As soon as Bernie Madoff was arrested in December 2008 for his $50 billion Ponzi scheme, the phones began ringing at Barbara Hart’s law firm.
“The impact on our clients was devastating,” says Hart, the chief operating officer at Lowey Dannenberg Cohen & Hart P.C., a White Plains, N.Y., firm.
Since the shocking moment when her clients lost their savings, Hart has been hard at work trying to help them recover. Hart represented four local unions and class members in a suit against Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.
After four years of tireless efforts, Hart finally succeeded—in a rather significant way. This past April, Hart won final approval of a $219 million settlement based on securities and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) claims in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The settlement is expected to restore to her clients most of the money lost from the scheme.
For Hart, the settlement—a powerful moment—was the pinnacle of her career. “It was quite gratifying,” she says. “The clients in this case were planning their retirements. Then they were planning to work decades longer as a result of losing their money. The settlement was very emotional.”