Top Ponzi Scheme Recoveries
There are typically no winners in Ponzi schemes. Rather, each scheme leaves behind its own unique trail of pain, devastation, and financial loss. There are those who lost their life savings, as well as those who, despite being fortunate enough to withdraw their initial investment and more, face clawback actions for the fictitious profits that were nothing more than the redistribution of investor funds. The Internal Revenue Service has recognized the dire situation typically befalling a Ponzi scheme victim, allowing the deduction of up to 95% of Ponzi losses - thus implicitly acknowledging that the typical recovery is rarely higher than pennies on the dollar.
However, not all Ponzi schemes result in victims recovering only pennies on the dollar of their original investment. Rather, the efforts of court-appointed receivers and trustees in certain schemes have actually led to situations in which victims are able to recoup a sizeable portion of their investment - a result not only rare but previously unheard of in the days where victims were simply expected to learn their lessons and move on. This page is dedicated to the efforts of those receivers and trustees, whose successes are chronicled below and have resulted in new hope and a brighter future for thousands of victims. The top known Ponzi recoveries are set forth in descending order below:
1. David Dadante Victims Recover 110%, Judge Mulls Bonus For Receiver
When authorities arrested David Dadante in 2007 and charged him with operating a $50 million Ponzi scheme, many victims assumed the worst. Dadante had told investors that he had a connection with a Goldman Sachs executive who could offer him exclusive access to initial public offerings, and quickly raised more than $50 million from over 100 investors. However, Dadante's claims were a complete fabrication, and he was arrested and sentenced to a 13-year prison term.
Receiver Mark Dottore was appointed shortly after Dadante's arrest, and prospects were initially bleak. Indeed, investors openly questioned Dottore's efforts, with a 2008 story in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reporting that "Dottore has come under fire from investors who say that he disregards their interests and is dragging out the case to inflate his fees."
However, it was Dottore's decision to initiate litigation against Ferris Baker Botts, Dadante's former employer, that reaped handsome dividends. In a settlement with the brokerage (which later went bankrupt), Dottore received $7.2 million in cash, as well as forgiveness of a $9 million debt that Dadante had accrued through his trading. Additionally, Dottore also secured ownership of nearly 3 million shares of Innotrac Corp., a company that Dadante had accumulated a 34% ownership interest. After holding the stock for several years, Dottore secured the sale of the shares to a private buyer for a total of $35 million - a feat that the presiding judge hinted was " an extraordinary recovery...[that] would be unheard of in matters of this type and, in this Court’s experience, may be one of the largest of its kind involving a fund that was the victim of a Ponzi scheme."
In total, Dottore has recovered more than $47 million in cash and secured the forgiveness of more than $12 million in debts, while investor losses have been pegged at $28 million. Investors can expect to recoup at least 110% of thier losses - an outcome that prompted U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko to inquire whether a "success fee" was warranted for Dottore.
Ponzitracker coverage of the Dadante scheme is here.
2. Rothstein Victims To Recover 100% of Their Losses
On October 31, 2009, Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein boarded a plane for Morocco with $15 million in a duffel bag; he left behind a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme on the verge of collapse. Rothstein would later surrender to federal authorities, and is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence at an undisclosed location due to his participation in the federal witness protection program. Retired judge Herbert Stettin was appointed as reciver, and later bankruptcy trustee, for Rothstein's former law firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler ("RRA") - a once-storied Ft. Lauderdale success story that had employed over 70 lawyers.
Stettin commenced over 100 "clawback" lawsuits against individuals and entities that received transfers from Rothstein, including the Miami Heat, Dan Marino, and even FedEx Corp. In addition to the clawback lawsuits, multiple investors privately sued TD Bank, arguing that it had played a pivotal role in keeping Rothstein's scheme a secret. Investors led by lawyer Bill Scherer recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements or judgments, and Trustee Stettin was able to negotiate a settlement with TD Bank that called for a $72 million payment to resolve any further litigation. Combined with Stettin's other recoveries and reductions in claims, TD Bank's settlement meant that Rothstein victims would receive 100% of their losses. Ironically, the terms of TD Bank's settlement called for a subordinated claim of $132.45 million based on its contribution and judgments thus far - meaning that further recoveries by Stettin could serve as compensation to the bank.
