Bernie Madoff may not be the biggest Wall Street money scandolier this century, but he certainly ranks right up there with Boesky, Milken, and others when it comes to the transgressive might of his offenses. Vaporizing $50 billion of his investor's cash while they believed he had their money earning returns from a hedge fund, Madoff convinced everyone in his own industry he was accomplishing the impossible. This was in New York City, where everyone watches everyone else make money and tries to figure out how.
But how could financial analysts not check into a notoriously secretive fund manager whose rate of return should have made him a PR god? Conventional wisdom painted Madoff as some kind of discreet wealth maker to the privileged few, an elitist who pandered to the self-deception of the wealthy that they are special and deserving of more entitlement and privilege than they already have. The entitled rich clients of Bernie Madoff were stunned when it was found out his financial bubble was phony. How could this happen to them?
Madoff taking the sentence and keeping his head low during rushes to court buildings isn't enough to stem the tide of Palm Beach Jews once again the outcasts because Madoff mismanaged their wealth. Madoff's victims were committing suicide and openly broke yet the contempt Madoff demonstrated for his financial swindle victims is jaw-dropping. Madoff's wife Ruth is sitting on some $60 million investors really, really, want to take a crack at. But Madoff insists "nobody else was involved".
But how could Madoff, a career criminal who may have been bilking his customers since the 1960's, not attempt to evade capture or flee while remaining in house custody instead of heading out of the country? Living in penthouse-arrest seems to suit the reclusive, formelry philanthropic Madoff. Bernie Madoff seems to have enjoyed the last 40-odd years living the good life and seems content to navigate the portals of justice and the numbing ennui of a trial simply out of a stoic but cynical resolution to go through the motions. Most offensive to many is Madoff's mien of normalcy, with the many lives and futures of others left wrecked in his wake.
Wall Street loves its lions. The ministerial officers of the keys to wealth and power dominate the New York City topography. But the image Madoff cultivated from the interior of the Third Street Lipstick building was discreet, so as to not alert others a money machine was ticking away like a time bomb inside. Madoff maintained a secrecy filled corporate environment with a cached inner office whose IBM matrix printer couldn't be updated because outside consultants would smell a rat in a flash at Bernie's "arrangements"
Madoff intentionally kept a printer whose network was not in sync with the rest of the company's. The custom printed bogus stock orders and sell tickets looked authentic, like some back office accounting issue from an office so tight with a buck they couldn't spring $30 at Best Buy. Madoff's unwavering 10% annual return and 1% monthly capital return on hedge fund investments never raised an eyebrow from New Yorkers and wealthy people around the world who believed they were becoming more wealthy every month. How Madoff must have enjoyed the idea that such phony people were themselves being palmed off with a scheme.
The mundane progression of discovery of Madoff's crimes seemed to turn over all the chess pieces on a Madoff's shifting game board. The Ponzi scheme had to find its Act V eventually. Madoff's creepy wife Ruth kept the books from his original stock brokerage and must have known something fishy was going on when a nebbishy Jewish stock analyst starting making record returns, and kept making them for decades. This Ponzi scheme went undetected in a city where the most brilliant minds in finance and financial trade instruments were invented.
Madoff's staunch denial that his sons knew anything about the crooked Ponzi scheme rings false, because they would have had to take notice that critical obligations via hedge fund returns were being made year after year with hardly any trades on the books. Once the chairman of the NASDAQ, Madoff seems to be somewhat content to spend his 70's in a Club "Fed" after decades gorging himself on the good life. By co-opting the members of his fellow Jewish community and the upper echelon country club elite, Madoff sold his shingle on subtlety and allowed the insecurities of wealthy people to make him rich.
What peons and country club patrons alike cannot fathom is the ease with which Madoff stymied the sharpest analytical critics in the world doing business in the City of New York. How did so many high rollers and people in a position to know better (and know better people to entrust their money to) give Bernie Madoff their money? Without the credit crunch of recent American financial markets, Madoff would be on Third Street today, printing phony financial statements. The cementing of Madoff holdings in offshore accounts has left almost every investor in an oubliette of chaotic debt or bankruptcy without demonstrable financial proof that Madoff vanished their money.
Worse than Madoff himself is the feeder fund entities whose customers were sacrificed at the altar of tiny slices of their net investment in Madoff holdings. How did Madoff, a schleppy New York Jew, bilk the Elie Wiesenthal Jewish Foundation without anybody noticing? Madoff himself may be disgusted at his scheming on some level, but it's hard to ignore that the bulk of his customers could afford to lose millions of dollars. The SEC was itself not impartial to the Madoff operation, which in turn compromised the ability of that office to govern fair trading practices in the City.
Madoff's operation was conducted in office suites high above the cloud cover in Manhattan. Green screen technology and printers from 1979 were stamping fake trading records and statements to be mailed to credible "clients". Investors long snowed by the paper trail happily pocketed their "extra" checks. Employees allowed into the inner sanctums of the Madoff operation probably printed fake statements and tracked phony records and client files for a decade or more.
At some point it probably became more complicated and more risky than it was worth, and Madoff couldn't get out. His deal making with the federal government may show leniency is the money magically reappears. The volume of accounts and the workload getting all that paper certification out couldn't have been done by one person. But where are the other guilty parties? Madoff's legal progress is obfuscated by his endgame, with a blank space where billions of dollars should be.
The media photos of Madoff show a slightly weary man navigating perp walks to and from limousines and Fifth Avenue archways. Madoff's psychology is hardly to be wondered at, since anyone convincing the most sophisticated minds in upper echelon banking and financial institutional investment that a smoke and mirrors game was sound banking probably wondered how he couldn'