Monday, December 15, 2008

The Oddity of Confessing

Eric Dezenhall is surprised by one particular aspect of the Bernie Madoff affair.

Specifically, what floored me about the Madoff coverage were the reports that he had conceded to his sons and associates that “it was all just one big lie.” My experience with these affairs is that the accused uber-gonif tells everyone who will listen, including his legal and damage control team, that the charges against him are “total bullshit.” Not that some of the allegations are wrong; rather Virtually Every Negative Thing Being Said About Me Is 100% Certified Grade-A Imported Bullshit.

The reasons scandal figures don’t fess up is that they don’t believe they did anything wrong, and, perhaps most tactically, confessions and expressions of remorse are usually admissible in criminal and civil court. Enough rapscallions have been acquitted, or negotiated attractive pleas, that no sane attorney would sanction an out-of-the-gate mea culpa if there was any chance their client might secure his liberty (or his house in Southampton).

A similar logic applies to the “it’s the cover-up that gets you” bromide. As the late George Carlin once observed, “People in Washington say it’s not the initial offense that gets you into trouble, it’s the cover-up. They say you should admit what you did, get the story out and move on. What this overlooks is the fact that most of the time the cover-up works just fine, and nobody finds out a damned thing.”

I think the pressure of trying to hold it together got to him, especially as people started wanting to pull out money to compensate for losses elsewhere. I believe it was Warren Buffet who said "It's only when the tide goes out that you see who is swimming naked."

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