Sunday, October 1, 1989

Scandal's end: Prison

Here was the denouement to the Matthews and Wright story. Two years after we broke the story and explained the scam, court evidence confirmed our reporting as it sent the Wall Street firm's principal protagonist to prison.


By Howard Goodman
Inquirer Staff Writer

To Moshe Lichtman, a developer who tried in 1986 to bring a major trash
resource-recovery plant to the ailing city of Chester , the attitude of
Matthews & Wright Inc.'s municipal- bond chief Arthur Abba Goldberg
was best expressed when Goldberg jokingly described a bond issue the
firm had underwritten in Guam as "selling bonds to the cannibals. "

"Lichtman thought this to be ironic," reads a recently released FBI
report, "because Goldberg had food dripping out of his mouth when he
said it. "

Exploitation, racism and gluttony - the themes surge through the
evidence amassed by prosecutors in the Goldberg case, which came to its
probable end on Monday with the one-time Wall Street wunderkind
sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $400,000 in
fines and restitution.

The sentence, by U.S. District Judge Jesse W. Curtis Jr. in Los
Angeles, came two months after Goldberg pleaded guilty to three counts
of mail fraud for playing the key role in a bond -fraud scandal that
rocked the financial industry when it came to light in 1987.

With a breathtaking appetite, the evidence shows, Goldberg lured some
of America's poorest communities into the municipal- bond business to
make huge sums of money for his firm, never caring whether the trash
plants or housing projects that the bonds were supposed to finance were
ever actually built.

Thursday, June 1, 1989

Abbie Hoffman: His last interview (I think)

One day I happened to come across a photo that really struck me as incongruous: Abbie Hoffman at his bar mitzvah.

It made me laugh, and then it got me thinking. Underneath all the personae that Hoffman wore throughout his attention-getting life - radical trickster, professional agitator, media manipulator, fugitive - there was a Jewish sensibility underneath.

Knowing that Hoffman was living not far away in Bucks County, I got Inside Magazine, the "quarterly of Jewish life and style" in Philadelphia, interested in the story.

Hoffman was happy to oblige. He said that his Jewishness was an important component of his identity and yet nobody ever asked him about it.

He looked sick and out of shape, but he talked up a storm and no matter how I argued to the contrary, he insisted that the Sixties generation had won. Though we were in the midst of the Reagan years, he insisted that the Sixties movements had changed the country for the good. He was full of optimism for the future, he said.

About a month later, the news broke that he'd killed himself.

He fooled me. I had no clue he was in any kind of desperation.

He probably fooled himself as well. His brother disclosed to me that Abbie had been bipolar. For every up, there was a down. For every public act of outrageousness, there was a period of private despair. I caught him in an up.

This was the last substantive interview the ever-talkative, media star-struck Hoffman ever gave. It may be the last interview, period. I'm not sure.

I'm glad I had the chance to talk to him, even though the story, rewritten quickly to take his death into account, now reads like a jumble.

I always admired Abbie Hoffman, even when I questioned his tactics. Or his tact.

I felt personally close to what happened in the Sixties, and I'm happy to know that Hoffman's last days weren't entirely bleak. He could still speak of hope.