December 29th, 2008
01:18 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Statutory theft at Madoff estate

Program Note: Be sure to tune in to watch Ali Velshi, CNN's Chief Business Correspondent, discuss the implications of Madoff's offshore accounts tonight on AC360 at 10pm ET.

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Gene Bloch
Managing Editor
CNN New York

Karma or coincidence? Police in Palm Beach, Florida, say one or more burglars recently broke into the estate of accused Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and made off with a statue worth more than $10,000. The statue portrays two lifeguards sitting on a bench, according to police. "The property manager left the residence one afternoon, and when she returned, she noticed a statue that was normally kept by the pool was missing," Palm Beach Police Sgt. Richard Sorge told CNN.

There are no leads to report.

Meanwhile, we may soon know a lot more about where Madoff put those billions of dollars he was supposed to be investing for his clients. A federal judge has given Madoff a December 31st deadline to provide a written accounting to the SEC of “all assets, liabilities and property” including “bank accounts, brokerage accounts, investments, business interests, loans, lines of credit, and real and personal property.”

Updated info on the expected loan payments today to General Motors and Chrysler. The first installment of the loans to the companies ($4 billion each) was expected to arrive today, but we’ve heard that the money isn’t coming just yet. GM tells CNN it continues to work on the final stages of the loan agreement and remains confident a timely signing of the agreement will occur. A source familiar with the situation indicates the money is expected tomorrow. Chrysler has not heard whether it will receive the money today. After that first installment, GM is due to receive an additional $5.4 billion in mid-January, and pending Congressional approval, GM gets another $4b in February – and GM is indicating that it may soon be asking for more. Will the loans be enough? Most economists say no, and tens of billions more will be needed to right the industry. And remember, Ford is not asking for any loan…not yet anyway.

Stock market investors will be happy to say goodbye to 2008. Going into today the Dow is down 36%, the S&P down a whopping 40.5% – that index’s worst annual performance EVER, and Nasdaq down 42.5%. The only trading break will be on Thursday, New Year’s Day...full sessions are scheduled the other four days. We’ll also be getting a raft of economic news later in the week, as readings on Consumer Confidence, home prices, jobless claims, and manufacturing activity come in.

Oil prices this year are on target to post their biggest decline on record (now off about 60%), but they are rising this morning as the conflict in Gaza is raising concerns about the supply of oil out of the Middle East. Crude prices popped above $40 a barrel earlier before retreating somewhat.

And gas prices are down a tenth straight day. According to AAA regular unleaded gasoline is averaging $1.627 a gallon ($1.63 for graphics), down 60% from its record July high. A nice break for Americans grappling with financial issues.

President-Elect Obama’s economic stimulus will seek to help those Americans – over the weekend, David Axelrod, a senior advisor to Obama said the plan will include an immediate tax cut for middle class families and the incoming administration hopes to enact permanent tax cuts soon after that. He’s putting a pricetag of anywhere from $675 billion to $775 billion on that plan, which seeks to create 3 million jobs.

And finally, CNNMoney today brings us a terrific feature – the 21 dumbest moments in business from Fortune. As they put it, “we don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Our annual list of the year's most laughable moves proves that, even in moments of crisis, stupidity lives on.”

Filed under: Barack Obama • Finance • Gas Prices • Gene Bloch
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Antoine P. Brunson

    Just desserts.

    December 29, 2008 at 6:36 pm |
  2. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    So a thief robbed Madoff of a prized possession! Now, if the US government can figure out how to divest him of everything he owns and criminalize his action to require incarceration....all the better!

    December 29, 2008 at 1:41 pm |
  3. JC- Los Angeles

    Thieves stealing from thieves; we have become quite a morally bankrupt nation.

    December 29, 2008 at 1:23 pm |