The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Bernard L. Madoff and his company, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, with securities fraud for perpetrating an alleged multi-billion-dollar Ponzi-style fraud on their advisory clients. The SEC alleged that Madoff himself had described his firm as "a giant Ponzi scheme" that paid returns to certain investors out of principal from other investors, and that he had told two of his firm's senior employees last week, "It's all just one big lie." (According to The Wall Street Journal, the two senior employees were Madoff's sons.) The commission also said that Madoff had estimated that the losses from the fraud were at least $50 billion. "We are alleging massive fraud," said SEC Director of Enforcement Linda Chatman Thomsen. The commission noted that Madoff's company had $17 billion in assets at the beginning of 2008, according to regulatory filings, but that "virtually all assets of the advisory business are missing" now. According to a Bloomberg News report, Madoff's entire company was audited by a three-person accounting firm, Friehling & Horowitz, out of a tiny office in a New York city suburb -- a circumstance that so alarmed a hedge fund advisor that it warned clients away from investing with Madoff. Madoff, a former chairman of Nasdaq, was arrested by federal agents last Thursday morning, and released on $10 million bail, according to his lawyers. At the SEC's request, a federal judge appointed a receiver to secure the firm's accounts and assets.

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