A top Securities and Exchange Commission compliance official who worked for the SEC when it found no problems at Bernard Madoff's firm in 2005, later began to date and married Madoff's niece, who was a compliance lawyer for the company.
A spokesman for Eric Swanson, who has since left the SEC, said Swanson "did not participate in any inquiry of Bernard Madoff Securities or its affiliates while involved in a relationship" with Shana Madoff.
"The Securities and Exchange Commission failed the American people," said Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).
Since 1992, the SEC has at least twice dismissed concerns about Madoff's firm, following complaints.
At a business roundtable meeting last year, Madoff boasted of his "very close" relationship with a SEC regulator, chuckling as he said, "in fact, my niece even married one."
A spokesman for Swanson, the former SEC official who married Madoff's niece and compliance lawyer, said Swanson met the niece "through her trade association work in the industry. Throughout his career, Eric has displayed the highest ethical standards and his reputation has been – and continues to be – above reproach."
Madoff formally registered with the SEC as an investment adviser in 2006, but the SEC failed to conduct the standard review that normally follows such a new registration.
Madoff made headlines last week when an unsealed criminal complaint in federal court in New York charged that he has been running a decades long Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of $50 billion dollars.
A former chairman of NASDAQ, Madoff was an investment advisor who catered to a handful of high net worth clients, one of whom told ABC News that Madoff was so sought after that, as recently as two months ago, he was turning down potential new business. His handful of clients routinely expected -- and received -- double digit returns, up market or down.
According to a SEC document filed in Jan. 2008, and cited in the complaint, the firm had between 11 and 25 clients for the fiscal year ending Oct. 2007 and managed about $17 billion in assets in 23 different accounts.
Bernard Madoff Investment Securities, in addition to that private client practice, is also a market maker that trades with other dealers in bonds, the S&P 500 and NASDAQ, according to Bloomberg News.
The firm was the 23rd largest market maker on NASDAQ in October, handling a daily average of about 50 million shares a day. The firm specialized in handling orders from online brokers in some of the largest U.S. companies, including General Electric Co. and Citigroup Inc., Bloomberg News reported.
But on Dec. 10, Madoff allegedly told senior employees at his firm that his entire business was a fraud. According to the federal complaint, Madoff told those employees that he was "finished" and that "it's all one big lie." Madoff estimated "the losses from the fraud to be at least approximately $50 billion," the complaint states.
At that time Madoff also told those employees that he intended to surrender to authorities, but before he did he planned to use $200-300 million he had left to make payments to "selected employees, family and friends," the complaint states.