Koch brothers could lose millions they made off Bernie Madoff

June 7, 2016  

(JTA) Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch were among the few who invested in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and won.

Now, the Republican megadonors may have to return that money. An important ruling is expected in coming weeks on a lawsuit demanding they give back the $21.5 million they made on their investment. Whether the lawsuit will mean anything politically is unclear.

In 2003, the Kochs placed an unknown amount of money with Madoff, the financier who defrauded his clients, including members of his Jewish community, of some $60 billion in his Ponzi scheme. While others lost everything investing in the scheme, the Koch brothers cleared $21 million — a return made of other people’s investments.

The Kochs are two of the defendants in a series of 87 “clawback” suits aimed at recovering Madoff investors’ lost funds, according to Bloomberg News. In total, $2 billion are at stake in the suits.

The Kochs may have thought they were home free after a 2014 court decision said the money could not be recovered because it had been transferred to their company overseas, out of U.S. jurisdiction. But Irving Picard, the trustee in charge of Madoff’s assets, said the company, based in the United Kingdom, was basically just an offshore account that was run and staffed entirely from the U.S. Within weeks, according to Bloomberg, a Manhattan bankruptcy court will rule on Picard’s claim.

The Kochs, whose combined value exceeds $80 billion, have supported a range of Republican candidates — including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But unlike casino mogul and fellow billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, who will support Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, the Kochs have yet to make their 2016 endorsement.

The Kochs oppose Trump, and may retreat from funding national political campaigns altogether. There’s been additional speculation that they’ll put their money on Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. So even though $21 million of Madoff money is a drop in the bucket for the billionaire brothers, it’s yet to be seen whose bucket it will drop into.

In related Madoff news, the seemingly never-ending drama between the New York Mets’ owners and Madoff’s estate will begin winding down this week. Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz will pay $16 million to Picard’s trust Wednesday, according to the New York Daily News, the first of several annual installments totaling $61 million of clawback money.

Of course, Wilpon and Katz may have Madoff to thank for the Mets’ recent success. As Gabe Friedman wrote here last October, on the eve of the team’s march to the World Series, the budget crunch forced the owners to revert to grooming players at home, rather than ineffectually signing big names to expensive contracts. And it’s working again this year. As of Monday afternoon, the Mets have the third-best record in the National League, behind the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals.

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