SEC Chairman Criticized For Allowing Ex-Commission Official that Benefited from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scam to Help Craft Policy Regarding Victims’ Compensation

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro has been taking some heat because the agency allowed David Becker, a former SEC general counsel, to help develop policy regarding compensation for the victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scam should be compensated even though Becker was someone who benefited from the scheme. SEC Inspector General H. David Kotz has asked the Justice Department to look into whether Becker violated any laws as a result and whether criminal charges should be filed.

At a House hearing this week, Becker testified that SEC ethics officials told him that there was no conflict of interest preventing him from taking on this task. Attendees at the hearing criticized Schapiro for letting Becker participate in establishing compensation policy even though he had inherited his own Madoff account. Schapiro has already admitted that she was wrong in allowing him to stay involved.

Some lawmakers believe that Becker’s participation in this type of policy planning is just one more incident that has caused the public to lose faith in the SEC, which didn’t even realize for almost 20 years that Madoff had been running a multibillion-dollar scam. They are now raising questions about leadership within the agency, the ability of SEC senior management to make decisions, and possible flaws in the Commissions procedures and policies as they apply to ethical matters.

On Tuesday, Kotz issued a report stating that Becker took part “personally and substantially” in matters in which he had a financial interest. Also per his report, Kotz said that the ex-General Counsel had recommended to commissioners that they put into place a policy that would value Madoff clients’ claims in a manner that would have restricted the court-appointed trustee’s power to sue Ponzi scheme beneficiaries to get back fictitious profits. Becker is one of those beneficiaries.

Earlier this year, the trustee, Irving Pickard, filed a lawsuit against Becker and his siblings contending that about $1.5 million of the money in their mom’s account was a bogus profit that should go tot the fund designated to pay back victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scam. Becker, who maintains that he never considered there to be a conflict of interest (he says that on two occasions, the ethics committee even advised him that this was correct) said that if he knew then that the trustee would sue him later he would have recused himself from working on the compensation policy.

According to Reuters, while some lawmakers don’t believe that Becker broke any laws, many are wondering why he didn’t decide on his own to not get involved in Madoff-related SEC matters.

Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC’s multibillion-dollar Ponzi Scam, which cost investors billions, wasn’t discovered until the end of 2008. Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years behind bars.

SEC head under fire as ex-official says he got OK, Chron.com, September 23, 2011

Some lawmakers doubt ex-SEC lawyer broke the law, Reuters, September 22, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Madoff Trustee Files Securities Lawsuit Against Safra National Bank of New York Seeking to Recover Almost $111.7M for Ponzi Scam Investors, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, May 12, 2011

Texas Congressmen Seek Answers from SEC Chairwoman Regarding Conflict of Interest Related to Madoff Debacle, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 8, 2011

Madoff Investors Who Were Victims of “Ponzi” Scam Contact Securities Fraud Law Firm Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP to Explore Recovery Options, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 17, 2008

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