Madoff’s Enablers

The Times takes a smart look at one of Bernie Madoff’s biggest enablers that didn’t have the initials S.E.C.

Fairfield Greenwich Group was a hedge fund of hedge funds—it took big fees for enabling investors to get big fees taken from them by other hedge funds—and lost $7.3 billion of its investors money with Madoff.

The interesting angle the Times takes is to look at the promises Fairfield made to its shareholders about due diligence, which will come back to haunt it in court very soon:

Fairfield promised its investors that money could not be moved from its accounts with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities without two signatures. It said that it would independently calculate the value of the funds it invested at Mr. Madoff’s firm at least once a week. It promised to reconcile statements from individual trades with Mr. Madoff’s custodial records.

It is not clear what Fairfield did to make good on those pledges.

A spokesman for Fairfield, Thomas Mulligan, offered only a statement characterizing the firm as a victim of Mr. Madoff.

The Times points out that Fairfield took $500 million in fees home from the money it put in Madoff’s fund. That’s an incredible amount of money for no real work. And it looks like Madoff is how it made most of its money.

Ruh roh:

In early 2008, several private equity and investment firms were approached by Fairfield about purchasing a share of the company. A partner of one that considered buying a stake that he estimated was between one-third and one-half of Fairfield — the firm was valuing itself somewhere between $1 billion and $1.5 billion — said that he was scared off about 20 minutes into his initial meeting with a team of Fairfield managers.

“They were just incredibly squishy and vague even during the warm-up,” said the prospective buyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a non-disclosure agreement with Fairfield. “I asked them to tell me about the manager of the fund Sentry feeds into, and I was told, ‘We don’t really talk about him.’ ”

This is the Times saying “there’s something really not right here” in newspaper-ese.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.