In the wake of Jeffry Picower’s mysterious drowning in Palm Beach yesterday, the press is wondering anew whether Mr. Picower knew about Bernie Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme. But there’s another question that’s not being asked: What happened to all of Mr. Picower’s money?
“If someone needed the skills to hide billions of dollars, few would be better equipped than Picower, an attorney and accountant who has been described as a ‘tax shelter expert,'” ProPublica wrote in June, when they tried to account for $5 billion dollars Mr. Picower had withdrawn from his Madoff accounts. (The Madoff trustee, Irving Picard, later sued Mr. Picower, claiming he had taken out $7.2 billion dollars.)
ProPublica could only account for a tiny fraction of that money, less than one percent:
The Picowers own a home in Palm Beach that is appraised at a little over $28 million. They also have a 28.4-acre compound in Connecticut valued at $4.5 million. A search of numerous online sources, both aggregate databases and county property records for the couple, their daughter, and the companies named in the complaint, reveals few other major assets.
The piece said it was “curious our search did not even uncover a boat or plane under the Picower name.”
Forbes couldn’t figure it out either when they tried to guess his wealth for their 400 Richest Americans list last month. The magazine pegged Mr. Picower’s net worth at $1 billion dollars, but admitted he is “likely worth billions more.”
Mr. Picower’s death would seem to make the trail even harder to follow. And while there’s considerable speculation and intrigue about his passing, an autopsy that was just released says Mr. Picower drowned after suffering a heart attack.