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01 October 2010

News About People Named Merkin to Whom I Am Absolutely Not Related

Click image, unrelated people get bigger.

One time, long before the Bernard Madoff weirdness, when This Merkin Family just meant Huge Wealth & Big Philanthropy & Top-Tier Manhattan Dignified Honor & Respect, we stayed in a hotel next to Lincoln Center in NYC. The hotel was one block from the Merkin Concert Hall, endowed by J. Ezra's parents.

We just registered as a couple of ordinary out-of-towners named Merkin.

Maybe the hotel gave every guest the 6-Star Red Carpet May We Help You Sir & Madame treatment.

Or maybe it was that last name. 

But we had a Great Fucking Time. Extra pillow mints, instantly swept to a very fine table in the restaurant, champagne compliments of the management, yadda.

J. Ezra is the brother of novelist and New Yorker magazine writer Daphne Merkin

Some years ago I wrote her suggesting we start an Association of Novelists Named Merkin. We could hold an annual dinner in a fancy restaurant, and give one another awards -- Best Essay by Somebody Named Merkin, Best Short Story by Somebody Named Merkin, etc. I never heard back from her. There is other evidence not involving me personally that suggests Daphne is a rather Low-Humor or Humor-Lite or Zero-Laughs individual.

I asked a friend to read Daphne's novel "Enchantment," and she agreed to be a test rat for me, something like a Food Taster for an emperor. If she read it and recommended it to me, I'd give it a whack.

My Food Taster said "Enchantment" was a 250-page Whine.

My mother used to refer to people like the Madoffs and these Merkins as "meshugineh Frumm." Translation available on request.
And now the News About People Named Merkin to Whom I Am Absolutely Not Related.

~ ~ ~ 

The Jewish Daily Forward
(published New York City / twin Yiddish-language edition)
Wednesday 29 September 2010

With Madoff in Jail, 

Merkin Is New Target

by Josh Nathan-Kazis

Some investors in the hedge funds managed by J. Ezra Merkin that were decimated in Bernard Madoff’s massive investment fraud could get money back in the next few months.

But as the first disbursement is prepared, the legal battle over the scraps of the billions 

[ 1 billion = 1,000,000,000 ]
 once invested in Merkin’s funds has devolved into a complicated web of overlapping and competing lawsuits. Merkin is a defendant in at least 5 active lawsuits relating to his management of the investment funds.

“It’s entirely unsurprising,” said Barry Adler, a professor at New York University School of Law. Adler said that while he has no knowledge of the details of this case, in financial scandals such as this, “the incentive of each trustee is to sue everyone else who might have money, because that might make his beneficiaries less victimized than the other guy’s.”

Merkin, a wealthy philanthropist from a prominent New York Modern Orthodox family

[ which is absolutely in no way related to me ]

, was identified in the unraveling of the Madoff scandal two years ago as having operated some of the largest so-called feeder funds fueling Madoff’s mega-Ponzi scheme. One of the funds, called Ascot Partners LP, was invested almost entirely in Madoff’s firm; the other two, called Gabriel Capital LP, and Ariel Fund LTD., were substantially invested in Madoff.

As a result of a suit brought against Merkin by the Office of the New York State Attorney General in April 2009, two separate receivers were appointed by the court to oversee the Merkin funds, one for Ascot and another for both Gabriel and Ariel.

According to the most recent report filed by David B. Pitofsky, the receiver for the Ascot fund, of the $1,700,000,000 that was purported to be in the fund before Madoff’s scheme was revealed in December 2008, only $9,000,000 remains -- and that has been frozen by the judge in a case brought by Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy.

Merkin chaired the investment committee of Yeshiva University, which had investments in Ascot with a purported value of $110,000,000. He was also vice chairman of the Ramaz School, which his children attended and which had investments with a purported value of $6,000,000 in Ascot. Neither of those institutions, nor any others that invested in Ascot, stands to recover any funds in the upcoming disbursements, which will go to investors in Ariel and Gabriel.

The Forward Association, which publishes the Forward, was invested in a fund of funds that had, in turn, invested in Ascot.

Meanwhile, Bart M. Schwartz, the receiver for Ariel and Gabriel, filed his own suit against Merkin on September 16. The new complaint accuses Merkin of collecting $300,000,000 in what it calls “unwarranted” fees as the manager of Ariel and Gabriel. The suit alleges that although Merkin told investors that he would manage the funds himself, he in fact turned over the money to Madoff and to a separate firm called Cerberus Capital Management, LP.

“Merkin was not an investment guru, but instead, nothing more than a glorified, albeit undisclosed, marketer for Cerberus and Madoff,” the complaint alleges. Although there is no allegation that Merkin knew Madoff’s firm was running a massive Ponzi scheme, the complaint does accuse Merkin of “gross negligence” in his dealings with Madoff.

Merkin has yet to file a response to the charges, and his attorney, Andrew J. Levander, did not respond to a request for comment. But Merkin has denied similar allegations brought in other cases.

