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Friday, December 19, 2008 | return to: news & features


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Local federations unscathed by alleged Ponzi scheme

by dan pine, staff writer

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While Jewish nonprofit organizations worldwide reel from the multibillion dollar Bernard Madoff scandal, the Bay Area Jewish community so far appears to have dodged the bullet. Local Jewish federations report minimal exposure to Madoff-invested monies and next to no adverse financial impact.

Madoff, 70, is the now-disgraced Wall Street investor who allegedly bilked clients out of $50 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme. Scores of Jewish institutions had monies invested in Madoff-managed funds, and many have suffered significant losses.

In a statement released earlier this week, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation confirmed only a single investment in a Madoff fund, and that came to no more than 1 percent of one hedge fund investment, totaling $70,000.

The statement noted that the federation's Endowment Investment Pool (EIP) is composed of approximately 225 separate endowed funds, invested in a wide variety of stocks, bonds and alternative assets. At the end of the third quarter of 2008, the EIP was valued at $278 million.

"As a result of our initial analysis, we have found that the EIP, the federation's multi-agency Pension Plan assets and the 12 standard investment options offered to donor advisors of federation's Donor Advised Philanthropic Funds held no direct investments in any funds associated with Mr. Madoff or his firm," the statement read.

The Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay was untouched by the growing scandal.

In a letter to the East Bay federation's foundation board, federation and endowment Chief Operating Officer Stephen Lasser wrote, "At no time has the Jewish Community Foundation ever had any money managed by Mr. Madoff. While we empathize with the plight of those taken in by his scheme, please rest assured that none of the funds he lost in any way are related to the foundation's funds."

Leaders at the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley likewise are breathing a collective sigh of relief, as the institution had no funds tied to Madoff.

Said federation CEO Jyl Jurman, "We are very fortunate to have not been directly affected by this recent Madoff debacle. It must be a grave shock to those who put their trust and assets in his hands. This incident will have a ripple effect in Jewish nonprofits and among philanthropists for years. Our hearts go out to those affected by these selfish actions."


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