Unraveling Madoff: Picower's Death a Boon for Cheated Investors?

It would be hard to blame former investors if they saw dollar signs the moment Jeffry Picower turned up dead in the pool of his Palm Beach mansion. After all, the billionaire was among the most prominent feeders of investment money to Madoff and received some of the most massive profits, a status that had earned him a place in a lawsuit brought by a trustee looking to recover investor losses.

From yesterday's New York Times:

Although Mr. Picower's will, which is expected to be filed on Tuesday, leaves the bulk of the estate to charity, that amount depends on how much his family pays to settle legal claims brought by the trustee gathering assets for Mr. Madoff's victims.

But the estate is clearly large enough to add at least several billion dollars to the $1.4 billion that the trustee has gathered so far.

The article also establishes a link between Picower and Michael Bienes, who with partner Frank Avellino fed the Madoff fund from Broward County.

One of the beneficiaries under the will is Mr. Picower's niece -- who is also the daughter of Michael Bienes, a former employee of the accounting firm owned by Ruth Madoff's father, Saul Alpern.

With his partner Frank Avellino, Mr. Bienes helped steer hundreds of millions of dollars from individual investors to Mr. Madoff before their partnership was shut down by securities regulators in 1992. Mr. Bienes and Mr. Avellino settled the regulatory lawsuit without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.

According to a family source, Mr. Picower's sister was once married to Mr. Bienes, but the two men "have long been estranged." The daughter of Mr. Bienes remained with her mother and Mr. Picower regularly contributed toward her care. The will provides $200,000 to be left in trust to sustain that support.


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