How Much Did JPMorgan Chase Know About Madoff's Ponzi Scheme?

A suit unsealed Thursday accuses the bank of knowing about Madoff's misdeeds while profiting off his business

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JPMorgan Chase stood at the "very center" of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, alleges Irving Picard, the bankruptcy trustee collecting assets for Madoff's victims. His lawsuit, unsealed Thursday, accuses the bank of knowing about Madoff's fraudulent dealings more than 18 months before the scheme finally collapsed and failing to notify authorities. JPMorgan Chase, meanwhile, denies the allegations, saying the bank "did not know about or in any way become a party to the fraud orchestrated by Bernard Madoff." Here are the ins and outs of the suit:

  • First: What's It All About? "The suit, which seeks the return of $1 billion in J.P. Morgan's profits and fees, and $5.4 billion in damages... goes into great detail about the bank's efforts to make money by offering products tied to Madoff through investment funds that fed money to him," writes The Wall Street Journal's Ashby Jones. "It also says the bank didn’t pay attention to billions of dollars passing through the Madoff’s firm's main J.P. Morgan account."
  • Allegation: JPMorgan Ignored the Red Flags, writes The New York Times' Dealbook: "The bank allowed Mr. Madoff to move billions of dollars of investors' cash in and out of his Chase bank accounts right until the day of his arrest in December 2008--although by then, the bank had withdrawn all but $35 million of the $276 million it had invested in Madoff-linked hedge funds, according to the litigation.
  • JPMorgan's Response "Madoff's firm was not an important or significant customer in the context of JPMorgan's commercial banking business," said the bank on Thursday. "And the revenues earned from Madoff’s bank account were modest and entirely consistent with conventional market rates and fees." They also said that Picard's suit “blatantly distorts both the facts and the law in an attempt to grab headlines.”
  • Let Me Translate That For You, offers Allan Dodds Frank at The Daily Beast: "We are such a giant global bank that whatever profits we made from Madoff are chump change. A settlement would not affect earnings, even though we have to stipulate that we administered the accounts Bernie used to carry out the largest Ponzi fraud in history, and even though we neither admit nor deny turning a blind eye to his machinations and making hundreds of millions in the process."
  • 'We See the Problem,' writes Nitasha Tiku at New York Magazine: "Maybe the financial world didn't realize that 'If you see something, say something' also applied to terrorizing Ponzi schemers. Next time, if you suspect investors are about to be looted of $50 billion, feel free to apply the 30 Rock version, 'If you suspect anything, do everything.'"
  • I Suspect the Bank Will Settle, writes Allan Dodds Frank: "When you are the nation's largest bank with 2010 profits of $17.4 billion on revenue of $104.8 billion with assets of nearly $2 trillion, it becomes facile to project invulnerability. ... So while the bank characterizes as a small amount what it earned from ministering to Bernie, I would be willing to wager an equal amount (if I had it) that the bank will settle this radioactive case as soon as possible."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.