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March 13, 2009 10:00 AM

Litigator of the Week: Marc Litt of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

Posted by David Bario

Our Litigator of the Week, Manhattan assistant U.S. attorney Marc Litt, finally got to watch disgraced billionaire Bernie Madoff being led away in handcuffs Thursday. The sight must have been a relief for Litt, who fought for weeks to eject Madoff from his swank apartment and slap him into a jail cell. But as Litt hinted during Thursday's hearing, Madoff's guilty plea leaves many questions unanswered. Who else contributed to the fraud, and how? "The government's investigation continues," Litt told Manhattan federal district court judge Denny Chin following Madoff's plea. (Here's the New York Law Journal's colorful account of the scene in the courtroom.)

For much of his career in the Southern District, Litt maintained the usual low profile of a line prosecutor. He has a reputation for unassuming steadiness (though he reportedly keeps a trained pet rabbit named Whiskers). The 46-year-old was named lead prosecutor in the Madoff case in mid-December, just weeks after winning a nine-week trial against tech investor, philanthropist, and opera buff Alberto Vilar, who was also accused of defrauding his investors. It's been a bumpy ride: Litt took some heat for initially agreeing to Madoff's release to home confinement, and then for failing to win revocation of the fake financier's bail. Later, Madoff victims faulted the prosecutor for not charging Madoff with conspiracy and letting him squirm out of identifying his abetters in the fraud. But those who know Litt say he's doesn't let a case get out from under him.

"He moves deliberately," said Cahill Gordon & Reindel partner David Kelley, who oversaw Litt when he was Manhattan's U.S. attorney from 2003 to 2005. "He's quiet and low-key, but he's extremely sure-footed." Added former assistant U.S. attorney Steven Peikin: "[Litt is] low-key, not excitable, very methodical. He's a good prosecutor for a case like this, in which there is a lot of opportunity to become distracted by all the media hype and attention." Kelley told us that Litt has been mindful of the public clamor for blood in the Madoff case but hasn't let it distract him from his job.

For now, that job includes sorting out who else at Madoff's firm may have known of or joined in the Ponzi scheme--Madoff's brother and two sons both worked there--and whether to charge them criminally. Prosecutors believe at least some of Madoff's employees were involved in the fraud, according to Bloomberg. Litt has already quibbled with Madoff's allocution, noting that Madoff timed the start of his fraud to the 1990s, not the 1980s, as prosecutors contend. And, of course, there's still the matter of tracking the billions of dollars that moved through Madoff's firm. "A lot of resources and effort are being expended both to find assets and to find anyone else who may be responsible for this fraud," Litt said at Thursday's hearing. Litt, in other words, will have his hands full of Madoff Madness for a while to come.

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