Friday, June 26, 2009

Madoff Client Jeffry Picower Netted $5 Billion—Likely More Than Madoff Himself

Madoff Client Jeffry Picower Netted $5 Billion—Likely More Than Madoff Himself
(Source ProPublica) It is rare these days to see Bernard Madoff's name in print unaccompanied by the word "Ponzi." Yet recent allegations raise the possibility of one key difference between Madoff's crimes and those of legendary con artist Charles Ponzi. While Ponzi's scam was under way, Ponzi himself was its biggest beneficiary. It now appears that the biggest winner in Madoff's scheme may not have been Madoff at all, but a secretive businessman named Jeffry Picower.

Between December 1995 and December 2008, Picower and his family withdrew from their various Madoff accounts $5.1 billion more than they invested with the self-confessed swindler, according to a lawsuit [2] filed by the trustee who is trying to recover money for those Madoff defrauded.

In contrast, shortly after he confessed [3], Madoff declared his household net worth to be between $823 and $826 million, according to court documents. While the Madoffs clearly lived opulently, no evidence has emerged that their combined assets and expenditures approached the amount the Picower family is alleged to have withdrawn from the scheme.

In an era when billions of dollars are being tossed about in financial collapses and government bailouts, remarkably little attention has been paid to Jeffry Picower's extraordinary success with Bernie Madoff. If Picower has penetrated the popular consciousness at all, it is as a Madoff victim. The victim narrative is buoyed by testimonials from the nonprofits who received funding from his charitable foundation – which quickly closed on the heels of the swindler's confession. For this reason, ProPublica decided to take a closer look at both Jeffry Picower and the complaint filed against him by Madoff trustee Irving Picard [4].

Fortunately for the trustee and the federal investigators presently swarming over the case, Madoff apparently kept detailed notes of communications between his office and his clients. But despite this documentary evidence, which is cited but not provided in court documents, Picard's complaint raises more questions than it answers. Above all, what was the exact relationship between the two men? The complaint [2] is larded with the legal catch-all phrase, "knew or should have known," to describe Picower's cognizance of Madoff's fraud, but the intricacies of the relationship are left to the imagination.
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