Guess What? It Turns Out That J.P. Morgan Chase Suspected Madoff Tomfoolery Ten Months Before The Ponzi Scheme Blew Up

Bernie Madoff
February 3, 2011
JPMorgan Hid Doubts on Madoff, Documents Suggest

Senior executives at JPMorgan Chase expressed serious doubts about the legitimacy of Bernard L. Madoff’s investment business more than 18 months before his Ponzi schemecollapsed but continued to do business with him, according to internal bank documents made public in a lawsuit that was unsealed on Thursday.

On June 15, 2007, an obviously high-level risk management officer for Chase’s investment bank sent a lunchtime e-mail to colleagues to report that another bank executive “just told me that there is a well-known cloud over the head of Madoff and that his returns are speculated to be part of a ponzi scheme.”

Even before that, a top private banking executive had been consistently steering clients away from investments linked to Mr. Madoff because his “Oz-like signals” were “too difficult to ignore.” And the first Chase risk analyst to look at a Madoff feeder fund, in February 2006, reported to his superiors that its returns did not make sense because it did far better than the securities that were supposedly in its portfolio.

Despite those suspicions and many more, the bank allowed Mr. Madoff to move billions of dollars of investors’ cash in and out of his Chase bank accounts right up until the day of his arrest in December 2008 — although by then, the bank had withdrawn all but $35 million of the $276 million it had invested in Madoff-linked hedge funds , according to the litigation.

How Madoff's Surviving Son Handles Grief and Scandal

Andrew Madoff

By Stephen Foley in New York

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

THE INDEPENDENT UK


The fiancée of Bernard Madoff’s surviving son has provided a glimpse of life in the shadow of history’s biggest fraud, revealing how Andrew Madoff has thrown himself into music and new business ventures as a whirlwind of recrimination continues to swirl around him.

Bernie Madoff’s Guide to New York Restaurants

Bankers, Bernie Madoff, New York, Restaurants, Wall Street

By Pete Wells

In an inspired piece of forensic accounting, Eater analyzes Bernie Madoff’s American Express statements to discover where the Ponzi schemer ate, what he spent, and how he tipped. His go-to restaurant for the period in 2008 covered by the statements was Lure. (But if he liked it so much, how come he only tipped six percent?) Lure was followed closely by Houston’s; perhaps Mr. Madoff found their spinach-artichoke dip irresistible. Or maybe it was just close to his office.

Government Report: TARP a Complete Clusterf*ck

Stories

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Wed, Apr. 01, 2009

Watchdogs: Treasury won’t disclose bank bailout details

Chris Adams | McClatchy Newspapersbush_ok_100

WASHINGTON — The massive programs designed to rescue the nation’s financial sector are operating without adequate oversight, with vague goals and limited disclosure of their details to the taxpayers who are paying for them, government watchdogs told a Senate panel Tuesday.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was launched in the midst of last fall’s collapse of the nation’s banking system and is designed to get loans flowing to businesses and individuals.

But “without a clearer explanation” about parts of the program, “it is not possible to exercise meaningful oversight over Treasury’s actions,” said Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who leads a special congressional oversight panel monitoring the TARP program. Her comments came in a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the bailout program.

Noting that TARP passed Congress six months ago, Warren said that her group has repeatedly called on the Treasury Department to provide a clear strategy for the program — and that “the absence of such a vision hampers effective oversight.”

Although she has asked Treasury to explain its strategy, “Congress and the American public have no clear answer to that question.”

TARP is one of several programs the government has launched in recent months to help ailing institutions and even bolster healthy banks. Warren singled out one program, known as TALF, for appearing to involve “substantial downside risk and high costs for the American taxpayer” while offering big potential rewards for private interests. She said the public information about that program was “contradictory, promoting substantial confusion.”

The Government Accountability Office shared some of the same concerns, saying in a new report that “Treasury continues to struggle with developing an effective overall communication strategy” for the TARP program.

Beyond that, the GAO’s report pointed out the difficulty in even measuring whether TARP is working. As of March 27, the Treasury Department had handed out more than $300 billion of the $700 billion in approved TARP funds, the GAO said.

The majority of that money went to banks large and small around the country. And there are signs that credit is flowing from those banks; the GAO said that several hundred billion dollars in new loans were processed by the largest TARP recipients in December and January.

But crediting TARP for that is difficult, given the range of actions the government has taken since October. “Isolating the effect of TARP’s activities continues to be difficult,” the GAO’s Gene Dodaro said in his prepared testimony.

