Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bernie Madoff's Ponzi Scheme

The more I hear about Bernie Madoff, the more I shake my head. The common stereotype of a criminal is that he steals because it's easier than working for a living. And yet, look at what Bernie Madoff did to support his Ponzi scheme. He had, I think, something like 4,000 clients; and he sent every one of them a brokerage statement, showing assets, stock trades, etc., every month for something like nineteen years; and every one of those statements was completely fictional. He had to invent a consistent stream of data for each one of those 4,000 or so clients, and maintain it month to month, at least enough to keep them from getting curious. (Not that any of his clients was distinguished by curiosity or critical thought.)

How did he keep track of all this? Did he have it in a computer? Did he type stuff by hand? His accountant too - the "strip-mall accountant" - did they sit together in the office, making up stuff to put in the SEC reports? I've never had a job in my life where I worked so hard with so much at stake. I think he turned himself in so he wouldn't have to deal with those statements any more.


  1. How about the gleeful obsession of the naughty?

    You keep doing it because the profits keep piling up and you keep getting away with it. It's a self-generating game. Probably semi-masturbatory.

  2. yah, an elaborate deception like that is a distillation of the more general situation: Americans are victims of traders trading against all of us.

    and the outcome: