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Annals of Accountability: Robert Lappin

July 16, 2009

Lappin_globe For a lot of people, accountablity is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Robert Lappin isn't one of them.

As today's Boston Globe reports, Lappin, the founder of Salem-based Shetland Properties and the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, has made good on his $5 million promise to restore the retirement savings of sixty employees at his company and foundation who lost their nest eggs to convicted financial scammer Bernard L. Madoff.

(Photo courtesy of Boston Herald)

Lappin, a part-time resident of Palm Springs -- one of Bernie Madoff's haunts before he was sent away to serve a 150-year sentence for his crimes -- lost a good chunk of his personal fortune and $8 million of the foundation's endowment to what may be the largest Ponzi scheme in history. The foundation, until recently the largest Jewish philanthropy in the metro Boston region, was forced to close for a time after Madoff's scam was revealed in December. But the 87-year-old Lappin vowed to keep it going, and, as the Salem News reported in June, he turned to the community for help.

What happened next "was a crash course in fundraising," said Deborah Coltin, the foundation's executive director. One anonymous donor sent in a gift of $100,000 for the foundation's Youth to Israel program. Other gifts, ranging from a single dollar to $20,000, soon followed. The foundation recently launched a $500,000 fundraising drive, and five of its seven staff members are back on the job, if only part-time.

For many people in the area, however, the news that Lappin has made good on his promise to restore his employees' retirement savings, just as he said would, is the least surprising aspect of the whole affair.

"Restoring his employee benefits speaks to the type of guy he is," said Alan Pierce, a Salem attorney who is also president of the Jewish Historical Society of the North Shore. "He's always been the most philanthropic and generous of people in the area of charities. And he's done it without fanfare...."

Ever humble, Lappin told the Globe that he "wanted to do the right thing. And, I feel, I've done the right thing and that to me is my reward."

Mazeltov, Mr. Lappin. May the wind always be at your back and the sun be warm upon your face.

-- Mitch Nauffts


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Posted by Bruce Trachtenberg  |   July 16, 2009 at 05:31 PM


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