Columbia University Burned By Madoff

Jan 21 2009 | 4:24pm ET

The effects of Bernard Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme has reached the hallowed halls of the Ivy League.

Columbia University has $3 million in exposure to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Bloomberg News reports. The New York school is to date the only Ivy League institution to acknowledge potential losses in the alleged $50 billion hedge fund fraud.

The Madoff exposure was due to a 1980 gift to Columbia Law School. The donor, an alumnus, retained the right to decide how the gift should be invested, a stipulation that Columbia says it allows “only in rate circumstances.”

Unlike other schools with direct ties to Madoff or his associates—J. Ezra Merkin, the former GMAC Financial chairman who ran several Madoff feeder funds is an alum and a former member of the Columbia College board of visitors— Columbia said that it hasn’t found any exposure in the money its own investment management team runs.

While it may be the first Ivy to be hit by Madoff-linked losses, Columbia certainly isn’t the only institution of higher education to suffer. Three other New York City schools, Yeshiva University, New York Law School and New York University, have reported losses; the former may be out $110 million, while the latter two have already sued. Bard College in New York’s Hudson Valley and Tufts University, outside of Boston, have also reported losses.

Unlike some of those schools, Columbia’s loss is unlikely to have a dire impact on it: The school’s endowment stood at $7.15 billion on June 30, and in 2007 ranked as the seventh-largest university endowment in the U.S.

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