Bernard Madoff Case & Hedge Fund Fraud
Quick Link: Bernard Madoff Hedge Fund Investor Letter
News came out last night that Bernard Madoff may have fraudulently lost his clients up to $50B. He is accused of running a Ponzi scheme in what some say is the largest fraud case since Enron.
This is going to encourage government officials to layer on additional regulation of hedge funds across the industry. The loose term "hedge fund" has led to a rapid expansion of the industry over the past 10 years but it also means that when any investment related bad press surfaces someone may have been running what gets referred to as a hedge fund. Here are quotes on the situation from various articles:
Bernard Madoff, accused of orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, is expected to plead guilty to charges stemming from the alleged $50 billion fraud later this week.
Madoff will appear in Manhattan federal court on Thursday for a “plea proceeding,” according to a filing Friday. Madoff’s attorneys and federal prosecutors have been in talks about a plea bargain since Madoff’s arrest in December; last week, Madoff waived his right to be indicted by a grand jury in a move widely seen as presaging a plea deal. source
The former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market is best known as the founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, the closely-held market-making firm he launched in 1960. But he also ran a hedge fund that U.S. prosecutors said racked up $50 billion of fraudulent losses.
Madoff told senior employees of his firm on Wednesday that "it's all just one big lie" and that it was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme," with estimated investor losses of about $50 billion, according to the U.S. Attorney's criminal complaint against him. source
"There is no innocent explanation," Madoff said, according to the criminal complaint. He told the agents that it was all his fault, and that he "paid investors with money that wasn't there," according to the complaint.Here is the SEC press release:
The $50 billion allegedly lost would make the hedge fund one of the biggest frauds in history. When former energy trading giant Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001, one of the largest at the time, it had $63.4 billion in assets.
U.S. prosecutors charged Madoff, 70, with a single count of securities fraud. They said he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million.
"Our complaint alleges a stunning fraud -- both in terms of scope and duration," said Scott Friestad, the SEC's deputy enforcer. "We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the scheme and protect the remaining assets for investors."
Dan Horwitz, Madoff's lawyer, told reporters outside a downtown Manhattan courtroom where he was charged, "Bernard Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial services industry. We will fight to get through this unfortunate set of events."
Earlier this month, the criminal complaint says, Mr. Madoff told one of his sons that "clients had requested approximately $7 billion in redemptions, that he was struggling to obtain the liquidity necessary to meet those obligations." On Tuesday, the complaint alleges, Mr. Madoff added that he wanted to pay bonuses to employees this month, which was earlier than usual.
The next day, the sons met with Mr. Madoff at his office to ask about the bonus situation because he had appeared to be under "great stress" in prior weeks, they told the FBI. Mr. Madoff refused to answer their questions and arranged to meet them at his Manhattan apartment, the complaint says. source
Washington, D.C., Dec. 11, 2008 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Bernard L. Madoff and his investment firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, with securities fraud for a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme that he perpetrated on advisory clients of his firm. The SEC is seeking emergency relief for investors, including an asset freeze and the appointment of a receiver for the firm.
The SEC's complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, alleges that Madoff yesterday informed two senior employees that his investment advisory business was a fraud. Madoff told these employees that he was "finished," that he had "absolutely nothing," that "it's all just one big lie," and that it was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme." The senior employees understood him to be saying that he had for years been paying returns to certain investors out of the principal received from other, different investors. Madoff admitted in this conversation that the firm was insolvent and had been for years, and that he estimated the losses from this fraud were at least $50 billion.
"We are alleging a massive fraud — both in terms of scope and duration," said Linda Chatman Thomsen, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the fraud and protect remaining assets for investors, and we are working closely with the criminal authorities to hold Mr. Madoff accountable."
Andrew M. Calamari, Associate Director of Enforcement in the SEC's New York Regional Office, added, "Our complaint alleges a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions."
According to regulatory filings, the Madoff firm had more than $17 billion in assets under management as of the beginning of 2008. It appears that virtually all assets of the advisory business are missing.
Madoff founded the firm in 1960 and has been a prominent member of the securities industry throughout his career. Madoff served as vice chairman of the NASD, a member of its board of governors, and chairman of its New York region. He was also a member of NASDAQ Stock Market's board of governors and its executive committee and served as chairman of its trading committee.
The complaint charges the defendants with violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. In addition to emergency and interim relief, the SEC seeks a final judgment permanently enjoining the defendants from future violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and ordering them to pay financial penalties and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest.
The SEC's investigation is continuing.
