If today’s filings are any indication, a huge wave of Madoff victim lawsuits could be coming. Madoff investors were quick to sue Madoff and his firm, with the first complaint filed last Friday (as noted here). But with Madoff’s firm in liquidation and the money likely long gone, investors who lost money as a result of Madoff’s scheme are casting around for other targets from whom to try to recover their losses. Early returns suggest that investment firms and Madoff "feeder funds" could find themselves facing substantial Madoff victim litigation.
UPDATE: Please note that a regularly updated table of Madoff investor litigation, including "feeder fund" litigation can be accessed here.
First, as reflected in their December 16, 2008 press release (here), plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed a securities lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against investment partnership Ascot Partners L.P., its founder and general partner (Merkin), and its auditor, BDO Seidman. The class members are persons who purchased limited partnership interests in Ascot.
According to the press release, the complaint alleges that Ascot and Merkin
caused and permitted $1.8 billion — virtually the entire investment capital of Ascot — to be handed over to Madoff to be "invested" for the benefit of plaintiff and the other limited partners of Ascot. Plaintiff’s investment in Ascot has been wiped out, as a direct result of: (a) defendant Merkin’s abdication of his responsibilities and duties as General Partner and Manager of Ascot and its investment funds and; (b) the failure of Ascot’s auditor Seidman, in light of "red flags" indicating a high risk to Ascot from concentrating its investment exposure in Madoff as sole third-party investment manager for all of the Partnership’s assets, to perform its audits and provide its annual audit reports in conformance with generally accepted auditing standards.
The press release states that the complaint alleges ’34 Act violations as well as related statutory and common law breaches. A copy of the complaint can be found here.
UPDATE: On December 16, 2008, investors also filed a separate lawsuit against a different fund affiliated with Merkin, Gabriel Partners. A copy of the December 17, 2008 press release can be found here. A copy of the complaint can be found here. A WSJ.com Law Blog post about the Ascot and Gabriel lawsuits can be found here.
Second, and also on December 16, another plaintiffs’ firm initiated a separate securities lawsuit in the Central District of California. The lawsuit is filed against Madoff and his firm, but also names as defendants Brighton Company, a California limited partnership and a so-called "feeder fund," and its principal ( Stanley Chais). The firm’s press release (here) states that Brighton was "one of the many feeder funds that directed investor capital" to Madoff and his firm. The press release says that Chais "managed several investment groups [including Brighton], the monies for which were given to Madoff" and his firm.
The complaint (here) alleges that the plaintiff invested money through CMG Ltd., a California limited partnership. The complaint alleges that CMG provided all of its investment capital to Chais as general partner for Brighton, which in turn invested all of CMG’s money with Madoff. The complaint alleges that "all defendants contributed to the false, misleading, unlawful, unfair and fraudulent acts and practices associated with the Ponzi scheme."
The purported class consists of two groups; all persons who invested capital with Chais and Brighton, and all persons who invested with Madoff and his firm. The complaint alleges violations of the ’34 Act.
The press release also states that "the firm is investigating the actions of other feeder firms on behalf of investors." The December 17, 2008 Wall Street Journal has an article (here) discussing Stanley Chais and his investment funds’ (and charitable organizations’) relation to Madoff
Given the magnitude and widespread dispersion of the Madoff losses, and given the fact that there appears to be little money left with Madoff and his fund, it seems highly likely that there will be other (perhaps many other) investment funds, "feeder funds," hedge funds, funds of funds, and other entitles, targeted by Madoff victims. The attention in the press (for example, here) to alleged failures of investment firms to catch supposed red flags or to conduct due diligence will only increase the likelihood of this kind of litigation. The inclusion of the auditor in the Ascot lawsuit suggests that some of these claims could range pretty far afield.
A December 16, 2008 Business Week article discussing the likelihood of Madoff investor claims against hedge funds and others, also discussing the Ascot lawsuit, can be found here.
The Wall Street Journal is helpfully collecting a list of Madoff’s victims here. It is a long list but it is also clearly incomplete; for example, Fairfield Greenwich Advisors may have been hit with $7.5 billion in losses, but those amounts in reality represent the losses of Fairfield’s own investors. The list would be substantially longer if all of these and other fund investors and customers were listed individually. The fund investors are the ones, like the plaintiffs in the cases described above, that will likely target the investment funds.A December 17, 2008 Wall Street Journal article entitled "Fairfiled Group Forced to Confront its Madoff Ties" (here) conveys some pretty strong suggestions along those lines.
In any event, going forward, the number one question D&O insurance underwriters will be asking financial institution applicants will be whether the applicant invested funds with Madoff.
Meanwhile, the Credit Crisis Litigation Wave Churns On: It seems as if the plaintiffs’ lawyers have kicked it into high gear as the year end approaches. There has been a flood of new securities lawsuit filings so far in December. By my informal count, there have already been at least 20 new securities lawsuit filings so far this month (if you count the two cases described above), an unusually high number for December, which historically is a quiet month for securities filings.
And though the filings have included a diversity of cases (as I discussed here), the filings have also included a number of new subprime and credit crisis related lawsuits, including at least four new cases that have been filed or become public this week.
For example, as reflected in their press release (here) on December 16, 2008, plaintiffs’ lawyers initiated a securities class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against investors in the C-Bass Trust Certificates backed by residential mortgage loans and issued by Credit-Based Asset Servicing and Securitization LLC. The defendants include C-Bass, the issuing trusts, and the offering underwriters. The complaint, which can be found here, asserts claims under the ’33 Act.
In addition, on December 4, 2008, plaintiffs’ initiated a securities class action on behalf of investors who purchased AIG shares in shelf offerings conducted during the period 2003 to 2007. The complaint (here) asserts claims against AIG, certain of its directors and officers, and its offering underwriters under the ’33 Act.
And on December 8, 2008, defendants removed to federal court a lawsuit that previously had been filed in New York County (New York) Supreme Court against Residential Asset Securitization Trust (which issued certain residential mortgage pass-through certificate), its offering underwriter, and two rating agencies. A copy of the removal petition, to which the original complaint is attached, can be found here.
Finally, plaintiff shareholders have initiated a securities class action lawsuit (here) against private equity firm American Capital Ltd. in the District Court of Maryland, alleging among other things that the firm failed to disclose its exposure to disruptions in the credit market.
I have added these new lawsuits to my running tally of subprime and credit-crisis related litigation, which can be accessed here. With the addition of these new lawsuits, the running tally of subprime and credit-crisis securities lawsuits now stands at 138, of which 98 have been filed during 2008.
Special thanks to Adam Savett of the Securities Litigation Watch blog (here) for providing information and links about these new lawsuits.
And Finally: Before writing this post, I had no prior acquaintance with the phrases "Madoff victims" and "feeder funds." I guess I better get used to them.