Ponzitracker coverage of the Rothstein scheme is here.
3. *SOME* Madoff Victims Recover 100% Of Losses
Many are no doubt familiar with Bernard Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme, which is widely recognized as the largest financial fraud in U.S. history. Madoff sought to leverage his long and storied career on Wall Street as an implicit seal of legitimacy, which successfully convinced thousands of investors to entrust billions of dollars to him. Despite avoiding regulator suspicion for nearly three decades, the scheme came crashing down in late 2008 after Madoff's confession to his sons that he was operating a Ponzi scheme.
After the scheme's collapse, Irving Picard was appointed as receiver, and later as bankruptcy trustee, to recover assets for what remains the largest Ponzi scheme on record. Picard pursued not only "net winners," but also financial institutions and other entities that had turned a blind eye to Madoff's fraud. In particular, Picard and criminal authorities secured a $7 billion settlement with the estate of Jeffrey Picower - an amount that represented the amount of "false profits" Picower had received from Madoff.
In addition to Picard's efforts, Madoff's broker-dealer's membership in the Securities Investor Protection Corporation ("SIPC") also entitled victims to an insurance payment of up to $500,000 of their losses. Combined with the four distributions made by Picard to date, nearly half of the 2,518 claims have been 100% satisfied through a combination of SIPC contributions and distributions from Picard totaling 46% of each investor's losses. Indeed, all claimants with an investment of $925,000 or less have been fully compensated for their losses - which is nothing short of an incredible accomplishment.
While approximately half of the remaining allowed claims remain unsatisfied, the amount of assets amassed by Picard, as well as the fact that all legal and professional fees are satisfied by SIPC and not through recovered assets, suggests that nearly all, if not all, Madoff investors will emerge completely whole from their relationship with America's largest fraudster. Indeed, the Trustee has over $4 billion remaining in his customer fund, while a separate U.S. Department of Justice fund has amassed over $3 billion for distribution to the same victims. While Madoff's scheme was undoubtedly the largest scheme in history, it will also likely carry the distinction of having fully compensated its victims for their losses.
Ponzitracker coverage of the Madoff scheme is here.
4. "Three Hebrew Brothers" Victims Recover 52% Of Losses
A trio of South Carolina men dubbed the "Three Hebrew Boys" promised investors that their foreign-exchange program could result in significant returns that would allow investors to pay off their homes, credit cards, and and college tuition. Instead, the men used investor funds to support a life of unrestrained luxury that included a private jet, NFL suites, a fleet of cars, and real estate. In total, investor losses were estimated at approximately $41 million.
Receiver Beattie Ashmore was able to recover and distribute over $21 million to victims of the Three Hebrew Boys Ponzi scheme, which represented 52% of the approved losses. The fraud touched thousands of people; approximately 3,800 distribution checks were sent out.
Ponzitracker coverage of the Three Hebrew Boys scheme is here.
5. Earl Jones Victims Recover 45% Of Losses
Over 150 Canadians entrusted approximtely $50 million to a Canadian man, Earl Jones, who promised that he would maange their assets and, in some cases, serve as executor over their estate upon their death. Jones, who solicited clients, many of them elderly, through financial courses at local community centers, was arrested in July 2009 after victims began raising concerns.
The majority of funds recovered came as a result of litigation filed against Royal Bank of Canada ("RBC"), which was accused of having an improper relationship with Jones and turning a blind eye to his fraud. A class-action lawsuit against RBC eventual resulted in a $17 million settlement - $12.2 million which was available to victims - which represented a 44% recovery of losses estimated at approximately $25 million.
Ponzitracker coverage of the Earl Jones scheme is here.
6. Arthur Nadel Victims Recover 44% Of Losses
Dubbed the "mini Madoff" of Florida, a once-prominent hedge fund manager disappeared in early 2009 amidst rumors that he had been operating a massive Ponzi scheme. After surrendering to FBI agents, Arthur Nadel was convicted and sentenced to prison - where he later passed away in April 2012. Nadel operated several hedge funds in which he purported to return double-digit gains to investors, who ended up entrusting nearly $400 million to him over several years.
While the receivership remains ongoing, approximately 44% has been returned to victims thus far.
Ponzitracker coverage of the Nadel scheme is here.