The largest Ponzi scheme in history is turning into the largest recovery in history. Irving Picard, the Madoff trustee overseeing the clawback of funds stolen by Bernie Madoff, announced that a motion is being filed today in federal bankruptcy court seeking approval to distribute an additional $419 million to Madoff victims. Picard will appear on Yahoo Finance’s Midday Movers at 11:30 a.m. ET to discuss the news.
A hearing on the motion has been scheduled for January 23, 2019. If approved, the amount of money returned to Madoff’s victims will exceed $12 billion, a historic milestone. Picard’s office issued a statement saying, “ …our teams spread out across the globe, and with unrelenting determination and the support of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, we have recovered a sum that once seemed out-of-reach and, most importantly, restored stolen funds to their rightful owners.”
The announcement comes on the 10th anniversary of Madoff’s arrest, December 11th 2008. It’s an arrest Picard says led to the discovery of an, “…unprecedented fraud, a global Ponzi scheme that spanned decades and defrauded thousands of customers.”
Picard and his chief counsel David Sheehan, both of whom are partners at Baker Hostetler LLP, have spent the last 10 years suing, negotiating, and settling with money managers as well as Madoff employees who profited from the fraud. In some cases, the trustee has sued Madoff victims, people who withdrew more money from Madoff’s firm than they originally invested. Those people and their accounts are known as “net winners.”
The trustee says there were originally 16,500 claims filed to receive recovered Madoff funds but only a little more than 2,600 of them have been allowed to proceed. The allowed claims are referred to as “net losers,” accounts that withdrew less from Madoff’s firm than they invested. In some cases, they never withdrew anything.
Picard’s team has recovered $13.3 billion of the original $17.5 billion investors entrusted to Madoff. Since February of this year, Picard’s team has recovered an additional $515 million. More than half, $281 million, came from disgraced money manager J. Ezra Merkin whose Ascot Partners, L.P., Ascot Fund Limited and Gabriel Capital Corporation invested more than $1 billion with Madoff. Some of that money belonged to clients who were unaware Merkin was funneling cash to Madoff. Merkin has denied any knowledge of the fraud but settled with the trustee last month. Chief Counsel David Sheehan said, “Our teams and Madoff’s claimants have much to celebrate on this 10th anniversary.” And Sheehan promises more recoveries in the future.
More than 1,000 lawsuits have been filed over the last 10 years. Thirty-three recovery agreements, from those suits, netted at least $20 million, 16 exceeded $100 million. The largest single recovery was the $7.2 billion settlement with the estate of Jeffry Picower an early Madoff investor who the trustee accused of being complicit in the fraud.
All that work has earned Picard’s law firm Baker Hostetler, close to $1 billion. But the fee is being paid by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — none of it comes from the money recovered for Madoff victims. SIPC President and CEO Stephen Harbeck called Picard’s work and the $12 billion milestone extraordinary.
Adam Shapiro is an anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ajshaps.