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The lawyer behind $10-bn haul for Madoff victims

business Updated: Apr 26, 2011 21:32 IST

Everyone’s mad at Irving Picard. To be fair, his job is thankless: He’s the court-appointed bloodhound in charge of hunting down money for the victims of Bernard Madoff, a man who kept the biggest scam in the history of American finance going for two decades.

Wall Street hates him. Picard has sued more than a dozen banks, including several whose big link to the Ponzi scheme was one step removed — helping people bet on funds that bet on the fund run by Madoff.

Fans of the New York Mets, which have problems on the field, are angry at him for suing the team’s owners for $1 billion, just when they’re trying to find new owners and are still reeling from their own Madoff-related losses.

And most bizarrely, some of the people Madoff ripped off say Picard is making them victims all over again by demanding they hand back “fictitious profits” that many have already spent.

A little more than two years into the job, the 69-year-old Picard, has become US’ most unlikely celebrity lawyer, and perhaps its most underrated.

He’s filed more than 1,000 suits in 30 countries, and defied expectations by bringing in $10 billion so far. That’s half of what he estimates investors lost in principal when Madoff was arrested, though not as impressive compared with the phony $65 billion that Madoff claimed they had.

To make a bigger dent, Picard will have to wrest money from those banks he’s sued. Picard says they saw plenty of red flags and had an obligation to warn investors. The banks say Picard has gotten his facts wrong.

“I don't know personally what it's like to lose everything,” he said, referring to Madoff victims. “But I understand it in others. It’s in my DNA.”