The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. source
List of Bernard Madoff fraud victims
Tremont Capital. Fund of funds. Lost "hundreds of millions". (announced on CNBC)
Maxam Capital Management LLC. Combined loss of $280 million. "I'm wiped out," said Sandra Manzke, Maxam's founder and chairman. The Darien, Conn., fund of hedge funds will have to close as a result of the losses, she said. (WSJ)
Fairfield Greenwich Group. Bloomberg: The biggest loser may be Walter Noel’s Fairfield Greenwich Group, whose $7.3 billion Fairfield Sentry Ltd. invested with Madoff’s eponymous firm, three people familiar with the matter said... Fairfield Sentry has a record of more than 15 years with an annual return of 4 to 6 percentage points above benchmark interest rates, according to a marketing document dated this month that was prepared by Zurich-based NPB New Private Bank Ltd. On an absolute basis, returns exceeded 10 percent every year from 1991 through 2000. Since then, they ranged from 6.4 percent to 9.8 percent...The strategy is a “split-strike conversion,” where the investment manager buys shares of large U.S. companies and enters into options contracts to limit the risk, the document says.
Fix Asset Management. Bloomberg: Fix Asset Management, which had an account worth at least $400 million with Madoff Investments. The firm said it’s checking with lawyers about the holdings. “We are very shocked,” John Fix, the son of founder Charles Fix, said by phone from Greece. “We put in redemptions in the past few months and got our money back no problem. We are just so surprised about all this.”
Kingate Management Ltd. Bloomberg says $2.8 billion Kingate Global Fund Ltd. invested with Madoff.
Thyssen Family. Source sends the following:
Thybo Investments grew out of a family office for Thyssen. They have been in fund of funds it seems since 1989.
Thybo International is a "proper" fund of fund but it's newer share class G invests only in one manager - and i'm 99% sure it's Madoff as the returns are almost the same. Some more info:
* The fund started in Jan 2007.
* Ernst & Young. Luxembourg are the auditors.
* UBS Luxembourg is the administrator.
* Thybo states on their webpage: "Our track record incorporates audited financial statements at both a composite firm-wide and individual portfolios level."
Ira Roth's family. WSJ: Ira Roth, a New Jersey resident, who says his family has about $1 million invested through Mr. Madoff's firm, is "in a state of panic." He said his 86-year-old mother-in-law has been living on the investments' returns, and he has been using the funds to pay college tuition.
Sterling Equities. Fund controlled by Fred Wilpon, co-owner of the NY Mets, confirms it had money with Madoff.
Stephen Abbott, a San Francisco lawyer. WSJ: [Abbott] and two siblings had several hundred thousand dollars invested with Mr. Madoff. They inherited the trust from their father, who had befriended Mr. Madoff years ago. Performance remained steady through the current bear market, he said. "People were floored," he says. "We were making money in this lousy market." He says he is concerned about recovering the money but "you have to get philosophical about this stuff. It could be worse; we still have our health."
Unnamed European Funds of Funds: WSJ: Christopher Miller, chief executive of London hedge fund ratings agency Allenbridge Hedgeinfo, said: "Some very big investor names are involved in this. The scheme could only work if enough investors were subscribing for him to pay money out. Some of the world's biggest hedge funds have been hit by this. There will be a monumental impact for the hedge fund industry, it could be larger then Enron. "Some investors in Madoff's funds face 100% write-downs on the money they invested, they will suddenly be nursing full write-downs in December. When people realize the magnitude of this it will be fizzing around the stratosphere." One asset manager based in Switzerland, home to many high-net-worth individuals who invest in funds of hedge funds, said: "Everyone's talking about this in Geneva. Several wealthy investors could be facing big losses."
Palm Beach Country Club. Source: CNBC's David Faber
Lawrence Velvel, "69, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, said he and a friend may have lost millions of dollars between them (AP). "This is a major disaster for a lot of people," Velvel said in a telephone interview from his Andover, Mass., office. "You work all your life, you finally manage to save up something, and somebody who's entrusted with it, it turns out suddenly he's a crook. Lots of people are getting fully or partially wiped out." Velvel said he wants to know where government regulators, as well as accountants and others at Madoff's company, were when the money was being lost." (AP)
Loeb Family. Source: CNBC's David Faber
J. Ezra Merkin. GMAC LLC Chairman. WSJ: Mr. Merkin, the chairman of former General Motors Corp. financing arm GMAC, is also a money manager at Ascot Partners LLC in New York. Ascot, which had $1.8 billion under management as of Sept. 30, had substantially all of its assets invested with Mr. Madoff, according to a letter to Mr. Merkin sent to clients Thursday night. Mr. Merkin said as one of the largest investors in Ascot, he believed he had personally "suffered major losses from this catastrophe."
