U.S. News

Judge rules Madoff can be pushed into bankruptcy

Booking mug shot of Bernard Madoff released to Reuters on March 17, 2009. SERVICE/FOIA/Handout

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Victims of Bernard Madoff may be allowed to push the swindler behind a purported $65 billion Ponzi scheme into bankruptcy, a federal court judge ruled on Friday.

Despite objections from federal prosecutors, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Trustee for the Liquidation of Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities LLC, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled that the alleged victims may go after Madoff’s assets that were not proceeds from his crimes.

The judge, of the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, said the U.S. bankruptcy code is the best and most experienced system to deal with the claims against Madoff’s assets, excluding those that prosecutors may force him to forfeit as proceeds from a crime.

“A Bankruptcy Trustee has direct rights to Mr. Madoff’s individual property, with the ability to maximize the size of the estate available to Mr. Madoff’s creditors through his statutory authority to locate assets, avoid fraudulent transfers and preserve or increase the value of the assets through investment or sale,” Stanton wrote in his opinion.

Madoff has pleaded guilty to masterminding Wall Street’s biggest ever investment swindle, involving as much as $65 billion in client funds. He could be ordered to prison for the rest of his life when sentenced in June.

Reporting by Ilaina Jonas; Editing by Jan Paschal