The trustee picking over the bones of swindler Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme said Tuesday he will finish deciding all of the customer claims - about 16,500 - by the end of the year.
During a hearing at federal bankruptcy court in Manhatan, Irving Picard said his work on reviewing the claims will finish around the time of the second anniversary of Madoff's implosion on Dec. 11, 2008. It was then that Madoff was charged with running Wall Street's big scam.
About $20 billion in customer money was lost with Madoff falsely reporting client investor accounts contained $65 billion. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison term.
Picard and the nonprofit Securities Investor Protection Corporation are taking a hard line. They are denying the claims of customers who were "net winners" because they took out more money than they put into their accounts with Madoff and were essentially given cash stolen from other customers. Those denied claims argue Picard should have calculated the value of their accounts as reflected on Madoff's books, not just on what they invested.
So far, of the 13,350 claims processed by Picard, only 2,213 have been approved. SIPC is processing advance payments of $723 million to approved claimants, who lost a total of $5.6 billion. Picard has found about $1.6 billion in assets but could get billions more in settlements with some high-rolling investors.
Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland Tuesday also approved a fee application of $511,000 for Picard and $28.9 million for his law firm of Baker & Hostetler. All of those fees are paid by SIPC. So far, Picard has earned $2.8 million in fees, which he said go directly to his law firm. Baker & Hostetler has so far earned $93.8 million, said Picard.