Madoff Trustee Says Losses Now Total $21.2 Billion

The trustee overseeing the Madoff bankruptcy says the Securities Investor Protection Corporation has paid a record $534 million to Madoff investors, but that amount pales in comparison to the $21.2 billion he now says was stolen in the giant Ponzi scheme.

Trustee Irving Picard, a partner at Baker & Hostetler, called the half billion dollar figure "a major milestone," under what he called "very challenging circumstances." He held a conference call with reporters Wednesday, along with SIPC President Stephen Harbeck.

Note: The full conference call will be posted on SIPC's web site,, by 4pm ET.

The $534 million already represents the largest payout in the 35-year history of the SIPC, and it exceeds the total of all the agency's previous payouts combined. But the payments are just the beginning. Picard says his office is analyzing Madoff accounts dating back to the 1970s, and that the half billion SIPC has paid is just a portion of the $4.4 billion in claims he has approved.

In addition to the SIPC insurance coverage, Picard is seeking to recover funds from the Madoff estate, and from Madoff investors, employees and family members that he claims had a role in the fraud. To date, Picard says he has recovered only about $1.4 billion, but that his efforts will continue and accelerate as his deadline for filing claims approaches in December, 2010.

Among those Picard is seeking damages from is Madoff investor Jeffry Picower, who authorities say died of a massive heart attack at his Palm Beach home last week. Picard called the death "tragic," but said it would not affect his effort to recover some $7 billion from Picower's estate.