The Work

December 3, 2010 11:42 AM

Madoff Roundup: Picard a Lawsuit-Filing Machine

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 12/5/10, 6:50 p.m. Irving Picard has added HSBC to the list of banks being sued in an effort to recover assets for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, reports The New York Times. It is the third complaint filed by the trustee of Madoff's estate against a major financial institution in recent weeks.

Two years after disgraced financier Bernard Madoff turned himself in to authorities for running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme, the trustee seeking to recoup money for duped investors has been filing a flurry of civil suits in the face of a looming litigation deadline.

A $6.4 billion suit filed Thursday against JPMorgan Chase is the latest claim to be brought by Irving Picard, a Baker & Hostetler partner and the trustee in charge of the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities (BLMIS), according to sibling publication the New York Law Journal.

The suit accuses JPMorgan of enabling Madoff's massive fraud. David Bario, writing for The Am Law Litigation Daily, another sibling publication, reports that the suit claims JPMorgan was "willfully blind" to the Ponzi scheme for decades. (In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the bank accused Picard of trying to "grab headlines" and said it "did not know about or assist in any way" Madoff's fraud.)

The suit against JPMorgan is just the latest salvo fired by Picard over the past two weeks. The trustee is up against a December 11 deadline to bring civil suits against various entities and individuals to recover assets for Madoff victims. Here's a quick rundown of the suits that Picard has filed recently:

--Some 100 "clawback" actions filed on the day after Thanksgiving on behalf of Madoff victims. One of those suits seeks $20 million from Blue Star Investors, a hedge fund of funds run by private equity pioneer Thomas H. Lee, according to The New York Times.

--Actions against dozens of former Madoff customers who, Picard says, "were closest to the center of the fraud and who were, in many cases, among those who benefited most from the Ponzi scheme," according to the WSJ. Many of those targeted in that batch of suits are Madoff relatives who are also having their assets targeted overseas.

--A lawsuit against UBS in which Picard, who claims the Swiss bank also enabled Madoff's fraud, seeks to recover $2 billion. The Am Law Litigation Daily has a copy of Picard's 107-page UBS complaint and a statement from a UBS spokesperson calling the suit "completely unfounded and without merit."

As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, Picard also filed suit against two former Milberg Weiss lawyers two weeks ago, at the same time that prosecutors charged two former BLMIS employees for their alleged roles running Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Last week a major Madoff feeder fund, Greenwich Sentry, filed for Chapter 11 protection in New York.

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The trustee is to be commended for pursuing those who were complicit and those who aided and abetted this fraud however he is being disingenuous when he claims this is benefitting the victims. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of Madoff’s victims have had their claims denied, will never share in the recovery and will, despite their innocence and circumstances, suffer clawbacks which will render them destitute.

The simple fact is this; the trustee’s recovery from the complicit parties in this fraud should obviate his persecution of the innocent investor.

In the end ten thousand lives will have been destroyed, generational wealth and charities will have been decimated, more suicides will occur and Irving Picard and Baker Hostetler will bank a couple hundred million bucks.

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