The Treasury Department, in a statement, said that “transparency and accountability are central to ensuring that taxpayer funds are spent wisely,” and noted that the department is actively working to respond to the recommendations of GAO and other oversight bodies. Among other things, the department has hired more staff and expanded its survey on bank lending activities.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the panel’s ranking Republican, described himself as “disappointed and frustrated” in the amount of information available about the program. “You can’t measure effectiveness when you don’t know what the goals and objectives of a program are, or how the program is being run,” he said.

Warren’s oversight panel made news earlier this year with its report that Treasury’s bailout programs had overpaid by an estimated $78 billion in its transactions with the nation’s ailing financial institutions. She said that issue is still under investigation.

Live Blogging the Madoff Hearing: The Victims Speak

Bernie Madoff, Economy, Fraud, Live Blogging, Twitter, Wall Street Scam

Live Blogging the Madoff Hearing: The Victims Speak

Posted by Brian Baxter

AM LAW DAILY

The first Madoff victim–a Mr. Nuremberg–has approached the court to speak. He begins by challenging Madoff to look him in the eye. Madoff started to turn towards Nuremberg before Judge Chin ordered Nuremberg to return to the podium.

Nuremberg did as instructed and stated that a conspiracy count should be included in the plea. He said other individuals were undoubtedly involved in pulling together “the reams of data” that Madoff used to

build his fraudulent business.

Nuremberg urged Chin to reject the plea. Another victim has approached the podium and urged more of the same.

A third victim, who the audio dipped out on and we couldn’t get her name, says that Chin should push for a trial for Madoff that will show the true extent of his crimes and others allegedly involved

“We are a country that learns from our mistakes,” she said. “And then we can reexamine and improve the mechanisms that have failed us so completely here…with this horrendous crime. Mr. Madoff has

inflicted so much pain on the young, the old, and the infirm. No man is above the law.”

At this point, Chin says there will be no more statements from victims.

via Live Blogging the Madoff Hearing: The Victims Speak.

Billions in Drug and Organized Crime 'Dirty Money' Funneled Into Bernie Madoff's Operation

Barack Obama, Wall Street
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2009


(CBS) By CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian and Investigative Producer Laura Stricker.


main
On Capitol Hill Wednesday, the financial analyst who first blew the whistle on Bernie Madoff back in 2000 went public for the first time, stunning lawmakers with the full scope of the $50 billion fraud.
CBS News correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.

In two hours of riveting, no-holds barred testimony, Harry Markopolos revealed the depth – and danger – of his nine-year fight to expose the Madoff scandal.

Markopolos said at one point he feared for his life.

“He would have known my name and, he knew he had a team tracking him. I didn’t think I was long for this world,” he said.

One reason: Bernie Madoff was among the “most powerful men” on Wall Street.

Another: In 2002 Markopolos said he discovered billions of dollars in “dirty money” was being funneled into Madoff Securities through a series of off-shore accounts.

“When you’re that big and that secretive, you’re going to attract a lot of organized crime money, and which we … now know came from the Russian mob and the Latin-American drug cartel,” Markopolos said.


A 162-page document filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan late Wednesday lists several thousand of the people and entities that handed money over to Madoff to “invest”. Among the victims are some very well-known personalities – and Madoff’s own defense lawyer. Click here to read more.


Markopolos said he began his crusade back in late 1999, when he was asked by his employer to see if he could match an investment strategy that produced unusually steady returns – like Madoff’s.

“It took me about five minutes to figure out that he was a fraud,” Markopolos said.

Despite “gift wrapping” evidence of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, Markopolos ran into a stone wall at the SEC. It was an agency, he charged, was unwilling and incapable of following his leads.

“I gave them a road map and a flashlight to find the fraud, and they didn’t go where I told them to go,” Markopolos said.

And he wasn’t the only one warning the feds.

This anonymous letter sent in April 2006 to the head of the SEC was obtained exclusively by CBS News.

In it, SEC Chairman Christopher Cox is told that Madoff keeps two “sets of records. The most interesting of which is on his computer which is always on his person.”

The letter was sent to Cox once on Dec. 6, 2006, and then again on April 26, 2006. The second letter has a note at the top saying, “Dear Sir, this is sent in the event you did not receive the original.”

The letter is also stamped, “Received: 2006 March 31, Chairman’s Correspondence Unit.” The anonymous writer says Madoff is perpetrating a “scandal of major proportion …”

But again, nothing happened.

Hardly surprising to former SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins, who told CBS News “higher ups” pushed investigators into cases that made headlines and careers.

