The Obama administration is siding with big banks in a dispute over their alleged role in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., in a 22-page filing late Friday, urged the Supreme Court to let stand a lower court ruling that would bar Madoff Trustee Irving Picard from pursuing billions of dollars in claims against the likes of HSBC, UBS and Italy's UniCredit, which Picard alleges helped enable the scam to take place.
Picard had also sued Madoff's primary banker, JPMorgan Chase, seeking some $19 billion in damages. Earlier this year, Chase agreed to pay $543 million to settle the case, but the appeals involving the remaining banks have continued. The banks have denied wrongdoing, and argue that Picard has no standing to sue them on behalf of Madoff's clients.
On the latter point, the administration agrees.
"Customers are entitled to bring—and have already brought—their own suits against respondents for allegedly facilitating Madoff's fraud," according to the filing. "If (Picard) were permitted to pursue the same claims while standing in the customers' shoes, that could raise complicated problems."