Tremont Group Holdings, the second-biggest of the so-called feeder funds that helped to fuel Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, has defeated claims that it fraudulently induced investors. The ruling is a loss for attorneys at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, who based their complaint on an exclusive jailhouse meeting with Madoff in 2009.
In a decision issued on Tuesday, New York Supreme Court Justice Richard Lowe III dismissed various claims brought against Tremont by one of its investors, Jay Wexler, who lost more than $400,000 in Madoff’s fraud. Lowe also dismissed parallel claims against Tremont’s parent company, Oppenheimer Acquisition Corp., and Oppenheimer’s parent, Mass Mutual Life Insurance Co.
Wexler had sought to bring claims both individually and derivatively on behalf of a Tremont-controlled entity called Rye Select Broad Market Prime Fund. Lowe dismissed the derivative claims on the grounds that they were precluded by a settlement Tremont reached with investors in a similar federal case. Lowe dismissed the direct claims—fraudulent inducement, aiding and abetting fraudulent inducement, and negligent misrepresentation—on the merits, ruling that Wexler pointed to little evidence that Tremont ignored red flags suggesting Madoff was a crook.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom represented Tremont. Oppenheimer turned to Dechert, and Bingham McCutchen represented Mass Mutual.
Wexler’s lawyers at Cotchett Pitre brought the case in 2009. In addition to Tremont and its parents, their original complaint also named Madoff’s wife as a defendant.
The case took an unusual turn later that year. In hopes of clearing his wife’s name, Madoff agreed to a long meeting with Cotchett Pitre attorneys from his prison cell. Madoff is reported to have divulged details of drug-fueled office parties with topless entertainers. On the basis of the interview, Cotchett Pitre filed an amended complaint that spared Madoff’s wife but added new allegations that financial institutors including KPMG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. aided and abetted Madoff’s fraud.
Motions to dismiss by KPMG and JPMorgan are still pending. But it’s now clear that exclusive access to Madoff didn’t bolster the case against Tremont, at least as far as the judge is concerned. “Wexler was aware of the risks of his investment and had access to any purported due diligence (or lack thereof) in Tremont’s possession,” Lowe wrote.