07 July 2009

Unsilent Partners

I'm pleased that Mike Semple Piggot, of Charon QC and Insite Law Magazine fame, has agreed to work together with me on a new project, Unsilent Partners. At Unsilent Partners, he and I will discuss legal, current, and other topics of interest to US and UK audiences, usually focusing on one topic per week.

The first entry is now up. In it, I discuss the 150-year sentence imposed on fallen financier Bernard Madoff:
It might be best to start this response with a few numbers. Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff is a spry seventy-one years young. He has just been sentenced to 150 years in a federal prison. Although our federal prisons do not offer parole as such, Señor Swindle is eligible for a sentence reduction of fifteen percent if he behaves himself. Essentially, if he doesn't riot, shiv anyone, or mix colors and whites in the prison laundry, he'll save himself twenty-three years in the funhouse. Thus, if he's patient, he'll be a free man sometime around his 198th birthday.

Will he make it out in time to celebrate his bicentennial? According to the CIA's World Factbook, the average life expectancy for an adult American man is approximately 75.65 years. Many pessimists have seized on this tidbit of information and concluded that Madoff's sentence means that he will never live to be released from prison. It's not like the CIA has ever been wrong about anything before, right? It should be noted, however, that these life expectancy statistics are for an average man and, as Judge Denny Chin noted in his sentencing remarks, Madoff is an extraordinary person. Let's dig a bit deeper and consider survival probability statistics as well. According to these numbers, it seems that as an American man aged seventy-one years, Madoff has a 46.7% chance of seeing his eightieth birthday and a 16.0% chance of making it to ninety. Most importantly, though, he has a 1.5% chance of living beyond 100 years old. Scoff if you will, but I think a 1.5% chance of making it to one's 198th birthday is nothing to sneeze at.

Assuming for purposes of our discussion that Judge Chin does not share my optimistic nature and expects that Madoff will not survive his sentence, what might have prompted his decision?

Please click through for, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. Mike will soon post his response and we both look forward to seeing your comments.

UPDATE: Mike's response is appended to my essay. He raises some good questions and I'll respond in the next day or so. Add your comments or feel free to e-mail either Mike (mikesp at unsilentpartners dot com) or me (colin at unsilentpartners dot com) with your thoughts.

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