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Comment: Man's legal action over Madoff may well prove fruitless

Man Group, the world's largest listed hedge fund management firm, says it plans to take legal action over its exposure to the fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff. 'We will be suing the people involved,' says Man chief executive Peter Clark. 'We will be looking for remedies on behalf of our investors.'

The London-based group was one of the first businesses to admit exposure to the fraud, revealing last month that its institutional fund of funds business, RMF, had around USD360m in funds directly or indirectly sub-advised by Madoff. According to Man, this equates to just 1.5 per cent of RMF's total funds under management.

But one must asked what Man Group hopes to achieve through litigation. Like other companies involved in fraud cases, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, is unlikely to yield a vast store of cash or assets, and in any case the recovery and distribution of assets will be the responsibility of the US authorities. Even if Man wants to establish a principle by taking legal action, it won't win its investors a larger share of the proceeds, if any.

However, Man's move will certainly help one group of people, the legal profession. It is not true to say that lawyers are benefiting from the crisis - they are experiencing their share of redundancies - but the increasing litigiousness of disgruntled investors on both sides of the Atlantic will certainly keep more lawyers in well-paid work over the coming years.

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