“They were actively discouraged from going after Ponzi schemes, pump-and-dump schemes, and things that were considered small cases,” Paul Atkins, former SEC commissioner, said. “Actively discouraged by their superiors.”

As to the question of whether Bernie Madoff pulled off $50 billion worth of fraud all by himself?

Markopolos had a very simple answer: “No.”

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Madoff Records Are "Utterly Unreliable"

Arthur Levitt, Banking Crisis, Bernie Madoff, Carlyle Group, Christopher Cox, Ponzi Scheme, Wall Street Fraud
bab

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg)Bernard Madoff’s ability to avoid scrutiny from U.S. regulators for years shows that the monitoring system is “broken and has to be fixed,” former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt said.

Levitt, a senior adviser to Carlyle Group, said today in a Bloomberg Radio interview that the SEC must respond to allegations that it failed to act on tips of wrongdoing by Madoff that it had received since the 1990s.

“The system is obviously flawed and it’s got to be rethought in terms of how investors can be protected,” Levitt said. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox “is doing the right thing” by calling for a probe of the agency’s role, Levitt said.

Madoff was arrested Dec. 11 after telling his two sons and federal investigators that he’d been using money from new investors to pay off old ones in a Ponzi scheme. He said clients of his New York-based investment-advisory firm lost $50 billion.

Levitt said Madoff may have run a conventional business for a while and “shifted gears,” when the market turned against him. Madoff “clearly lied” to avoid registering with the SEC, which has shrunk as the financial industry has grown, Levitt said.

In 2004, the agency had 477 people in its inspection office, overseeing about 8,000 investment advisers, Levitt said. Today, 430 people regulate 11,300 advisers, along with about 16,000 mutual funds, he said.

Cox said yesterday the SEC failed to act for almost a decade on “credible and specific allegations” against Madoff. He announced an internal probe to review the “deeply troubling” revelations.

Levitt is a board member of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

SEC Under Scrutiny in Madoff Case

Bernie Madoff, Fraud, Grassley, Madoff Securities, Palm Beach, SEC, Wall Street, Wiesel. Spielberg, Zuckerman

Senator: The SEC “Letting Down the American People”

mad-money

ABC NEWS

By BRIAN ROSS and RICHARD ESPOSITO

Dec. 15, 2008—

As the list of victims continues to grow and investigators examine how Bernard Madoff allegedly ran his massive scam, some are questioning how Madoff avoided detection for so long. As a registered investment advisor since 2006, he was subject to scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission, yet he managed to maintain a clean record even after complaints from whistleblowers started nine years ago.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission is letting down the American people,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said of the SEC. “They failed. This person was registered as a broker dealer, they should have known what he was doing all the time, and particularly if you have whistleblowers.”

The head of enforcement at the SEC attempted to duck questions about the failure of the agency to detect what may be the biggest investment fraud in history.

“It is hard to directly respond given the fact that so much of what we have done historically is non-public and needs to remain non-public until someone decides otherwise,” said Linda Thomsen.

Meanwhile, the list of Madoff’s victims keeps growing. European banks have lost billions, as have charities run by Elie Wiesel, director Steven Spielberg, and New York billionaire Mort Zuckerman, whose charitable trust lost $30 million.

Authorities say Madoff didn’t hesitate to scam even close friends and fellow members of the Palm Beach Country Club.

“They’re going to have to sell their 20, 30 million dollar mansions,” said Larry Leamer, author of “Madness Under the Royal Palms”. “It’s all over. Some of these people crazily put all their money with him so they’re finished.”

Some Were Sent a Warning Sign on Madoff

While many trusted Madoff with their life savings, others were sending out a warning signal. The research firm Aksia, which also provides advice to pensions, endowments, foundations and insurance companies, says it has long been steering clients away from Madoff’s hedge fund based on a “host of red flags.”

According to a letter to its clients, Aksia “published extensive reports on several of the ‘feeder funds’ which allocated their capital to Madoff Securities … Our judgment was swift, given the extensive list of red flags.”

Aksia said in its letter that when the firm checked the auditor of Madoff’s fund they found the operation was quite small, given the amount of money being handled.

The accounting firm, says Aksia, had just three employees, “of which one was 78 years old and living in Florida, one was a secretary, and one was an active 47-year-old accountant (and the office in Rockland County, N.Y., was only 13 ft x 18 ft large).”

