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More On The Bubbe Meisse of SIPC and The Trustee

By       Message Lawrence Velvel     Permalink
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That Chaitman conceded the legal correctness of the Trustee's and SIPC's position is so patently false on its face that one can only wonder that it was set forth. (Although it is all too symptomatic of SIPC's and the Trustee's method of litigating.) In fact, I for one suspect that Chaitman's letter could have been in part a ruse designed to enable her to get before the court a long list of cases describing the SIPA fund as insurance, the point Sheehan vigorously denied the day before. Be that as it may, Chaitman obviously understands that it will be years before any victim gets any customer property, and, conceivably pushed by desperate clients, she is asking the court to show what in Yiddish would, I think, be called rachmonis. (Do I have the word and the meaning right?) Of course, if I am correct, she probably should not have confined the offer to the situation of the court deciding for the Trustee, but also against the Trustee, since appeals would still take years, so would litigation to recover customer property,and her clients still will not see dime one for many years. In any event, the problem I see is that at one point she asked the court to incorporate her proposal into its legal decision. I find it hard or impossible to understand how this could be done, since the definition of net equity is what it is, and the definition controls both the advances from the fund and participation in customer property. (In my brief I said it would be nice if such advances and such participation could be determined separately but it seemed to me that the definition of net equity controlled both.) True, it is not unknown in law for the very same word or phrase to mean different things for different purposes. But I find it hard to think that that would be the ruling here. But maybe I'm wrong.

Of course, it is one thing to say that the judge will find it difficult or impossible to rule as a legal matter that the definition of net equity changes as between advances and later recovery of customer property, and it is quite another thing for the judge, before issuing any ruling, and at a time when he therefore holds a club over the heads of both sides, to call them in for a settlement conference and say, "This is what I want you to do. I want you to reach an out of court settlement under which people can elect to receive $500,000 (and not be subject to clawbacks) while agreeing to give up any future right to customer property. If you reach that settlement, great. If you don't, one of you is going to be hammered in the opinion I write." There are judges who do force those kinds of split-the-baby settlements on people. But whether Lifland would is something about which I have no idea.*

* This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, you can, if you wish, email me at

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Lawrence R. Velvel is a cofounder and the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, and is the founder of the American College of History and Legal Studies.

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