Norman Braman. Former Philadelphia Eagles owner
Richard Spring. WSJ: A Boca Raton resident and former securities analyst, says he had about $11 million -- or 95% of his net worth -- invested with Mr. Madoff. "That's how much I believed in him," Mr. Spring said.
Members of half-a-dozen country clubs: WSJ: "Mr. Madoff tapped social networks in Dallas, Chicago, Boston and Minneapolis. In Minnesota, he attracted investors from Hillcrest Golf Club of St. Paul and Oak Ridge Country Club in Hopkins, investors say. One of them estimated that investors from the two clubs may have invested more than $100 million combined. One of the largest clusters of Madoff investors was in Florida, where losses could be substantial. Mr. Madoff relied on a network of friends, family and business colleagues to attract investors. According to investors and agents, some of these agents were paid commissions for harvesting investors. Others had separate, lucrative business relationships with Mr. Madoff. "If you were eating lunch at the club or golfing, everyone was always talking about how Madoff was making them all this money," one investor says. "Everyone wanted to sign up." Jeff Fischer, a top divorce attorney in Palm Beach, says many of his clients were also Mr. Madoff's clients. "Every big divorce that came through my office had portfolio positions with Madoff," he says. Two of his investors said that among his clients, Mr. Madoff was considered a money-management legend; they would joke that if Mr. Madoff was a fraud, he'd take down half the world with him."
Bramdean Alternatives in the U.K. 9% of portfolio.
Banque Benedict Hentsch, Geneva-based private bank, $47.5 million.
Nomura and Neue Privat Bank. "Marketed access to Fairfield Sentry Ltd., a fund overseen by Mr. Madoff and sold through Fairfield Greenwich. The shares offered by Neue Privat and Nomura were leveraged three times -- meaning $3 of borrowed money was added to every $1 of capital invested in order to magnify returns, greatly increasing the potential losses for those investors." (WSJ)
Banco Santander. $3 billion EUR worth of exposure via its Optimal hedge fund unit and Banif asset management unit. (MarketWatch)
Unicredit. The Italian firm had unspecified amount with Madoff via its Dublin-based Pioneer alt-asset group. (MarketWatch)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Unspecified (Newsday). source
Bloomberg on Madoff:
Walter Noel’s Fairfield Greenwich Group would have collected about $135 million in fees this year for peddling Bernard Madoff’s investing acumen to clients from South America, the Middle East and Asia.
The $7.3 billion Fairfield Sentry Fund invested solely with Madoff, taking a cut of 1 percent of assets and 20 percent of gains, which averaged about 11 percent annually in the past 15 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Tremont Group Holdings Inc. had $3.3 billion in Madoff accounts, according to a person familiar with the matter. They were among at least 15 hedge-fund firms and private banks that earned fees for sending customers’ cash to the 70-year-old money manager.
“It’s mind-boggling that people like Tremont and Fairfield Greenwich had been doing this for so long,” said Brad Alford, who runs Alpha Capital Management LLC in Atlanta, which helps clients choose hedge funds. “It’s the job of these funds of funds to be doing due diligence. That’s why they get paid.”
Madoff was arrested Dec. 11 after he allegedly confessed to running a “giant Ponzi scheme” that may have bilked investors of $50 billion. That fraud escaped the notice of Fairfield Greenwich, Tremont and other funds of funds that had at least $20.3 billion invested with Madoff. Hedge-fund investment adviser Aksia LLC said the managers should have seen “red flags,” such as Madoff’s use of a little-known, three-person auditing firm. source
Think Flat on Madoff:
We are yet to digest the sub-prime horror, international terrorism after Mumbai massacre and suddenly the trans-atlantic media is buzzing about a man and his master weapon- that's right, Mr Madoff & his schemy scheme , "Ponzi". With Wall Street reeling under $50 billion collateral damage, losses pouring in from Europe & parts of asia, some of the brightest investors' money under drain, this scandal has opened up the pandora's box of plight of super-free capitalist market. As the whole story yet to unfold, the big question that comes first- "What went worng? Who is this Madoff? What is this Ponzi scheme? How come big names in the losser list got stumped by this NY man?" Before we jump to any conclusion, let's understand this man and his strategy. source
To read our hedge fund investor letter on the Bernard Madoff hedge fund fraud case please lick here.