Supreme Court denies four cases

The Supreme Court will not let the trustee working to recover money for Bernard Madoff's investors sue major financial institutions for their role in Madoff's massive fraud.

The court refused Monday to hear an appeal from trustee Irving Picard, who wants to pursue tens of billions of dollars from UBS, HSBC Bank and other institutions. In separate rulings, the court also declined to hear appeals from victims of the Allen Stanford Ponzi scheme, a former American International Group CEO, and from Google.

Picard, as trustee for the Securities Investor Protection Corp., has brought claims in bankruptcy court alleging that the institutions were complicit in Madoff's vast Ponzi scheme because they provided him with financial services while ignoring obvious signs he was a con artist.

A federal appeals court ruled that Picard doesn't have legal standing to make claims against the financial institutions that Madoff's burned customers could make themselves.

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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

The court also rejected a request by Ralph Janvey, a receiver unwinding convicted fraudster Allen Stanford's businesses, to review a ruling that blocked him from pursuing claims against Stanford employees on behalf of the receivership's creditors, not the businesses themselves.

As with Picard's case, a lower court concluded that Janvey lacked standing to bring his claim. The Supreme Court did not give reasons for its decisions, which leave intact an August 2013 ruling in the Stanford case by the federal appeals court in New Orleans.

Stanford's estimated $7.2 billion fraud was based on the sale of bogus certificates of deposit issued by Antigua-based Stanford International Bank to customers who thought the CDs were safe. The Ponzi scheme was uncovered in February 2009.

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Separately, the court rejected an appeal by former AIG Chief Executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, who accused the Federal Reserve Bank of New York of unlawfully bailing out the insurer at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

The court left intact a 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision from January that said the New York Fed's authority to address major threats to the economy justified the dismissal of Delaware breach of fiduciary duty claims by Greenberg's Starr International Co, which once held a 12 percent AIG stake.

AIG is based in New York but incorporated in Delaware and was once the world's largest insurer by market value.

Starr had accused the New York Fed of engineering a "backdoor" bailout for Goldman Sachs Group Inc and other Wall Street banks at the expense of AIG shareholders by forcing the insurer to unwind bets on mortgage debt through hundreds of billions of dollars of credit default swaps.

There is a related case pending before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, which handles lawsuits seeking money from the government. There, Greenberg and Starr called the AIG bailout an illegal "taking" that violated the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The case is Starr International Co v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-316.

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The court also declined to hear Google's appeal of a ruling that it pried into people's online lives through their Wi-Fi systems as part of its drive to collect information for its Street View mapping project.

The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place a ruling that Google employees violated the federal wiretap law when they rolled through residential streets with car cameras to shoot photos for Street View.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco said the information picked up from unencrypted Wi-Fi signals included emails, usernames, passwords, images and documents.

Google had argued that it did not run afoul of the wiretap law because data transmitted over a Wi-Fi network is a radio communication that is readily accessible to the public.

—The Associated Press with Reuters

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