By Wayne Coffey, Teri Thompson and Michael O'Keeffe
Three days after attorneys for the owners of the Mets assailed the credibility of the trustee overseeing the Bernie Madoff bankruptcy case and filed a motion to dismiss his $1 billion lawsuit against them, a lawyer representing 500 Madoff victims called for the trustee, Irving Picard, to resign.
In a court filing Wednesday, Helen Davis Chaitman cited Picard for breaching his fiduciary responsibility and withholding vital information and said he should be replaced by an independent investigator.
"This is the largest financial crime in history," said Chaitman, a Madoff victim herself. "Picard has been dishonest with the court and should step aside as trustee because nobody can trust anything he says."
The filing seeks to set aside Picard's $220 million settlement with the estate of Norman Levy because Picard failed to disclose that Levy, whom Chaitman called Madoff's "co-conspirator," provided $100 billion in financing to Madoff.
Chaitman said the Securities and Exchange Commission, already under siege after the Daily News revealed that the watchdog agency's top lawyer was a Madoff benefactor, "should make a demand to have Picard removed and call in a special prosecutor to find out what happened."
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked Picard to provide documents related to the account once held by the family of former SEC general counsel David Becker. A spokeswoman said the committee expects to receive the documents by Thursday.
Rep. Peter King (R-New York), said he believes Picard has "abused his authority" in his attempts to force a large settlement from Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.
"I think there is an awful lot of merit in what Wilpon and Katz are saying," said King, who has co-sponsored legislation introduced by New Jersey Republican Scott Garrett that would address some of the issues addressed by Madoff victims. "Picard has overreached. He has portrayed himself as an impartial official when in fact he is a lawyer, a plaintiff's lawyer."
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York), who famously chewed out SEC officials at a House Financial Service Committee hearing on Madoff in 2009, said Picard had waged a public relations war against the Mets owners and other clawback litigation defendants.