PONZI

Is Merkin as Bad as Madoff?

While Bernie Madoff’s stony silence and seemingly unrepentant demeanor make him the perfect villain, the less visible J. Ezra Merkin, who allegedly funneled money from nonprofits into Madoff’s clutches while serving as a leader of New York philanthropy, might be just as bad. Merkin, charged Monday with civil fraud, is accused of “investing” $2.4 billion of clients’ funds in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme without their knowledge. “Merkin held himself out to investors as an investing guru ... In reality, Merkin was but a master marketer,” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo wrote in the complaint. Cuomo says Merkin lied to about 85 percent of his investors about where he was putting their money but does not allege that Merkin knew that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.