At the time of his death, Chais was under investigation for his involvement with Bernard Madoff. The manager of three investment funds that channeled money to the notorious Ponzi schemer, Chais told investors -- including director Stephen Spielberg -- that the impressive returns of up to 25% were the result of careful hedging and sage stock picks. Chais also invested his own funds with Madoff, and received even more astounding dividends: According to a lawsuit filed by Madoff bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard, Chais' personal return on investment averaged 40% and sometimes soared to 300%.
Facing civil fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission, a lawsuit from California Attorney General Jerry Brown, and the Picard lawsuit, Chais claimed that he was unaware that Madoff's business was a house of cards. However, Picard's lawsuit alleged that Chais' family had withdrawn $1 billion from their Madoff account between 1995 and 2008, making it hard for the money man to paint himself as a victim. In response to his SEC charges, Chais asserted that they should be dropped, as the regulatory agency had given credence to Madoff through its own inefficiency and failure to capture him.
The circumstances of Chais' death were far less suspicious. Suffering from a rare blood disease, he moved to New York from Los Angeles to receive medical treatment. According to his wife, he was receiving regular dialysis treatments at the time of his death.
CORRECTION: The individual depicted in the photograph erroneously accompanying this article earlier was not Stanley Chais.