SEC lawyer raised alarm about Madoff: report

WASHINGTON Thu Jul 2, 2009 1:23pm EDT

A woman holds up a T-shirt with a message referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission outside the United States Courthouse in lower Manhattan, June 29, 2009, during the sentencing hearing for convicted swindler Bernard Madoff. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A woman holds up a T-shirt with a message referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission outside the United States Courthouse in lower Manhattan, June 29, 2009, during the sentencing hearing for convicted swindler Bernard Madoff.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer warned about irregularities at Bernard Madoff's financial management firm as far back as 2004, The Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing agency documents and sources familiar with the investigation.

Genevievette Walker-Lightfoot, a lawyer in the SEC's Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, sent emails to a supervisor saying information provided by Madoff during her review didn't add up and suggesting a set of questions to ask his firm, the report said.

Several of the questions directly challenged Madoff activities that turned out to be elements of his massive fraud, the newspaper said.

Madoff, 71, was sentenced to a prison term of 150 years on Monday after he pleaded guilty in March to a decades-long fraud that U.S. prosecutors said drew in as much as $65 billion.

The Washington Post reported that when Walker-Lightfoot reviewed the paper documents and electronic data supplied to the SEC by Madoff, she found it full of inconsistencies, according to documents, a former SEC official and another person knowledgeable about the 2004 investigation.

The newspaper said the SEC staffer raised concerns about Madoff but, at the time, the SEC was under pressure to look for wrongdoing in the mutual fund industry. Walker-Lightfoot was told to focus on a separate probe into mutual funds, the report said.

One of Walker-Lightfoot's supervisors on the case was Eric Swanson, an assistant director of her department, the Post reported, citing two people familiar with the investigation.

Swanson later married Madoff's niece, and their relationship is now under review by the SEC inspector general, who is examining the agency's handling of the Madoff case, the Post reported.

Swanson, no longer with the agency, declined to comment, the Post said.

SEC spokesman John Nester also declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation by the agency's inspector general, the newspaper said.

(Writing by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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