Jeffry M. Picower
May 5, 1942
|Died||October 25, 2009 (aged 67)|
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Jeffry M. Picower (May 5, 1942 – October 25, 2009) was an American investor involved in the Madoff investment scandal. He appears to have been the largest beneficiary of Madoff's Ponzi scheme, and his estate settled the claims against it for $7.2 billion.
As an accountant at Laventhol & Horwath in the 1980s, Picower set up questionable tax shelters. When the IRS challenged their validity, one of Picower's clients sued him and the firm. The case was settled out of court.
In 1991, Picower and Anthony Cerami established a charity, the Picower Institute for Medical Research, with an initial endowment of $10 million. Researchers there, led by Kevin J. Tracey, made a potentially valuable discovery, with possible applications in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and multiple sclerosis. It was spun off into a for-profit company, Cytokine Networks, which was later merged with privately held PharmaSciences to form Cytokine PharmaSciences. However, it was revealed that Picower owned 76% of PharmaSciences stock and actually controlled 86.2%, putting him in a conflict of interest in the merger negotiations.
After Physician Computer Network, Inc., went bankrupt, Picower, the chairman of the board and 45% shareholder, had to give $21 million to other shareholders in 2000 after it was discovered that company executives had falsified financial statements.
Picower was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the 400 richest people in the United States for 2009, his only time on the list. Forbes, which listed Picower at no. 371, placed his net worth at $1 billion, although the magazine acknowledged that the former lawyer and accountant is "likely worth billions more."
Involvement with Bernard Madoff
The Jeffry M. and Barbara Picower Foundation was created in 1989 by Picower and his wife Barbara. Barbara Picower was listed as Executive Director and trustee, with both Picowers being members of the board of directors. Longtime friend Bernard Madoff managed foundation assets listed at over $1 billion. It distributed over $268 million in grants to various American organizations, including Human Rights First and the New York Public Library. In 2002, it granted $50 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscience research center, which was subsequently renamed the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. However, the Picower Foundation was forced to close in 2009 due to losses arising from the uncovering of Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
It has been reported that between December 1995 and December 2008, Picower and his family withdrew "from their various Madoff accounts $5.1 billion more than they invested."
In June 2009, Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating Madoff's assets, filed a lawsuit against Picower in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), seeking the return of $7.2 billion in profits, alleging that Picower and his wife knew or should have known that their rates of return were "implausibly high", with some accounts showing annual returns ranging from 120% to more than 550% from 1996 through 1998, and 950% in 1999. According to a June 28, 2009, MSNBC article, that would make the Picowers the biggest beneficiaries of Madoff's scam, exceeding even Madoff himself. The Picowers' lawyer, William D. Zabel of Schulte Roth & Zabel, responded that, "They were totally shocked by his fraud and were in no way complicit in it."
On November 1, 2009, an additional court filing from the Madoff trustee documented an apparently fraudulent gain benefiting Picower. "According to the new filing, Mr. Picower opened an account with Mr. Madoff on April 18, 2006, by wiring a check for $125 million, more than a quarter of the entire sum he invested with Mr. Madoff over time. Within two weeks, the $125 million deposit had purportedly grown to $164 million because of a dramatic ‘gain’ on the securities held in the account—all of which supposedly had been purchased three months earlier ... Five months later, Mr. Picower withdrew his original $125 million, leaving $81 million in the account. There is no legitimate explanation for these events nor any possibility that they escaped Picower’s notice."
On 17 December 2010, it was announced that a settlement of $7.2 billion had been reached with the Picower estate to resolve the Madoff trustee suit, and repay losses in the Madoff fraud. Madoff has suggested that Picower was allowed to remain as a client because he was "the Ponzi equivalent of a bank too big to fail: an investor too big to fire." It would have been impossible for Madoff to find enough cash to completely redeem his multi-billion account.
On October 25, 2009, Jeffry Picower died at his Palm Beach home. Picower's wife Barbara told dispatchers she found him "at the bottom of their swimming pool" at their oceanfront estate shortly after noon, Palm Beach police said. He was taken to Good Samaritan Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about 80 minutes later.
