Just months before his now-infamous Ponzi scheme collapsed, Bernie Madoff snookered a Merrill Lynch adviser who was attempting to perform due diligence on him for a foundation that serves the elderly, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida last week.
In the complaint, MorseLife Foundation is seeking at least $33 million in damages from Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., claiming that the New York financial advisory firm was taken in by Mr. Madoff during a face-to-face meeting just several months before his fraudulent investment empire collapsed.
Now in prison for running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme and wiping out the fortunes of a lengthy list investors, he met with the Merrill adviser, John S. Lacy, in July of 2008.
Mr. Lacy, a vice president with Merrill’s global wealth management group in West Palm Beach, along with foundation executives, was part of a group in a due diligence meeting on behalf of MorseLife, which filed the lawsuit last Friday in U.S. district court in Miami.
As of July 2008, the portfolio was worth $32.4 million.
After 2006, with the hope of building its relationship with the foundation, Merrill Lynch expanded its services, which included advising MorseLife on its investment policies, strategies, asset allocation risk tolerance and specific investments not managed by Merrill Lynch, the lawsuit claims. MorseLife in its suit is alleging that Merrill Lynch was negligent.