Bernard Madoff, the felon behind the largest Ponzi scheme in history, once praised the woman President Barack Obama will soon nominate to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.
SEC chairwoman Mary Schapiro announced on Monday that she intends to resign on Dec. 14. Almost immediately, Obama said he plans to appoint current SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter as the agency’s next chair.
Obama lauded Walter, saying he thinks she “will serve her well in her new position, and I’m grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency.”
Madoff told then-SEC Inspector General David Kotz in 2009 that he was personally close with both Schapiro and Walter.
Schapiro, he said, was a “dear friend.” Walter was a “terrific lady” whom he knew “pretty well.”
“Walter stated she met Bernard Madoff approximately 10 times,” Kotz wrote in his final report on the Madoff saga, “but never had any one-on-one meetings with him, nor met with him on any social occasions.”
“Walter stated,” Kotz reported, that “she also met Peter Madoff, Shana Madoff, and Mark Madoff at industry events or market regulation committees.”
Kotz also learned that Madoff and his family sent personal congratulations to Walter when she was appointed to a seat on the SEC.
“Your knowledge and experience is so important in these complex times and your unique style of always listening to both sides of opposing arguments has served us so well,” Madoff wrote in an undated handwritten note. “We are lucky to have you.”
A letter from Peter Madoff, written “[o]n behalf of the entire Madoff family,” asked Walter to “accept [their] congratulations and best wishes” on her commission appointment, according to Kotz’s report.
Walter told the Office of Inspector General that she never invested with Madoff and was unaware until December 2008 that he was using a “separate investment business” to facilitate his Ponzi scheme.
Madoff was sentenced in June 2009 to 150 years in prison after pleading guilty to 11 felonies in federal court and admitting he defrauded his investors.
The Obama administration has taken a tough public line against financial corruption, but Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice has not charged any top Wall Street bankers with serious financial crimes.
In a recent report, the conservative Government Accountability Institute blamed cronyism for preventing such prosecutions.