THE BLOG
11/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dad, Dad, Uncle Alvin's Been Arrested

Alvin Paris was my Father's florist, he was also his friend, but most important of all he was one of my Fathers bookmakers.

It was on a Sunday in 1945 or 1946 that as usual I brought home the morning newspapers for my father and there on the front page was a picture of Uncle Alvin doing a "perp walk" along with the New York City Police for trying to fix the NY Giant playoff game. My Dad about died when he saw it. My Father, would not have been involved in this -- yet if he knew about it, he would have taken advantage of it.

I learned a lot from my Father. He would tell me about union corruption, Police corruption, business corruption and all of that other good stuff.

I used to and continue to believe "that the failure of the human condition" is responsible for the mess we find ourselves in.

There are those purveyors of fantasy who claim that unregulated and unfettered capitalism will save us all. Good luck to that one. I have heard that for my entire life.

At this moment I wonder if you want to screw something up should you give it to the private sector or the Feds. Sadly, the answer is "neither of the above."

While the "Uncle Alvin incident" took place well over sixty years ago, what I will relate was told to me by a friend and associate Bob Kaufman forty years ago. Bob had worked for Twentieth Century Fox in the sixties.

There was a proxy fight going on for control of the company and Bob was given a list of shareholders to call and ask them to vote in support of the incumbent management.

The first shareholder he called was Irving Abramowitz, 87 years old who owned 12,000 shares of stock that was now trading at $7 per share. Irving interrupted Bob several times during the "vote with management pitch." Irving was obviously not pleased at all with the Fox management.

When Bob finished his pitch Abramowitz started his loud reply that went something like this:

"Mr. Kaufman, I am now 87 years old. Every penny that I had in the world is invested in your company. I paid almost $250,000 for the stock because your management kept telling me how "undervalued the stock was" and that I should buy more of it.

Now let me ask you a question Mr. Kaufman. All of the money I have is invested in your company. Why don't I just come over to wherever you are and kill you; you son of a bitch? Vote with your management? Are you crazy?"

That was the first and last call Bob ever made for his company.

A Federal District judge recently overturned a settlement deal between the Bank of America and the Securities and Exchange Commission over bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch executives just before the bank took over Merrill last year. Bank of America has argued in its filings with the judge that it did nothing wrong in its disclosures.

The judge assigned to the case in federal court in Lower Manhattan wrote that the $33 million settlement "does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality."

Merrill Lynch paid a paltry $3.6 billion in bonuses late last year just as that firm was about to be merged with Bank of America. Neither company provided details of the bonuses to their shareholders, who voted on Dec. 5 to approve the merger.

"It is quite something else for the very management that is accused of having lied to its shareholders to determine how much of those victims' money should be used to make the case against the management go away," the judge wrote. Good for the Judge!

The judge also criticized the S.E.C., which has been trying to step up the profile of its investigations unit, when he quoted Oscar Wilde saying that a cynic is someone "who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

The proposed settlement, the judge continued, "suggests a rather cynical relationship between the parties: the S.E.C. gets to claim that it is exposing wrongdoing on the part of the Bank of America in a high-profile merger; the bank's management gets to claim that they have been coerced into an onerous settlement by overzealous regulators. And all this is done at the expense, not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth."

The case before Judge Rakoff is just one of several investigations into the bank's deal with Merrill. Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, is investigating the bank's disclosures of bonuses and of Merrill's surprise losses late last year. The House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform is also looking into the merger.

In my hardly ever humble opinion we should hire as many special prosecutors as are needed to investigate the stuff that happened on Wall Street that has screwed up our country and put as many as called for into jail.

Boy would that dissuade those that are currently trying to do it all over again.

Repeating a very old yet very valuable adage:

"Given the opportunity to financially abuse most people will."

Now how sad is that?