So, the next step in the Madoff scandal has begun to come into focus: Both sides have dug in and settlement talks are, at the least for the moment, done. The defendants in the case have agreed to drop their motion to keep lawsuit documents sealed and so they may be unsealed as early as Friday morning.
What does it all mean? In the short term, not much as most of this stuff has likely been revealed with the apparent leaking of information to members of the media. Rightfully so, the Wilpons felt what's the point since most of what is inside the documents have already been unveiled for the world to see? But now the real chess match begins as the sides seem destined to be embroiled in a long court case that could take years to litigate.
My sources indicate that the Wilpons have cooperated fully with the Madoff investigation from jump and have provided hundreds of pages of documents to aid in the inquiry. What you must remember here is the documents that will be unsealed are merely contentions of the plaintiff and should not be construed as evidence until they are presented in court just as the defendants refuting the claims are contentions as well.
Ok enough legal babble--what does this mean for the Met fans? Well, a couple of things. First and foremost, this issue will not go away any time soon as a court case of this magnitude could drag on for 2 years or more. Secondly, it makes the prospect of a minority owner a remote possibility because they will not need the money until this case is settled (unless of course they re-enter settlement talks) and more importantly, any minority owner will want this resolved before he jumps in.
The biggest thing though is this will hang over the Mets like a dark cloud every single time they don't make a trade or not sign free agents or shy away from a top draft pick because he is represented by say, Scott Boras for instance. The litmus test might very well be if the Mets are in contention by the All Star break are they buyers, sellers, or neither? Whatever words are said, their actions will speak volumes as to where their finances are at that crucial point in the season.
Sandy Alderson's track record is to do more with less so he may desire to take that route anyway but the public perception will be that he may be hamstring by the organization's cash flow or lack of it. The ironic thing is if the Mets are out of contention by July 31, the proper course would be to become sellers which will send flares up that the Mets are dropping salary to curb costs.
The moment these documents are unsealed, it will set into motion a series of events that could have this case linger in the minds of Met fans for years to come and that is why I think the Wilpons wanted to settle. And the plaintiff in this case might have missed a window of opportunity because you get the feeling the Wilpons just wanted this to go away but with the contents of the lawsuit leaked, the repuation of Fred Wilpon is at stake making him more apt to take this to the finish line in court.
My question remains this: If the Mets made $ off the Madoff scandal, why would they hold salary this off-season and why would they be seeking a minority owner to bail them out? Secondly, how could the Wilpons be held accountable to have known the true story behind the Ponzi scheme if the SEC, who is trained to spot these issues, missed it? And the fact that the Mets fully cooperated with the authorities by providing over 700 pages of evidence would refute the statements that they knew what was going on? All good questions that will now be answered in court in the next 30 months or so. That is unless a settlement alternative can still be reached.