Local 210 takes hit in Madoff scandal
Pension fund losses put at $30 million
By Michael Beebe
News Staff Reporter
Laborers Local 210’s pension funds have taken a hit for as much as $30 million from investments with money manager Bernard L. Madoff, who has been charged in a Ponzi scheme that may have cost investors $50 billion.
Letters went out this week to members of Local 210 of the Laborers International Union of North America, telling them of the Madoff investments.
The letters failed to say, however, how much of the union’s funds had been invested with Madoff.
The union’s pension funds totaled $80 million 10 years ago, and more recent figures were not available Saturday.
“We have received numerous inquiries about the fund’s status in relation to assets invested with the Madoff firm,” said the letter from the pension funds’ board. “Like any investor with exposure to the Madoff scandal, the funds are expected to experience some losses or diminished returns.”
Local 210 members who called the union offices last week were told that the Madoff investments totaled $30 million across three of the union’s pension and welfare funds.
“I wasn’t trying to make a bunch of money here,” said a longtime Local 210 member. “I was trying to have a pension.”
Samuel Capitano, business manager of Local 210, confirmed the union’s investment with Madoff, but referred a reporter to a union attorney for further comment.
Robert M. Projansky, a New York City lawyer representing the union, declined to comment when reached at his New Jersey home Saturday.
“We’re obviously continuing to monitor it closely,” Projansky said, “as we’re representing and protecting the interest of our client, but beyond that, I can’t really comment.”
Laborers Local 210 shed its longtime control by the local mob only after a racketeering suit was filed by federal prosecutors in 1996, and monitors were appointed by the international laborers union.
The federal lawsuit ended in January 2000, when U. S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara signed a settlement agreement, and the union has been free of oversight since 2005.
Capitano, elected business manager by the membership, said other unions in the state also invested with Madoff.
“Look around the state, every trade union,” he said of labor’s investments with Madoff. “It’s unbelievable, the lives he’s affected. It’s not good, especially with a downturn in the market.”
CNBC reported earlier this month that Carpenters Local 747 in Syracuse had invested between $100 million and $150 million of its pension funds with Madoff.
The business network also reported that Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 267 in the Syracuse area has lost $48 million of its pension funds, and other Syracuse-area unions representing roofers and operating engineers also reported losses.
Local 210’s pension board said the union had money invested directly with Madoff’s firm, and through investments managed by Madoff.
Before the international took control of Local 210, its former business manager, Ronald Fino, had the union invest in the Hyatt Regency Buffalo, and the former Radisson Hotel near the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
The letter to Local 210’s members from its pension board tried to put the best face on it, that some funds may be recovered, but experts have said for weeks that they fear that most of Madoff’s investors will never be made whole.
“Of course the situation is still developing, so we do not yet know the extent of the impact,” said the letter to Local 210 members.
“However, you should be aware,” the letter continued, “that the board of trustees is working closely with the funds’ professional advisers to monitor this situation and to pursue any recovery that is available.”