NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal bankruptcy judge on Tuesday dismissed lawsuits by the trustee liquidating Bernard Madoff’s firm to recoup funds from Koch Industries Inc, the company controlled by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and dozens of other defendants.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stuart Bernstein in Manhattan said defendants in most of the 88 lawsuits could keep money that Irving Picard, who is liquidating Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, traced to the swindler but was sent outside the United States.
Picard had sought to recover hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign entities that had received Madoff-linked money from other foreign transferees, including “feeder funds” operated by Fairfield Greenwich Group and Tremont Group Holdings, as well as the Kingate feeder funds.
But in an 87-page decision, Bernstein dismissed a majority of Picard’s claims against the “subsequent foreign transferees” because of international comity, the need to let other countries enforce their own laws.
He also dismissed dozens of claims, including against affiliates of HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) and UBS Group AG (UBSG.S), based on “extraterritoriality,” because the defendants had insufficient ties with the United States.
Bernstein cited a 2014 ruling by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan that Picard could not recoup “purely foreign subsequent transfers” because of a presumption that U.S. laws, including in bankruptcy, apply only within the United States.
The bankruptcy judge let Picard pursue several other claims.
Amanda Remus, a spokeswoman for Picard, said the trustee and his lawyers are reviewing the decision, and pending a thorough review are unable to discuss their next steps.
Picard sued Koch to recoup $21.53 million allegedly sent by Madoff to Fairfield Sentry, a British Virgin Islands-based feeder fund, and then to a Koch entity in Great Britain.
The trustee did not accuse Koch of wrongdoing, but said U.S. law entitled him to recoup sums that helped Madoff further his Ponzi scheme, even if recipients did not know about the fraud.
Bernstein dismissed claims against Koch on comity grounds.
Koch is a privately-held industrial conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas. A spokesman, Rob Carlton, declined to comment.
Charles and David Koch are each worth $42.7 billion, and tied as the world’s ninth-richest people, Forbes magazine said.
Picard has recouped $11.2 billion for Madoff customers, whom he has said lost $17.5 billion, in the nearly eight years since the swindler’s December 2008 arrest.
Madoff, 78, pleaded guilty to fraud in March 2009 and is serving a 150-year prison term.
The case is Picard v. Bureau of Labor Insurance, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-ap-02732. The main Madoff bankruptcy case is Securities Investor Protection Corp v. Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in the same court, No. 08-01789.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Alan Crosby