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
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
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: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor