Madoff Scandal Pits Ariel Against Ariel
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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Madoff Scandal Pits Ariel Against Ariel

The Bernie Madoff saga has dragged J. Ezra Merkin's Ariel Fund into the limelight, and John Rogers Jr. of the unrelated Ariel Investments isn't happy about it. Bloomberg's Erik Larson reports that Chicago-based Ariel Investments sent a cease-and-desist letter to Merkin on December 30 demanding a name change for his fund, in light of its association with Madoff and his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

"This mistaken association between Ariel Investments and alleged participants in a nationally publicized scandal has caused and continues to cause damage to Ariel Investments," the letter states, adding that the money manager holds seven federal trademarks to the use of "Ariel" in relation to money management.

Merkin spokesman Andy Merrill declined to comment to Bloomberg and said he wasn't aware of the letter.

The Ariel Fund and Merkin both face a lawsuit from New York University over its Madoff losses, and Merkin and his Ascot Partners face a separate suit from New York Law School.

Ariel Investments claims $7 billion in AUM, and founding CEO Rogers has seen his star rise along with that of his friend President-Elect Barack Obama, and Ariel president Mellody Hobson had once been mentioned as a possible successor to Chris Cox as head of the SEC, a job for which Obama has named FINRA chief Mary Schapiro as his choice (see MFWire, 11/6/2008, 11/10/2008 and 12/18/2008).

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