Inside The Elie Wiesel Foundation

From the Times of London Dec. 20, 2008:

It takes an extraordinarily heartless conman to swindle a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald and Nobel Peace Prize winner out of all his charitable funds.

Yet that is exactly what Bernard “Bernie” Madoff is alleged to have done to Elie Wiesel, the author of the Holocaust classic Night and a friend from the Jewish community in south Florida.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity now admits that it invested $15.2 million (£10.1 million) with Mr Madoff that represented “substantially all of the foundation’s assets”. The charity of the Nobel laureate, in New York, will have to raise new funds if it is to maintain its two centers in Israel that help Ethiopian Jews and Darfur refugees and continue its other work.

“We are deeply saddened and distressed that we, along with many others, have been the victims of what may be one of the largest investment frauds in history,” a spokesman for the foundation said.

There are so many things wrong with the Elie Wiesel Foundation’s 2007 990 filling with the IRS.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation had $9 million in assets (2007 990 filing, 2006 filing).

The trades page indicates a loss from the sale of option. The Internal Revenue Code specifically lists options as inappropriate for a charity to trade in. The foundation managers may have liability to the US taxpayer. Also, the foundation grew to about $9 million as it got $6 million in grants from the public – 2007 was a good year. Of course, Madoff traded 78 million dollars, so he churned the foundation nine times. Was it asleep at the wheel?

I’m told: If you invested with Bernie Madoff, your form 990 should read a simple one sentence line item that funds are at Madoff Investments. EWF (Elie Wiesel Foundation) listed instead a whole series of securities, etc, to the point of absurd over-trading as you rightfully point out. But if they lost 100% with Bernie, then the listing of securities held is impossible. The whole report of securities and investments was a sham, and now they got caught. For professionals, the listing of securities on the form is impossible if the funds were with Bernie. It is an either/or proposition. Huge ooops.

The Form 990 for 2007 was only posted on AFTER the Madoff collapse, and it undated and unsigned. The phone number on both the 2006 and 2007 Form 990s is disconnected. They gave a false number. The Form 990 lists attorney Howard Sobel as corporate secretary and treasurer. That would be the guy in the hot seat right now. Sobel is a big time white crime lawyer at Latham and Watkins. If you go to giving, the address, contact and registered attorney of Elie Weisel Foundation in Israel are false.

In the 2006 990 filing, the corporate treasurer is listed as Elie Weisel’s son at Goldman Sachs and the corporate secretary is listed as someone else. In the hastily filed Form 990 for 2007 both positions have been changed and combined on page 30 and are listed as a litigation attorney at Latham and Watkins, Howard Sobel.

The filings for 2006 and 2007 say there are no employees and no independent contractors.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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