* Judge finds public right of access to names
* Banks feared employees would be stigmatized
NEW YORK, April 12 The judge overseeing the
liquidation of Bernard Madoff's investment firm on Tuesday
rejected requests by banks to keep secret the names of current
and former employees mentioned in lawsuits seeking to recover
alleged improper profits tied to the imprisoned Ponzi schemer.
The public disclosure of names of workers affiliated with
financial institutions including Citigroup Inc (C.N), JPMorgan
Chase & Co (JPM.N) and UBS AG UBSN.VX was ordered by U.S.
Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland.
These names were used in lawsuits filed by Irving Picard,
the trustee liquidating Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities
LLC, to recover money for former Madoff investors, but the
names were redacted from publicly distributed versions of the
lawsuits. Picard has filed more than 1,000 lawsuits seeking to
recover roughly $100 billion.
News media including New York Times Co (NYT.N) and Comcast
Corp's (CMCSA.O) NBC News, CNBC and WNBC-TV had requested that
the names be revealed.
Banks countered that disclosure was unnecessary, and could
stigmatize the employees or suggest misconduct.
"The public has a qualified First Amendment right to access
certain judicial documents," and the federal bankruptcy code
"creates a strong presumption that court records in bankruptcy
proceedings are accessible to the public," Lifland wrote.
"At bottom," the judge added, "the defendants have not
adequately established any harm beyond merely embarrassing or
prejudicial association with these Ponzi scheme proceedings."
Lifland did allow JPMorgan to keep under seal information
concerning its "know-your-customer" and anti-money laundering
The trustee is suing JPMorgan, Madoff's main bank, to
recover $6.4 billion.
Representatives of Citigroup, JPMorgan and UBS did not
immediately return calls seeking comment.
Picard himself had opposed a broad-based ruling to keep
"Other than when an individual is named as a defendant, it
is the institution which is charged with liability for its role
in turning a blind eye to indicia of fraud," his lawyer, David
Sheehan, wrote in a March 18 letter to Lifland. "Individuals
played a variety of roles, including that of apprising others
of potential fraud at BLMIS. Under these circumstances, a
blanket ruling that all identities should remain redacted does
not appear warranted."
The case is In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities
LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Gary Hill)