HSBC Amends Rejected Madoff Settlement With Thema Investors

HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) amended its settlement with investors in an Irish fund who lost their money in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme after the bank’s original offer was rejected by a U.S. judge in September.

The amended settlement, which will be filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan today, still offers shareholders in Thema International Fund Plc as much as $62.5 million, while addressing the court’s earlier concerns, the London-based lender said today in an e-mailed statement.

“The amended agreement addresses certain issues identified by the New York federal court overseeing the case,” HSBC said in the statement. The amended settlement will still require the court to certify a settlement class, address any new objections and approve it before it takes effect, HSBC said. Details on the settlement weren’t immediately available.

The investors sued Thema, which acted as a so-called feeder-fund steering money to Madoff’s firm, and other defendants, including London-based HSBC, which acted as Thema’s custodian, in January 2009. The plaintiffs are seeking to represent all Thema investors who lost money when Madoff’s scheme was exposed in December 2008. They claim HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, should have known Madoff was a fraud.

Jezz Farr, a spokesman for HSBC in London, didn’t immediately return a phone message and e-mail seeking comment.

‘Not Fair’

Madoff, 73, pleaded guilty in 2009 to orchestrating what has been called the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. He’s in a federal prison in North Carolina, serving a 150-year sentence.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan rejected the original settlement Sept. 7, saying it was “not fair, reasonable or adequate, even at this preliminary stage.”

Among the “obvious deficiencies” Berman identified in denying approval was a provision setting aside $10 million to pay the fees and expenses of the investors’ lawyers in pursuing claims against non-settling defendants outside the U.S.

The case is In re Herald, Primeo and Thema Securities Litigation, 09-CV-289, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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