the motive. Why did this respectable and, by all measures, successful man do this?

Why didn't he turn himself in earlier? He said in his opening statement he always knew what he was doing was criminal and that he would be eventually be caught.

How could he have ruined so many lives? One of his victims said simply, "He is evil."

I think it may have more to do with greed. Yes, at the age of 70 he now faces jail time, but for the last 20 years he has lived a life of extreme luxury.

If he is the only one to serve time for this ... has justice really been served?

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March 12th, 2009
02:40 AM GMT
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TOKYO, Japan - "Hey, that's not so bad!" That's what news bulletins reported across Japan this morning as Japan's government released its fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) figures. The economy still shrank at the worst rate since the 1970s oil crisis - but again, not at the rate initially estimated. When "not so bad" sounds like good news, you know times are tough.

But this is one report, and one that will surely be followed up with another next week, maybe showing more gloom than silver lining.

As far as today's report, Japan's cabinet office says the annualized GDP shrank 12.1 percent versus the initial 12.7 percent estimate. Quarter to quarter, the economy shrank 3.2 percent, a little better than the expected 3.3 percent.

Japan's export-driven economy has been particularly hard hit in the global economic slowdown, as consumers in the United States and Europe lose their taste for Japan's cars and electronics. Companies such as Toyota and Sony have dramatically slashed production, trying to bring inventories in line with demand. That inventory build, according to economist John Vail of Nikko Asset Management, is one reason the GDP revision is a little better than initially estimated, and that the next quarter may show a deeper contraction when the inventory build falls.

"I wouldn't get too excited about the difference between 12 (percent) or 13 percent," says Vail, who points out GDP numbers are highly subject to revision. "Right now we're in a unique situation: falling demand and destocking. It's a double whammy. As soon as destocking is over, we'll have some stabilization or improvement in production in manufactured goods. We're probably in the period of maximum decline and things will improve going forward once the destocking is completed."

Bottom line: don't get too worried about every single report. Economists urge you to look at the bigger picture, which currently in Japan shows a mixed bag of possible recovery or deepening recession, depending on how world leaders move forward with stimulus packages and reform. This global crisis isn't as simple as one cause, one quick fix or one single GDP report.

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Filed under: AsiaBusinessFinancial marketsJapan


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