Madoff Trustee Fears For Recovery

Nov 7 2011 | 1:16pm ET

Buffeted by a series of crippling legal defeats, the court-appointed trustee in the Bernard Madoff case says he's not sure how much he'll be able to recover for the arch-fraudster's victims.

Picard has recovered $8.7 billion of the roughly $17.3 billion in principal lost in the $65 billion Ponzi scheme. But most of that money is tied up in appeals, and several recent court decisions appear to have severely limited the amount he'll be able to recover.

"We have a $5 billion settlement and a $1 billion settlement," Picard told Bloomberg News. "It's all being appealed."

Picard is doing some appealing of his own. In recent months, he's seen almost $30 billion in lawsuits against banks junked by judges, and a ruling in favor of the New York Mets' owners that could cut the amount he can recover from Madoff clients by more than $6 billion.

"Some of my authority to bring those actions has been called into question," Picard said. "We will be appealing those decisions. In my view, unless we are imaginative, creative and go after some of these things, the victims don't have a chance of becoming whole."

Despite his difficulties in making lawsuits against banks stick, Picard last week sued another, seeking almost $1 billion from BNP Paribas. According to the lawsuit, a Madoff feeder fund transferred $975.5 million to a BNP unit—and that feeder fund, Harley International, has not coughed up any of the $1.07 billion default judgment Picard one against it.


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