The Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday night that it had missed repeated opportunities to discover what may be the largest financial fraud in history, a Ponzi scheme whose losses could run as high as $50 billion.The commission said it received credible allegations about the scheme at least nine years ago and will immediately open an internal investigation to examine why it had failed to pursue them aggressively.
“I am gravely concerned by the apparent multiple failures over at least a decade to thoroughly investigate these allegations or at any point to seek formal authority to pursue them,” Mr. Cox said.
Moreover, Mr. Cox said, the commission will investigate “all staff contact and relationships with the Madoff family and firm, and their impact, if any, on decisions by staff regarding the firm.” Mr. Cox added that he had ordered S.E.C. staff to recuse themselves from the investigation if they had “more than insubstantial personal contacts with Mr. Madoff or his family.”
One of the commission’s investigative teams that had examined the Madoff firm was headed by a lawyer named Eric Swanson, who served for 10 years as a lawyer at the commission and left in 2006 while he was an assistant director of the office of compliance inspections and examinations in Washington.
In 2007, Mr. Swanson married Shana Madoff, a niece of Bernard L. Madoff and daughter of his brother, Peter Madoff, the firm’s chief compliance officer. Ms. Madoff is the firm’s compliance attorney.