May 27, 2011

Irving Picard, the trustee in the Madoff case, could apparently be one of the biggest winners in the Madoff case, according to a Bloomberg report.

According to the news service, Picard charges $5,803 for a day's work. And now 800 Madoff investors who are trying to recover the funds they lost in the sprawling Ponzi scheme, are understandably angry at the trustee's hefty pay day.

A lawyer who said she represents 800 Madoff investors told a Manhattan judge they objected to a $43.9 million fee requested by trustee Irving Picard and his law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP.

Since Picard was hired after Madoff's arrest in December 2008, his firm and the trustee have requested compensation of $179.8 million, according to lawyer Helen Chaitman.

A $179.8 million fee? Picard has certainly been working hard to recover lost funds for investors, but does he or his firm warrant such a huge salary?

Well, Picard's personal share of the $179.8 million would be $4.3 million, according to court filings -- which doesn't seem quite so bad.

He has, after all, recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for Madoff investors to date. (By way of comparison, NBA player Tracy McGrady earned almost six times that amount in 2010 - $23,239,561 - while barely playing that season. Just saying.)

Still, Picard's contract with Baker & Hostetler could entitle him to a third or more of the total compensation from the Madoff case, Bloomberg reported Chaitman as saying.

From Bloomberg:

"If I'm a lawyer and I originate business, I can get 35 percent of what I originate," she said in a phone interview. "If I have clout, I can get 50 percent of what I bring in."

A Picard spokeswoman, Amanda Remus, said by e-mail, "Ms. Chaitman's filing contains numerous factual inaccuracies, which the trustee's counsel will address fully in court." She didn't specify the errors.

A hearing on Picard's sixth fee application is set for June 1.

But even if Picard continues to do a really good job of recovering billions for burned Madoff investors, one can easily understand how knowing that he could get a double-digit (and up to 50%) cut of all the money he brings in, will be another dagger in their throat.

On the most simplistic level, Picard Vs Madoff once seemed like the battle of the good guy versus the bad guy.

But in this day and age, there is no such thing as a knight in shining armor, at least not without an enormous pay package to motivate him in the battle field.

Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in ...