Bernie Madoff and the Banks

One of my core beliefs is that Ponzi schemes could not operate without the complicity of banks.  Banks facilitate these schemes and lend an air of legitimacy to them.

In the case of Bernie Madoff, think about it – the crook wasn’t hiding billions in his mattress or behind his mirror, like the small time crooks in movies like The Grifters. No. Bernie used banks to hide the billions he stole, and the biggest bank he used was J.P Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM)

In his interview published last week with The New York Times, Madoff made it clear that financial institutions such as banks and hedge funds he failed to name were somehow “complicit” in his $65 billion fraud.

Of course, it’s hard to believe a liar, and Bernie is one of the biggest ever. As the Times noted, Madoff’s statement was “an about-face from earlier claims that he was the only person involved” in the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.

But, after spending months in jail, Bernie’s tune has changed.

“They had to know,” Madoff said, referring to financial institutions. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.” The Times reported that Madoff spoke about the “willful blindness” of various banks and hedge funds, although he failed to name names.

J.P. Morgan, meanwhile, has been doing spin control about its awareness of Madoff’s fraud.

The day before that story hit the front page of the Times, executives with J.P. Morgan were attempting to placate the industry about charges it’s facing from the Madoff trustee that it ignored or dismissed warning signs about the fraud. The Madoff trustee, Irving Picard, sued the bank in December, and has sued a number of individuals and institutions looking to get money back for investors. So far, Picard has been extremely successful, pulling $10 billion from former Madoff clients.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, J.P. Morgan’s general counsel Stephen Cutler told a group of analysts that J.P. Morgan “did not know about or in any way participate in the fraud” and vowed not to litigate the case in the media.

CEO James Dimon then took the mic at the meeting and said: “You can imagine what I would say.”

Tough talk from J.P. Morgan, the elite of Wall Street. Real tough. Let’s see how tough they are if, and when, the bank writes Mr. Picard a check for billions.

About Jacob H. Zamansky 57 Articles

Jacob (”Jake”) H. Zamansky is one of the country’s foremost authorities on securities arbitration law, the legal recourse for investors claiming broker wrongdoing, or for brokers claiming wrongful termination or other misconduct by their employer. Zamansky & Associates, the New York-based law firm he founded, represents both individuals and institutions in complex securities, hedge fund, and employment arbitrations.

Mr. Zamansky was at the forefront of recent efforts to “clean up” Wall Street. In 2001, he successfully sued former Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget on behalf of a New York pediatrician misled by Blodget’s stock research. The case’s successful resolution was the catalyst for New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer to investigate the conflicts of interest on Wall Street and resulted in the well-reported $1.4 billion Global Settlement, which included many of the biggest names on Wall Street.

More recently, Mr. Zamansky is one of the leading litigators and opinion leaders of the subprime mortgage crisis and the related hedge fund collapses, representing both investors and mortgage borrowers who were defrauded by Wall Street firms and mortgage lenders. Among Mr. Zamansky’s early actions is filing the first arbitration case on behalf of institutional and high net worth investors against Bear Stearns Asset Management with regard to the two hedge funds which collapsed as a result of exposure to subprime mortgage backed securities. He also has filed claims on behalf of individual investors victimized by brokers that steered their portfolios into unsuitable subprime stocks and mortgage borrowers who were fraudulently coerced into inappropriate mortgage and investment transactions.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Zamansky worked for more than 30 years as a litigator, including positions at Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP. His tenure also included serving as a federal prosecutor with the Federal Trade Commission.

A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Zamansky has been a frequent expert commentator on CNBC, CNN, and FOX News and has published opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and USA Today. He is regularly quoted and his cases have been chronicled in major financial and news publications including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes. He is a frequent lecturer for industry and legal groups around the country. He also writes a blog that can be viewed here.

Visit: Zamansky & Associates

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