Small Banks Getting Short End of Tarp Bat

Banking, Bernanke, Federal Reserve, Finance, Greenspan, Paulson, TARP, Treasury, Wall Street

SEEKING ALPHA

William Patalon III

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Bank of American Corp. (BAC), which is getting $15 billion from the U.S. government as part of the Treasury Department’s $250 billion “recapitalization” effort, is doubling its stake in state-owned China Construction Bank Corp., and will hold a 20% stake worth $24 billion in China’s second-largest lender when that deal is finalized.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC), which will get $7.7 billion from Treasury’s Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), is using that cash infusion to help finance its $5.2 billion buyout of embattled National City Corp. (NCC).

And U.S. Bancorp (USB), which received a $6.6 billion capital infusion from that same rescue package, has acquired two California lenders – Downey Savings & Loan Association, F.A., a subsidiary of Downey Financial Corp. (DSL), and PFF Bank & Trust, a subsidiary of PFF Bancorp Inc. (OTC: PFFB). U.S. Bank agreed to assume the first $1.6 billion in losses from the two, but says anything beyond that amount is subject to a loss-sharing deal it struck with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC).

While the Treasury Department’s investment of more than $250 billion in U.S. financial institutions has been billed as a strategy that will bolster the health of the banking system and also jump-start lending, buyout deals such as these three show that the recapitalization plan has actually had a much different result – one that’s left whipsawed U.S. investors and lawmakers alike feeling burned, an ongoing Money Morning investigation continues to show.

Those billions have touched off a banking-sector version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” in which the biggest U.S. banks are using government money to get even bigger. While that’s admittedly removing the smaller, weaker banks from the market – a possible benefit to consumers and taxpayers alike – this trend is also having a detrimental effect: It’s reducing the competition that’s benefited consumers and kept the explosion in banking fees from being far worse than it already is.

This all happens without any of the economic benefits that an actual increase in lending would have had. And it does nothing to address the billions worth of illiquid securities that remain on (or off) banks’ balance sheets – as the recent Citigroup Inc. (C) imbroglio demonstrates.

In fact, Treasury’s TARP program has even managed to create a potentially illegal tax loophole that grants banks a tax-break windfall of as much as $140 billion. Lawmakers are furious – but possibly powerless, afraid that a full-scale assault on the tax change could cause already-done deals to unravel, in turn causing investor confidence to do the same.

One could even argue that since this first bailout (the $700 billion TARP initiative) has fueled takeovers – and not lending – the government had no choice but to roll out the more-recent $800 billion stimulus plan that was aimed at helping consumers and small businesses – a move that may spur lending and spending, but that still adds more debt to the already-sagging federal government balance sheet.

At the end of the day, these buyout deals are bad ones no matter how you evaluate them, says R. Shah Gilani, a retired hedge fund manager and expert on the U.S. credit crisis who is the editor of the Trigger Event Strategist, which identifies trading opportunities emanating from such financial-crisis “aftershocks” as this buyout binge.

“Why in the name of capitalism are taxpayers being fleeced by banks that are being given our money to grow their businesses with the further backstop of more of our money having to be thrown to the FDIC when they fail?” Gilani asked. “Consolidation does not mean that bad loans and illiquid securities are somehow merged out of existence. It means that they are being acquired under the premise that a larger, more consolidated depositor base will better be able to bear the weight of those bad assets. What in heaven’s name prevents depositors from exiting when the merged banks continue to experience massive losses and write-downs? The answer to that question would be … nothing.”

Lining Up for Deal Money

In launching TARP, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. “Hank” Paulson Jr. said the government’s goal was to restore public confidence in the U.S. financial services sector – especially banks – so private investors would be willing to advance money to banks and banks, in turn, would be willing to lend.

“Our purpose is to increase the confidence of our banks, so that they will deploy, not hoard, the capital,” Paulson said.

Whatever Treasury’s actual intent, the reality is that banks are already sniffing out buyout targets, while snuffing out lending – and the TARP money is the reason for both.

Fueled by this taxpayer-supplied capital, the wave of consolidation deals is “absolutely” going to accelerate, says Louis Basenese, a mergers-and-acquisitions expert who is also the editor of The Takeover Trader newsletter. “When it comes to M&A, there’s always a pronounced ‘domino effect.’ Consolidation breeds more consolidation as industry leaders conclude they have to keep acquiring in order to remain competitive.”

Indeed, banking executives have been quite open about their expansionist plans during media interviews, or during conference calls related to quarterly earnings.

Take BB&T Corp. (BBT). During a conference call that dealt with the bank’s third-quarter results, Chief Executive Officer John A. Allison IV said the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based bank “will probably participate” in the government program. Allison didn’t say whether the federal money would induce BB&T to boost its lending. But he did say the bank would likely accept the money in order to finance its expansion plans, The Wall Street Journal said.

