For decades Madoff was a pillar of Wall Street, cultivating an exclusive list of investment clients including big banks, hedge funds and individuals.
These clients are all now scrambling to discover the extent of their losses, while the authorities are trying to determine why the alleged scam was not uncovered earlier.
The Journal quoted unnamed sources saying that French bank BNP Paribas, Tokyo-based Nomura Holdings and Zurich's Neue Privat Bank were exposed.
Among the long list of top-drawer investors taken in by the scam were the owner of the New York Mets baseball team Fred Wilpon and the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles American football team Norman Braman, according to the Journal.
Spanish newspapers reported Saturday that a fund run by leading bank Santander was also heavily exposed.
The Wall Street Journal reported that several funds of hedge funds -- which raise investments for hedge funds -- have taken huge losses.
"I'm wiped out," the Journal quoted Sandra Manzke, chairman of one such company, Maxam Capital Management, as saying.