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Former Merrill Lynch Chiefs Invested And Lost With Madoff

Former high-profile executives with Merrill Lynch, including two CEOs, invested in hedge funds that lost huge amounts of money to disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff and his $50 billion Ponzi scheme. According to a March 5 report from Reuters, one-time chief executive officers Daniel Tully and David Komansky, along with former investment-banking chief Barry Friedberg, personally invested millions in the hedge funds, which were set up by former Merrill Lynch brokerage chief John “Launny” Steffens.

Steffens’ connection to Madoff was tied to Ezra Merkin, who, along with Steffens, is a partner in Spring Mountain Capital LP. Spring Mountain managed nine of Steffens’ hedge funds, and invested in three Merkin-led funds. Steffen reportedly was aware of their heavy Madoff exposure in at least one.

Shortly after Madoff’s arrest on Dec. 11, Steffens announced plans to shut down the Spring Mountain funds of hedge funds. It is unclear exactly how much money the Merrill Lynch executives lost.

Daniel Tully served as president and chief operating officer at Merrill Lynch from 1985 to 1996, and was named chairman in 1993. Succeeding Tully was David Komansky, who held the top spots from 1997 to 2003. John Steffens spent nearly four decades at Merrill Lynch, ultimately rising to vice chairman in charge of overseeing the company’s global assets division. He retired in 2001 to launch Spring Mountain Capital.

Revelations that several former top Merrill Lynch executives personally invested with Madoff and his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme are unsettling on several fronts. At one time, these men were CEOs and senior-level management, responsible for managing and overseeing billions of dollars of investors’ money during their tenure at Merrill Lynch. If they can put due diligence on the backburner when it comes to investing their own personal wealth – i.e. fail to perform the legwork necessary to fully understand exactly how Madoff and those associated with him made money – what does it say about the job they did in protecting the investments of Merrill Lynch’s own clients?

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