“We think that there are going to be some acquisition opportunities – either now or in the near future – and this is a relatively inexpensive way to raise capital [to pay the buyout bill],” Allison said during the conference call.

And BB&T is hardly alone. Zions Bancorporation (ZION), a Salt Lake City-based bank that’s been squeezed by some bad real-estate loans, recently said it would be getting $1.4 billion in federal money. CEO Harris H. Simmons said the infusion would enable Zions to boost “prudent” lending and keep paying its dividend – albeit at a reduced rate.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. During a conference call about earnings, Zions Chief Financial Officer Doyle L. Arnold said any lending increase wouldn’t be dramatic. Besides, Arnold said, Zions will also use the money “to take advantage of what we would expect will be some acquisition opportunities, including some very low risk FDIC-assisted transactions in the next several quarters.”

Buyouts Already Accelerating

With all the liquidity the world’s governments and central banks have injected into the global financial system, the pace of worldwide deal making is already accelerating. Global deal volume for the year has already passed the $3 trillion level – only the fifth time that’s happened, although it took about three months longer for that to happen this year than it did a year ago.

At a time when the global financial crisis – and the accompanying drop-off in available deal capital (either equity or credit) – has caused about $150 billion in already-announced deals to be yanked off the table since Sept. 1, liquidity from the U.S. and U.K. governments has ignited record levels of financial-sector deal making.

According to Dealogic, government investments in financial institutions has reached $76 billion this year – eight times as much as in all of 2007, which was the previous record year. And that total doesn’t include the $250 billion in TARP money, or other deals that Paulson & Co. are helping engineer – JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s (JPM) buyouts of The Bear Stearns Cos. and Washington Mutual Inc. (WAMUQ), for instance.

If You Can’t Beat ‘em… Buy ‘em?

When it comes to identifying possible buyout targets, M&A experts such as Basenese say there are some very clear frontrunners.

“I’d put regional banks with solid footprints in the Southeast high on the list, and for two reasons,” Basenese said. “First, demographics point to stronger growth [in this region] as retirees migrate to warmer climates – and bring their assets along for the trip. Plus, the Southeast is largely un-penetrated by large national banks. An acquisition of a regional bank like SunTrust Banks Inc. (STI) would provide a distinct competitive advantage.

There’s a very good reason that smaller players may be next: Big banks and small banks have the easiest times – relatively speaking, of course – of raising capital. It’s toughest for the regional players. Big banks can tap into the global financial markets for cash, while the very small – and typically, highly local – banks can raise money from local investors.

The afore-mentioned stealthy shift in the U.S. Tax Code actually gives big U.S. banks a potential windfall of as much as $140 billion, says Gilani, the credit crisis expert and Trigger Event Strategist editor. What does this tax-change do? By acquiring a failed bank whose only real value is the losses on its books, the successful suitor would basically then be able to use the acquired bank’s losses to offset its own gains and thus avoid paying taxes.

“While everyone was panicking, the Treasury Department slipped through a ruling that allows banks who acquire other banks to fully write-off all the acquired bank’s bad debts,” Gilani says. “For 22 years, the law was such that if you were to buy a company that had losses, say, of $1 billion, you couldn’t just take that loss against your own $1 billion profit and tell Uncle Sam, ‘Gee, now my loss offsets my profit, so I don’t have any profit, and I don’t owe you any tax.’ It was a recipe for tax evasion that demanded an appropriate law that only allows limited write-offs over an extended period of years.”

Given these incentives, who will be doing the buying? Clearly, the biggest U.S.-based banks will be the main hunters. But The Takeover Trader’s Basenese says that even foreign banks will be on the prowl for cheap U.S. banking assets.

Basenese also believes that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) will be “big spenders.” Each will use TARP funds to help accelerate its transformation from an investment bank into a bank holding company. The changeover will require each company to build up a big base of deposits. And the best way to do that is to buy other banks, Basenese says.

“One thing [the wave of deals] does is to restore confidence in the sector,” Basenese said. “It will go a long way in convincing CEOs that it’s safe to use excess capital to fund acquisitions, and to grow, instead of using it to defend against a proverbial run on the bank.”

Not everyone agrees with that assessment. Investors who play the merger game correctly will do well. But the game itself won’t necessarily whip the industry into championship form, Gilani says.

“While consolidation, instead of outright collapses, in the banking industry may serve to relieve the FDIC of its burden to make good on failed banks, it in no way guarantees fewer failures,” he said. “In fact, it may only serve to guarantee, in some cases, even larger failures.”