On Dec. 11, the SEC charged Madoff and his firm with securities fraud for a multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme that he perpetrated on advisory clients of his firm. The SEC's complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, alleged that on Dec. 10 Madoff informed two senior employees that his investment advisory business was a fraud. Madoff told these employees that he was "finished," that he had "absolutely nothing," that "it's all just one big lie," and that it was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme," according to the SEC.
The senior employees understood him to be saying that he had for years been paying returns to certain investors out of the principal received from other investors, the commission said. Madoff admitted in this conversation that the firm was insolvent and had been for years, and that he estimated the losses from this fraud were at least $50 billion.
Madoff founded the firm in 1960 and has been a prominent member of the securities industry throughout his career, the SEC said. He served as vice chairman of the NASD, a member of its board of governors and chairman of its New York region. He was also a member of NASDAQ's board of governors and its executive committee and served as chairman of its trading committee.
A court-appointed receiver is now in place for affected investors. Louis Stanton, U.S. district court judge for the southern district of New York, has granted the SEC's request for emergency relief for investors and issued an order freezing assets and appointing a receiver over Madoff and his firm. Lee Richards of Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP has been appointed receiver.
Meanwhile, several publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have reported names of investors that have potentially lost billions through Madoff. Among them are several national and international banks, asset management companies, billionaires and retirees. Nonprofits, including charitable foundations, have also been allegedly swindled.
Credit Union Times contacted the SEC to inquire about whether credit unions had done business with Madoff, but calls were not returned by press time. A call to Richards, the court-appointed receiver, yielded a recorded message that said the receiver is "not in a position to report on customer information." Callers are asked to leave several pieces of information.
In a Dec. 16 statement, SEC Chairman Christopher Cox admitted that agency staffers knew of Madoff's "financial wrongdoings" going back to at least 1999. The commission's inspector general has directed a review of Madoff's past allegations and SEC's own policies. A mandatory recusal from the ongoing investigation of any SEC staff who have had more than insubstantial personal contacts with Madoff or his family has also been ordered.