While filing this new lawsuit, Schwartz has also set in motion a process to distribute $200,000,000 among investors in Ariel and Gabriel, which still retain a little less than half their purported combined 2008 value of $2,700,000,000 .

According to an August 3 press statement by Schwartz, the two funds control $1,000,000,000 in as yet unliquidated assets beyond the $200,000,000 being disbursed. Another $95,000,000 is being set aside to cover expenses and pending legal claims against the funds.

Picard represents one of those claims. His case against Merkin and his funds includes a demand for the return of assets withdrawn from Ariel and Gabriel’s Madoff accounts. In a heated exchange of memoranda, Picard and James C. McCarroll, Schwartz’s attorney, have battled for months over Picard’s right to Ariel and Gabriel funds. 

In a filing January 25, McCarroll wrote that Picard “has unilaterally and inexplicably decided that justice with respect to Madoff’s unprecedented fraud is best served by seeking to victimize further some of his largest innocent victims -— enormous net losers such as Ariel and Gabriel.”

Related Articles

    * Should Madoff’s Winners Give Back to Losers?

    * The Long Arm of Halacha: Jewish Law and the Madoff Scandal

[ halacha = religious law (Hebrew) ]

    * Merkin Seen as Enabler for Madoff

“Almost everyone who invested through [Madoff] has been victimized, and many have been victimized far more severely than” Ariel and Gabriel, Picard shot back February 24. “If anything, Defendant Funds deserve less sympathy than many other victims,” he wrote, citing the sophisticated nature of the funds’ investors.

“Sadly, in his zeal, the Trustee also seems to have lost the necessary objectivity even to distinguish between the victims and the villains of the Madoff fraud,” McCarroll responded March 17.

In an interview, Picard said that he didn’t object to the upcoming disbursement of Ariel and Gabriel funds to investors, given that Schwartz is setting aside the $95 million reserve fund. “The reserve covers, among other things, what we’re asking for,” Picard said. “We certainly don’t have an objection to him giving out the surplus.”

Claims in the Ariel and Gabriel disbursement were due September 20. Pending court approval, the disbursement will occur before the end of the year.

In an entirely separate proceeding, an individual investor in Ascot, named Noel M. Wiederhorn, won $1,500,000 from Merkin in a decision August 19.

And in related Madoff news, Madoff feeder-fund manager Stanley Chais died September 26 after a long illness. The Securities and Exchange Commission, the California Attorney General and others sued Chais over his role in the Madoff case. According to one filing, his phone number was found at the top of a speed dial list in Madoff’s office.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at Follow him on Twitter @joshnathankazis.

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PatFromCH said...

Back in the days when I worked for the Swiss Army as a sort of PC Tech guy I was constantly asked if I wasn't related to Division Commander SuchAndSuch. They were all about to give me the treatment you described, but I had to decline because I wasn't related to this guy at all. In a State Of War this guy would have become General and the qeuivalent of Joint Chief Of Staff.

Hey, there is also a Merkin who writes books on marine legal matter, did you know that ? And your book is currently unavailable at Amazon....

Vleeptron Dude said...

The BEST Merkin I was also never related to ...

NEVER try to drive your car into New York City. Parking in a garage will cost you a week's salary, and trying to find a legal street parking space ... well, within 8 hours the space becomes illegal, you forget to move it, and your car will be towed away.

My car was towed away, and the phone call I made to the cops told me I could ransom it back in a police impound lot in Brooklyn. This is like parking in Bern and having to get to Salzburg or Vienna to get your car back.

When we got to the police impound lot, my papers weren't quite kosher -- my registration had excpired, or some piece of bureaucratic crap like that -- and the cop told me he couldn't release my car to me, no matter how much I paid in cash.

But he could see I was just a dumb, unlucky out-of-towner kid having a Car Nightmare, and we were polite and respectful ...

"Are you related to Captain Merkin, the Commander of the 19th Precinct in Queens? I used to work for him. He's a real good guy."

The temptation to lie was almost overwhelming. But I caught myself and said, "No, sir, we're not related to anybody named Merkin in New York City."

He rolled the situation around in his head, and said, "Ah hell, pay the fine, here's your car, I shouldn't do this, but call it a favor to Captain Merkin."

So Captain Merkin of the New York City Police Department is my favorite Not-Relative.

No relation to that Big Robert Merkin of the Internet, the Euro and Maritime Taxation Accountant Textbook Author.

ALSO no relation whatsoever to Famous Robert Merkin the championship bass fisherman, I think from Downer's Grove, Illinois.

But when times were good, fat and rich for these NYC gazillionaire Merkins, it was soooo temptating to let a little of their Family Magic taint me.

But times have changed and J/ Ezra has really Screwed The Pooch. Now when New Yorkers see my name, they want to chase me with torches and tar and feathers, because I bankrupted their grandmother and the Orphanage had to close and throw all the orphans out on the street.

Like it's Not My Fault! We're Not Related!