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We’re barely a week into 2011, and Irving Picard has already picked up where he left off in 2010. On Thursday, bankruptcy judge Burton Lifland of the Southern District of New York approved a deal between Picard and Swiss bank Union Bancaire Privee that could put up to $500 million back into the pockets of Madoff’s victims. “The UBP settlement agreement is the largest feeder fund bank cash settlement to date and the first major international bank settlement, two important milestones for the overall recovery initiative,” said Picard in a statement. The Baker & Hostetler partner had been seeking up to $1 billion from Union Bancaire and its subsidiary, M-Invest Ltd., a Cayman Islands-based corporation that was created for the sole purpose of investing assets with Madoff’s fund. Under the terms of the agreement, Bancaire and M-Limited will pay a minimum of $470 million, with an additional payment that could reach $30 million. “Although UBP strongly denies that it had any liability to the trustee, it has agreed to the settlement in order to protect its clients and definitively close this chapter,” the bank said in a statement. UBP’s attorney, Herbert Wachtell of Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, declined to comment. To date, Picard has recovered approximately $2 billion for Madoff’s victims with several big cases and settlements pending, including a $6.4 billion suit against JP Morgan Chase, a $9 billion suit against HSBC Holdings, and a $19.6 billion RICO suit against Bank Medici which could be trebled to nearly $60 billion. In addition a $7.2 billion settlement with the estate of Madoff investor Jeffry Picower is awaiting court approval. In other Madoff news, Picard adversary Helen Davis Chaitman of Becker &Poliakoff filed an objection to the Picower settlement on the grounds that it releases the estate from valid claims held by investors that Picard does not recognize. Most of these investors took out more money from their Madoff accounts than they put in. A hearing on this objection is scheduled for January 13.

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