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Madoff Fraud Hits Investors Worldwide


Losses mount as details of $50 billion scheme emerge.

As the full extent of crooked money manager Bernard Madoff's crimes becomes clear, losses are being felt around the world.

This morning in Europe, Spain's Grupo Santander and France's BNP Paribas announced clients and shareholders may be out billions of dollars, according to the Wall Street Journal. In Japan, Nomura Holdings (NMR) admitted to losses of as much as $302 million.

Back in the US, the Associated Press is reporting that Goldman Sachs (GS) and money manager BlackRock (BLK) are claiming no exposure. Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C) and Merrill Lynch (MER) declined to comment.

Meanwhile, well-known individuals ranging from movie director Steven Spielberg to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel are likewise seeing their investments evaporate. Spielberg's Wunderkind Foundation, according to regulatory filings, had a sizable portion of its assets with Madoff as recently as 2006. Wiesel's Foundation for Humanity was one of a host of Jewish charities said to be tallying up losses.

The $50 billion fraud is even wiping out certain funds of funds. Funds of funds invest money in hedge funds on behalf of their high net-worth clients; losses at once such fund, Maxam Capital Management, appear significant enough to have forced it to close up shop.

Stories are emerging about investors who acted as unofficial sales agents for Madoff's fund. Many were dependent on the income for their retirement. The Journal cites one such case, in which a Boca Raton, Florida resident, a former securities analyst, brought in dozens of new clients without ever soliciting a single one; instead, people would come to him and ask how they too could receive what seemed like guaranteed income.

Madoff managed to generate consistent returns for years, appearing impervious to market ups and downs. And while many questioned the validity of his performance, evidence of any wrongdoing couldn't be found.

As the investment community beings to fully grasp the implications of the fraud -- the biggest in the history of Wall Street, easily dwarfing the infamous schemes of Enron and WorldCom -- it's unclear just how shaken investor confidence in opaque investment vehicles now is.

During a time when money managers are desperately trying to assure clients they can navigate highly volatile markets, the Madoff debacle certainly isn't going to help their cause.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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