Irving Picard

When Baker & Hostetler partner Irving Picard, the trustee of funds recovered for victims of Bernie Madoff’s infamous fraud, announced earlier this summer that a recent settlement had pushed investor recoveries above the $13 billion mark, he and his firm also edged toward a milestone of their own—$1 billion in legal fees. They’ve now surpassed that mark as they approach 10 years of work on the case.

Picard and his team, including lead counsel David Sheehan, secured an interim fee award worth some $33.5 million as a result of a Manhattan federal bankruptcy court order on Aug. 30. That most recent award, which covered work completed between Dec. 1 and March 31, brought Baker & Hostetler up to a total of $1.026 billion in fees awarded in connection with the Madoff trustee work, according to court records. Picard has served since late 2008 as the Securities Investor Protection Act trustee for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BLMIS).

The Aug. 30 fee award follows an announcement in July of court approval for a $280 million settlement with Madoff “feeder funds”—investment funds that funneled money into Madoff’s Ponzi scheme—tied to money manager J. Ezra Merkin. Merkin and the funds, Ascot Partners LP, Ascot Fund Ltd. and Gabriel Capital Corp., had reached the deal with Picard in June.

The Merkin settlement brought Picard’s total recovery on behalf of Madoff victims to more than $13.26 billion. That amounts to more than 75 percent of an estimated $17.5 billion in losses among Madoff customers that have filed claims, Picard and his team said in a July 5 statement. The recovered money has gone directly to Madoff victims, while the Securities Investor Protection Corp. has covered administrative costs related to the recovery efforts, as well as trustee, legal and accounting fees.

As the trustee and his team have continued to recover money for Madoff’s victims, Baker & Hostetler has, in turn, benefited from a steady stream of income in connection with Picard’s role. Picard joined the firm from Gibbons shortly after a court in December 2008 appointed him to oversee funds recovered for Madoff victims and the liquidation of BLMIS.

While Baker & Hostetler will likely see that revenue stream dry up eventually—and may have to grapple, at that point, with its impact on the firm’s finances—it doesn’t appear that an end to the Madoff trustee work is imminent.

Even nearly 10 years in, Picard’s most recent semi-annual status report filed in May detailed hundreds of ongoing matters, including investigations and litigation outside of the U.S. in Austria, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, U.K. and other countries.

Baker & Hostetler’s fee awards throughout the case also provide clues to how much work Picard and his team have taken on, since their fee applications are based in part on billable hours. Including the most recent award approved on Aug. 30, the past seven awards—all of which covered a four-month period—have remained within a $33 million to $36 million range, indicating that the trustee’s work has not dissipated over the past couple years.

Those amounts are, however, lower than some of the four-month fee awards to Picard and his team made earlier in the Madoff engagement. Looking back to 2014, for instance, interim fees awarded to Baker & Hostetler were often more than $40 million and, in 2012, some of the four-month awards were higher than $60 million.

In recent statements, Picard and his lead counsel, Sheehan, have both said they expect to maintain their efforts to recover more money for Madoff’s victims.

“We continue to pursue many avenues on behalf of Madoff’s victims, and look forward to returning even more in stolen funds back to Madoff’s victims as we pass additional, significant milestones in the future,” Sheehan said in a July 5 statement.

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