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Tallying the Madoff Damage « The Washington Independent

Looking for a guilty pleasure today? Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture has a partial listing of the banks and brokerages facing big losses from financier Bernard Madoff’s alleged Ponzie scheme. The Financial Times also delves into this, noting big losers in the scheme such as the Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC. Nomura Holdings, Japan’s biggest brokerage, is out $303 million, Reuters reports.

But we know what you’re really interested in: The big names – people supposed to be much smarter than the rest of us – who lost money with Madoff. That would be Mortimer Zuckerman, a charity of Steven Spielberg, Fred Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, just to name a few, the Wall Street Journal says.

From The Journal:

Mr. Zuckerman, the chairman of real-estate firm Boston Properties and owner of the New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, had significant exposure through a fund that invested substantially all of its assets with Mr. Madoff, according to a person familiar with his investments. A spokesman for Mr. Zuckerman declined to comment.

The Spielberg charity, the Wunderkinder Foundation, in the past appears to have invested a significant portion of its assets with Mr. Madoff, based on regulatory filings. In 2006, the Madoff firm accounted for roughly 70% of the foundation’s interest and dividend income, according to regulatory filings.

A representative of Mr. Spielberg confirmed that the foundation has suffered losses on its investments with the Madoff firm. He said he didn’t know the size of the losses and couldn’t comment further, including on whether Mr. Spielberg had any of his own money invested with the Madoff firm.

Jewish schools and charities have been particularly hard hit by losses that government authorities estimated last week at $50 billion. Among them: the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, founded by the famed Holocaust survivor and writer, according to two people familiar with the organization’s investments.

Ritholtz also says the whole Madoff debacle smells funny to him – how did a 70-year-old man run a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, all by himself?

I’ve got other questions. Why did such prominent people spend their own, and other people’s money, before doing even a little checking first? What do the ultra-wealthy base their investment decisions on – dinner party conversations?

As investigators continue sorting through the damage, watch for other players – and victims – in a fraud that seems more astounding every day, even by Wall Street standards.

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