- - Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Madoff surprised by no public stoning

NEW YORK — Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff says he thinks the judge who sentenced him to 150 years in prison for his epic fraud was so beholden to mob psychology he’s surprised his penalty wasn’t a public stoning.

The 73-year-old Madoff tells the New York Times federal Judge Denny Chin gave him a virtual death sentence two years ago. He says he’s surprised the judge didn’t suggest stoning in the public square as proper punishment for a multi-decade fraud that cost thousands of people billions of dollars.

The judge tells the newspaper he considered whether a sentence of 20 to 25 years might be acceptable. But he concluded that would’ve been “way too low.”

Madoff is serving his sentence in Butner, N.C.

The Times published its telephone interview Tuesday in its online edition.


Mortgage fraud reports rise with document reviews

VIENNA — Reports of likely mortgage fraud increased sharply during the first quarter as big banks took another look at loan documents questioned by mortgage insurers and investors, according to the Treasury Department bureau that tracks such reports.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said Tuesday that it received 25,485 tips about possible mortgage fraud in the first three months of the year, up 31 percent from the 19,420 that it received in the same period a year ago.

FinCEN receives the tips, also called suspicious-activity reports, because it enforces the law requiring banks to tell the government about questionable financial transactions. The agency helps track illegal money transfers, catch money launderers and shut down accounts linked to corrupt political leaders.

Mortgage-fraud reports increased sharply because mortgage investors and insurers are demanding that banks buy back billions of dollars in loans that appear to be fraudulent, FinCEN said.

When banks bundled loans into bonds or resold them, the bonds were insured against default by bond insurers and the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. To protect the insurers, the banks agreed to buy back any loans that turned out to involve mortgage fraud.


Microsoft on the move with cloud computing

SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp made its biggest move into the mobile, Internet-accessible world of “cloud” computing Tuesday, taking the wraps off a revamped online version of its hugely profitable Office software suite.

The world’s largest software company is heaving its two-decade old set of applications — including Outlook email, Excel spreadsheets and SharePoint collaboration tools — into an online format so that customers can use them on a variety of devices from wherever they can get an Internet connection.

It wants to push back against Google Inc., which has stolen a small but worrisome percentage of corporate customers with Google Apps — a cheaper, Web-only alternative that removes the need for companies to spend time on installing software or managing servers.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer presented the overhauled and updated set of offerings — collectively called Office 365 — at an event in New York City on Tuesday morning, stressing that online versions and built-in conferencing tools can save users money, especially small and medium-sized businesses.

The full launch of Office 365, which has been in beta testing since last autumn, spices up the lively competition with Google for new users.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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