$7.2 Billion Settlement Announced for Madoff Victims

Irving Picard, the trustee recovering money for Bernard Madoff's investors, has reached a $7.2 billion settlement with the estate of a Florida businessman on Friday. The late Jeffry Picower was the single-largest beneficiary of the fraud.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who announced the settlement, called it "truly historic" and a "game changer" for Madoff's victims. "Although there is still some legal process that remains to be unfolding we expect to make a distribution to victims in the new year," he said.

Bharara said recovered funds will be distributed to victims by Piccard, in his dual roles as trustee for the bankruptcy and special master for the Department of Justice's remission and mitigation process.

Orlan Johnson, chairman of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, said the money will be distributed as soon as possible. "Meaningful sums of money that will be available to be distributed," he said. "That is what has been done and that is what we plan to continue to do."

In a statement, Picower's widow, Barbara, said her husband was "in no way complicit" with Madoff's fraud. She said the estate would return "every penny received" through Madoff investments.

Picower drowned after suffering from a heart attack in the swimming pool of his Palm Beach mansion in 2009.