According to the Palm Beach Police Department, "An autopsy of the body of Jeffry M. Picower was performed this morning. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office determined that Mr. Picower suffered a massive heart attack while in the swimming pool resulting in accidental drowning."
In 2011, Barbara Picower resumed philanthropic activities, setting up a new foundation called the JPB Foundation with assets that remained from Jeffry Picower's estate following the legal settlement. Forbes reported that the foundation was established with a $100 million endowment. As of 2018, the JPB Foundation has over $3.7 billion in total assets. According to Foundation Center's list of the largest grant-making foundations, The JPB Foundation is the 24th largest foundation by asset size in the nation. Barbara Picower currently serves as the President and Director of the JPB Foundation.
- Susman, Carolyn (2009-09-25). "Palm Beach Police identify Jeffry M. Picower as drowning victim". palmbeachdailynews.com. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
- "Madoff investor drowns in Florida pool". cnn.com. October 26, 2009.
- "Picower estate returns $7.2 billion from Madoff scam". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. December 17, 2010. Archived from the original on September 26, 2012.
- Mordechai Specktor (December 22, 2010). "Local foundations sued in Madoff 'clawback'". American Jewish World.
- Bernstein, Jake (June 28, 2009). "Madoff may not have benefited most in scam Client Jeffry Picower allegedly withdrew $5.1 billion from accounts". Pro Publica. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
- Healy, Beth; Casey Ross (December 18, 2010). "Picower estate adds $7.2b to Madoff fund". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
- Diana B. Henriques, "The Wizard of Lies" 2011 p.134
- Bernstein, Jake (June 28, 2009). "Madoff may not have benefited most in scam". MSNBC. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- McMenamin, Brigid (October 14, 2002). "Unaccountable". Forbes. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- Stevens, William K. (August 1, 1991). "Noted Scientist And Staff Leave Rockefeller U." New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- Jacoby, Mary (December 29, 2001). "Foundations' founder yet to donate $67-million". St. Petersburg Times.
- Jacoby, Mary (July 8, 2001). "Complex web benefits foundation founder". St. Petersburg Times.
- "Physician Computer Network, Inc". Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- Fabrikant, Geraldine (December 19, 2008). "Foundation That Relied on Madoff Fund Closes". New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- "The 400 Richest Americans 2009". Forbes.com. September 30, 2009. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
- Rooney, Ben (September 30, 2009). "Super rich are $300 billion lighter". CNN Money. Retrieved September 30, 2009.
- "Jeffry M. & Barbara Picower Foundation". BusinessWeek. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- Weinraub, Mark (December 20, 2008). "Charity Picower says closes from Madoff losses". Reuters. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- "The Picower Institute: About". MIT. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- Bernstein, Jake. "Madoff Client Jeffry Picower Netted $5 Billion—Likely More Than Madoff Himself". Propublica. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
- Santosh Nadgir and Grant McCool (May 13, 2009). "Lawsuit claims Picower profits from Madoff $5 billion". Reuters. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- Diana B. Henriques and Zachery Kouwe (May 12, 2009). "Billions Withdrawn Before Madoff Arrest". New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
- Henriques, Diana (October 1, 2009). "Trustee Cites 2003 Problem in Madoff Account". New York Times.
- "Picower, Sued by Madoff Trustee, Died of Heart Attack (Update2)". bloomberg.com. 2009-10-26. Retrieved October 27, 2009.
- "Death of Jeffry M. Picower Ruled Accidental Drowning". Palm Beach Police Department. October 26, 2009. Retrieved October 26, 2009.
- Janjigian, Robert (October 29, 2009). "Jeffry Picower laid to rest at Long Island cemetery".
- "JPB Foundation -". JPB Foundation. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
- Vardi, Nathan. "Barbara Picower Is Back In Business As One Of The Nation's Top Philanthropists". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
- "Foundation Stats: Guide to the Foundation Center's Research Database - Foundation Center". data.foundationcenter.org. Retrieved 2018-04-19.