Santander Offers Madoff Settlement, Shutters Hedge Funds

Jan 28 2009 | 2:10am ET

The fallout from the Bernard Madoff scandal continues at Spain’s largest bank, which said yesterday it would close several hedge funds burned by Madoff and seek to settle Madoff-related claims made against it.

Santander said it would offer €1.38 billion (US$1.82 billion) to clients who lost money in the alleged US$50 billion Ponzi scheme. Santander was sued Monday in Miami by investors who accuse it of due-diligence failures in its Madoff investments. The bank’s hedge fund unit, Optimal Asset Management, has acknowledged some €2.3 billion (US$3 billion) in exposure to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, the bulk of it client funds.

The bank made the offer only to individual, and not institutional, investors. Santander said it will return only a client’s initial investment, in the form of preferred securities with an annual payout of 2%. In a statement, the firm said it “acted at all times with due diligence” and “in accordance with all applicable laws.”

Simultaneously, Optimal said it would liquidate seven of its hedge funds and return the money to investors.

“Adverse market conditions have produced a significant increase in the number of redemption orders in some of the funds,” Swiss-based Optimal said in statement. “If these redemptions take place, assets under management would drop substantially.”

Optimal said it would close its Asian Opportunities, Arbitrage, European Opportunities, Global Opportunities, Global Trading, Multi-Strategy and U.S. Opportunities funds.

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