The owners of the New York Mets baseball club agreed to pay $162 million to settle a $303 million lawsuit by Irving Picard, the liquidator of Bernard Madoff’s firm, just before they were due to go to trial for allegedly ignoring the fraud.
Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and related defendants reached the settlement with Mr. Picard on March 16, U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said Monday. The settlement has to be approved by a bankruptcy court judge, Mr. Rakoff said. The Mets owners will pay the money over five years, Mr. Rakoff said.
Mr. Rakoff ruled on March 5 that the Mets defendants must give up as much as $83 million in so-called fictitious profits from Mr. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and face a jury trial over an additional $303 million. The main question for the trial was to have been whether the owners acted in bad faith when they withdrew money from the brokerage Mr. Madoff used to run his swindle.
The Mets owners opposed a jury trial and tried unsuccessfully to get the remaining claims brought by Mr. Picard dismissed after Mr. Rakoff cut them back to $386 million from $1 billion.
Mr. Picard’s lawyers had said they were confident a jury would find the Major League Baseball club’s owners deliberately ignored the fraud because it benefited their businesses, ranging from the team to real estate.
The settlement has been approved by the Securities Investor Protection Corp., which selected Mr. Picard as trustee, said one of Mr. Picard’s lawyers, David Sheehan.
The Ponzi scheme cost investors an estimated $20 billion in principal, according to Mr. Picard.
Mr. Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to orchestrating what prosecutors called the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. He’s serving a 150-year sentence in federal prison in North Carolina.