And so it begins. The trustee trying to find money to give to Bernie Madoff’s swindled clients has finally started going after those who took money out of the Ponzi scheme in the months before it collapsed.
The legal logic is that the money these “winners” took out belonged to someone else.
WSJ: Irving Picard…on Thursday filed a lawsuit in bankruptcy court in Manhattan against Vizcaya Partners Ltd., a Madoff investor based in the British Virgin Islands, and the investor’s bank, Gibraltar-based Banque Jacob Safra Ltd. The suit seeks $150 million in funds, which were withdrawn about six weeks before Mr. Madoff’s scheme was exposed…
The process of grabbing money that had been paid out to investors as part of the fraud had been anticipated, but appears to be ramping up with Thursday’s lawsuit…Vizcaya opened its Madoff account in 2001 and used the Gibraltar bank to wire a total of about $327 million to the Madoff firm before the October redemption.
Under the U.S. bankruptcy code, Mr. Picard can sue investors for any fictional profits as well as the principal investment that they withdrew in the past six years. Such so-called clawback provisions are based on the logic that the redemptions were paid using other investors’ money. It is unclear whether Mr. Picard plans to go after investors’ principal investment. Also under the code, if investors made withdrawals in the 90 days prior to the Madoff firm’s collapse, the process for grabbing that money is easier for Mr. Picard.
It’s not clear whether Vizcaya Partners withdrew other money from Madoff before the October redemption. If not, Vizcaya is now in the infuriating position of being down almost $200 million and being told it is legally obligated to be down $350 million. And that $327 million, of course, is the money that Vizcaya actually invested, not the amount it thought it had with Madoff.
Vizcaya, therefore, does not appear to be a true Madoff “winner”–one of the thousands of clients who took not only principal but gains out over the years. It will be interesting to see whether Picard goes after them.
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