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Extra12/15/2008 10:46 AM ET

Who got bilked in $50 billion scheme?

Bernard Madoff allegedly defrauded huge financial institutions as well as a Nobel laureate, sports figures, politicians and charities through a massive Ponzi scheme.

By The Associated Press

The list of investors who say they were duped in one of Wall Street's biggest Ponzi schemes is growing; it includes some of the world's biggest banking institutions and hedge funds, the superrich and the famous, pensioners and charities.

The alleged victims who sunk cash into veteran Wall Street money manager Bernard Madoff's investment pool include real-estate magnate Mortimer Zuckerman, the foundation of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and a charity of movie director Steven Spielberg, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Among the world's biggest banking institutions, Britain's HSBC Holdings (HBC, news, msgs), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS, news, msgs) and Man Group (MNGPF, news, msgs), Spain's Grupo Sanander (SAN, news, msgs), France's BNP Paribas (BNPQY, news, msgs) and Japan's Nomura Holdings (NRSCF, news, msgs) all reported that they had fallen victim to Madoff's alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

The 70-year-old Madoff, well respected in the investment community after serving as chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, was arrested Thursday in what prosecutors say was a $50 billion scheme to defraud investors. Some investors claim they've been wiped out; others are still likely to come forward.

"There were a lot of very sophisticated people who were duped, and that happens a great deal when you've had somebody decide to be unscrupulous," said Harvey Pitt, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a regulator in charge of monitoring investment funds like the one Madoff operated.

The extent of the potential damage prompted a leading fund manager in London to lash out at U.S. regulators for failing to detect the fraud earlier.

"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 in the job," Nicola Horlick, the manager of Bramdean Alternatives, which had 9% of its funds invested in Madoff's scheme, told the British Broadcasting Corp.

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

Among U.S. investors, the Boston-based Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, a charity that financed trips for Jewish youth to Israel, sacked its staff after revealing that the money for its operations was invested with Madoff.

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, entrusted his family's charitable foundation to Madoff. Lautenberg's attorney, Michael Griffinger, said they weren't yet sure the extent of the foundation's losses, but that the bulk of its investments had been handled by Madoff.

Lautenberg's foundation handed out more than $765,000 to at least 100 recipients in 2006, according to the most recent listing on Guidestar, which tracks charitable organization filings.

Video on MSN Money

Pile of cash © Corbis
Mad at Madoff
Arnold and Joan Sinkin of Boynton Beach, Fla., tell NBC News reporter Michelle Kosinski that their savings had been invested with Bernard Madoff, and that the money is now gone.
The foundation helps support a variety of religious, educational, civic and arts organizations in New Jersey and elsewhere, and its contributions range from a gift of than $300,000 to the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey to a $2,000 donation to a children's program at the Hackensack Medical Center.

Reports from Florida to Minnesota included profiles of 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 $40,000 to an entire nest egg worth well over $1 million.

A systematic and comprehensive fraud

They join a list of more powerful investors that have come forward, all worried about the extent of their losses. The roster of names include former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon and J. Ezra Merkin, the chairman of GMAC Financial Services, among others.

Among those overseas confirming exposure on Monday, Banco Santander, the largest bank in the euro zone by market capitalization, said its clients have 2.33 billion euros ($3.07 billion) in exposure with Madoff, mostly through a fund called Optimal Strategic US Equity.

HSBC, Britain's largest bank, said a "small number" of its institutional clients had exposure totaling some $1 billion in Madoff funds.

It added that it has custody clients who have invested with Madoff, but it did not believe those "custodial arrangements should be a source of exposure to the group."

Royal Bank of Scotland -- Britain's second-largest bank, which is now 58% owned by the British government -- said it could lose around $600 million through exposure in trading and collateralized lending to funds of hedge funds invested with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.

Man Group, the world's largest publicly traded fund manager, which reported exposure of around $360 million on Monday, said "it appears that a systematic and comprehensive fraud may have been committed, evading a range of structural controls."

Nomura Holdings said it has $306 million in exposure, but said that any losses were likely to be limited compared to its capital base.

On Friday, representatives from major U.S. banks -- Bank of America (BAC, news, msgs), Citigroup (C, news, msgs), PNC Financial Services Group (PNC, news, msgs) and Merrill Lynch (MER, news, msgs) -- declined to comment on if they had exposure to Madoff's company. Both BlackRock and Goldman Sachs Group (GS, news, msgs) said they had no exposure.

Morgan Stanley (MS, news, msgs), Wells Fargo (WFC, news, msgs) and US Bancorp (USB, news, msgs) did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

This article was reported and written by Joe Bel Bruno and Jane Wardell for The Associated Press.

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