Banks fear for billions in Wall St 'scam'

Financial giants revealed potential losses of almost £4 billion today as they joined a queue of investors caught up in an alleged fraud by investment manager Bernard Madoff.

The Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Abbey owner Santander as well as France's BNP Paribas and Japan's Nomura Holdings all reported they had fallen victim to Madoff's alleged 50-billion US dollar (£33 billion) pyramid scheme.

The Wunderkinder charity connected to film director Steven Spielberg and the foundation of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel were also reportedly among the investors.

Madoff, 70, a well respected investment manager and former chairman of New York's Nasdaq stock exchange, was arrested last week after apparently telling his employees his operations were "all just one big lie" and "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme".

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment vehicle which pays very high returns to existing investors paid for by money put into the fund by newcomers.

The arrest has raised questions about the competence of financial regulators.

Hedge fund giant Man Group said: "Based on information available to date, it appears that a systematic and comprehensive fraud may have been committed, evading a range of structural controls."

The company, which said it had approximately 360 million US dollars (£239 million) of exposure, said Madoff Securities was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which monitors investment funds.

Madoff Securities was also a member of five self-regulatory organisations, including US independent securities regulator Finra and the Nasdaq.

Nicola Horlick, who manages Bramdean Alternatives, which had 9% of its funds invested with Madoff's scheme, said the SEC had given it a "clean bill of health".

"I think now it is very difficult for people to invest in things that are meant to be regulated in America because they have fallen down on the job," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"All through the credit crunch this has been apparent. This is the biggest financial scandal, probably, in the history of the markets."

She added that even if Bramdean Alternatives was forced to write off its entire investment in Madoff's scheme it would still only be down 4% on the year while the stock market had fallen 35%.

The Royal Bank of Scotland - 58% owned by the taxpayer - said £400 million was at risk while Spanish bank Santander, which owns Abbey and the savings business of Bradford & Bingley, said its potential exposure was around £2.1 billion.

HSBC said it believed it had a potential exposure of around 1 billion US dollars (£668 million) from providing finance to "a small number" of clients who then invested with Madoff.

Nomura, Japan's largest securities company, had £204 million invested with Madoff, while Switzerland's Reichmuth & Co said the private bank had £218 million of exposure. BNP Paribas estimated its exposure to Madoff's fund could lead to £311 million in losses.

The FBI said members of Madoff's own family turned him in after he confessed.

According to court documents released by the SEC, Madoff told two senior staff members that he was "finished" and he had "absolutely nothing". He said he planned to hand himself in, but would first use his remaining 200 to 300 million US dollars (£130 to 196 million) to pay certain employees, family and friends.

The documents said Madoff told the pair his business was insolvent and had been for years, they also said he estimated the losses from his scheme were £33 billion.

Many of the victims of the alleged fraud were connected to Madoff's reputation as a philanthropist.

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg - one of the wealthiest members of the US Senate - entrusted his family's charitable foundation to Madoff and the Wall Street Journal reported Steven Spielberg's fund, alongside the Elie Wiesel foundation and money from property magnate Mortimer Zuckerman were also affected.

Reports from Florida to Minnesota in the US included ordinary investors who gave Madoff their money. Some had been friends with him for decades, others were able to invest because they were a friend of a friend.

They told stories of losing everything from £26,000 to an entire nest egg worth almost £1 million.

Harvey Pitt, a former chairman of the SEC, said the fact that foundations and charities could lose out is the "real tragedy".

The assets of Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities were frozen last Friday in a deal with US government regulators and a receiver was appointed to manage the firm's financial affairs. Madoff is on £6.6 million bail.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence