NY judge OKs law firm's US$14mil fees in Madoff liquidation

NEW YORK: A judge on Thursday approved the payment of US$14.6 million in fees charged by a Manhattan law firm working with a court-appointed trustee to unravel Bernard Madoff's massive fraud.

In a written order, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland also signed off on a separate $760,000 bill from trustee Irving Picard for work starting in mid-December to locate and liquidate Madoff's assets.

Picard and the Baker & Hostetler law firm have repeatedly emphasized that a securities industry group that compensates victims of fraud - not Madoff's burned clients - will foot the bill.

Baker & Hostetler, which will also receive $274,000 for expenses, has said it applied a 10 percent "public interest discount" from its standard rates - a reduction of about $1.6 million.

The judge also approved separate payments for several other law firms, including some in Europe, doing similar work on the case.

Madoff, 71, was sentenced late last month to 150 years in prison for orchestrating an epic Ponzi scheme that wiped out life savings and entire charities.

Thousands of investors with Madoff's once-respected advisory firm believed their securities accounts were worth tens of billions of dollars.

But investigators say the totals on the clients' monthly account statements were fiction: In reality, Madoff never made investments, and instead used new investors' money to pay returns to existing ones.

After Madoff's arrest late year, Picard was appointed to try to recover any remaining business assets and divvy up those proceeds to victims.

More than 15,400 claims against Madoff were filed. - AP

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