Settlement means $1B for Madoff victims

Bernard Madoff leaves federal court in Manhattan. (March

Bernard Madoff leaves federal court in Manhattan. (March 10, 2009) (Credit: Getty Images)

A large settlement announced Thursday in the Bernard Madoff case garnered another $1 billion for victims of the giant Ponzi scheme, pushing the total recovery for investors so far to about $11 billion.

Irving Picard, the trustee leading a worldwide search for assets to pay back victims of Madoff, said the $1 billion comes from the settlement of lawsuits he brought against a dozen domestic and foreign investment funds associated with Tremont Group Holdings Inc., based in Rye.

Under terms of the settlement, more than $1 billion will be paid into an escrow fund that will become part of the larger customer fund Picard has set up to pay back Madoff victims. The new cash settlement is in addition to $7.6 billion recovered by Picard earlier. Federal prosecutors are also in control of another $2 billion, pushing the potential recovery to about $10.6 billion.

However, because of litigation, Picard said he is only able to use $3.6 billion for disbursement to customers, something officials said may begin as early as September. Because of various lawsuits and the complex math of the Madoff case, Picard is, for now, only going to be paying customers with valid claims about four to five cents on the dollar. Officials said customers lost about $17.5 billion in the giant scam.

Picard had sued the Tremont defendants in 2010, alleging they were aware that Madoff could be a fraud because of various warnings. But in a statement Thursday, Picard said both sides in the dispute wanted to avoid the risk, delay and expense of the litigation. The Tremont companies denied wrongdoing in the case.

While he lauded the settlement, Picard received a setback in another federal court case Thursday involving HSBC Bank PLC. Manhattan federal judge Jed Rakoff ruled that Picard didn't have standing to sue the bank and related defendants using state common law claims of unjust enrichment, and aiding and abetting fraud. Picard had sued HSBC in 2010 in bankruptcy court to recoup some $2 billion in payments from Madoff and another $6.6 billion under the common law theories. But Rakoff said Picard doesn't have the legal right to bring the common law actions and dismissed them, referring the remaining $2 billion amount back to bankruptcy court.

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