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Untangling Madoff's 'Winners' And Losers

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Untangling Madoff's 'Winners' And Losers

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Untangling Madoff's 'Winners' And Losers

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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: the Bernard Madoff case. His task is to recover or claw back money from those who came out winners in the Madoff Ponzi scheme, and dole out some compensation to the many losers.

Mr. Picard joins us now from Oxon Hill, Maryland, where he's attending a meeting of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Welcome to the program.

M: Thank you.

: And in your most recent report to the bankruptcy court, you wrote that you recovered about $1 and a half billion. Before Madoff's investment business collapsed, it claimed accounts totaling about $65 billion - perhaps an inflated number. Have you been able to determine just how much money investors had with Madoff?

M: We've been using as a working number somewhere between 18 and $20 billion that had been deposited when the doors closed on December 11th, 2008.

: And how much of that money do you reasonably hope to recover?

M: I learned a long time ago that I don't speculate on those things. My aim is to collect as much as possible. I'm hopeful that we can return upwards of 50 cents - or even more - on the dollar to people.

: I'd like to try to get a sense of which investors are considered winners here - which investors you should go after. We all understand that, say, very close associates or relatives of Mr. Madoff's who made a lot of money may possibly have been in on the swindle - or should've known. Some big investors who ran feeder funds perhaps should've known.

But why should someone who invested with Madoff in good faith, made some money, paid taxes on it and is now, say, living in retirement on those earnings, why should that person's assets be clawed back?

M: The net winners are people who received fictitious profits. So they got more than they had deposited. And the only way that they could've gotten that money is that that money was taken from people who have lost money, who haven't been paid back in full what they deposited.

And the bankruptcy code provides a mechanism for a bankruptcy trustee. It's called avoidance actions, to get back some of those funds to redistribute them to the people who lost money. We're talking here about fictitious profits, and somebody being paid with other people's money.

: So if I had put $50,000 in with Madoff 15 years ago, and I looked at my eye-popping sums every time - when I got a statement from him, what I would be compensated, the amount I would be compensated to today would be the $50,000.

M: If you hadn't taken out any other money, that is correct.

: How cooperative are you finding the winners whom you've been trying to reclaim money from?

M: Well, we've sent out hundreds of letters, and we've gotten very few, if any, responses.

: The longer you do this and the more you learn about Madoff's investment business, are you more impressed with how easy it was for one to believe in his successes as an investor? Or are you more incredulous that one could've not seen through the returns that...

M: I would say that I'm more incredulous.

: More incredulous. People should've known, seeing what they were...

M: Well, I think there were lots of - what us lawyers call red flags that people should've picked up on, and that's why we think that many of these people, especially ones that we've already sued, are in a category of should have known.

: We report on your doings often here, and it's good to talk to you at last. But I just wonder, when we speak of Irving Picard trustee, is there entire - a department of Baker and Hostetler - do you have a huge staff that's working on this? How many people are actually working on it?

M: Well, we - you know, it depends on what the issue is and quite frankly, the day of the week. We have lots of issues. We have lots of people working on this case. I have forensic consultants, investigators. This is a far-reaching case. This is a case that involves issues not just in the United States, but issues - we're involved in 12 to 15 foreign countries.

I have lawyers in some of the foreign countries. We brought litigation in some of the foreign countries. We've been able to free something like $200 million in Gibraltar and British Virgin Islands, the Caymans, and a couple of other places. This isn't just a little case, or a case that's solely situated in the southern district of New York.

: Is this the balance of your career - being a Madoff trustee?

M: Um, it very well could be.

: Well, we hope you'll talk to us again about it at some point.

M: It would be my pleasure.

: Irvin Picard, the trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy. Thank you very much for talking with us.

M: My pleasure.

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