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I’m really glad I spent about a week looking at Bernie Madoff as part of my investment savings opus.  Maybe you have known people like that.  I know I have.

The television movies are great.  And now–the bottom fell out in late 2008–with all that time there is plenty out there in the way of books, documentaries, and interviews.  The truth has probably surfaced as much as it will given everyone involved has either told their story or died like Madoff himself.

It is very likely it wouldn’t have ended like it did if not for the economy and stock market.  It is called the Great Recession because it was deeper and more severe than most, having a lot to do with subprime mortgages, real estate values, and banks.  The stock market, as judged by the S&P 500, was down by half.

The FBI agent turned TV commentator has a name for it but the description, the characterization, is what really counts.  He did do it virtually all by himself.  He is a person who, try as you may, just didn’t care.

There is a tie to Judaism–the Holocaust, Armageddon, call it what you will.  Have you ever known someone like that?  Madoff said it himself, he thought it would be like 9/11.

Someone somewhere compared him to Charles Manson and there was some kind of response from Madoff in jail.  He reminds me of Aaron Hernandez.  You are judged by the number of people dead, in jail, or otherwise hurt as a result of your life.

There’s also a link to the very rich.  Some got away with it and got richer; others took a hit including the ultimate one, suicide.  Others too were greedy, bad investors, or who knows.  To think you are going to ride out that kind of recession and cut your losses is pretty dumb.  My late husband insisted Bernie would take care of me is really dumb.

Some people were given and may have been happy with 10-12% per year which is obtainable over the long run (not during 2007-2009).  Others were given or were expecting 15-20% which is not realistic.  It is extraordinarily uncommon and if that is what you anticipate you are more than likely going to get burned.  There is quite a bit of truth to the notion that you deserve it.

Put another way, you’re expecting to live off your money.  You’re expecting to live show-off, I don’t care, I’m better than you rich off your money.  That is fueled by greed and, in this case, crime.

The money, or savings, should be to live on.  After that it is up to you to find something more.


“A con artist is always going to con” the NY Times reporter who talked to him in jail said.  That is the first conclusion.  Anything he says has to be taken with a grain of salt.  He hasn’t said much and apparently he never did.  He is not much of a storyteller.  Many people have said his unique gift was to remain calm and lie.  Greed took care of the rest because people came to him.

Not only were there no records of all the trades on the “advisory” side of the business, there were no expert portfolio managers.  Madoff himself has never displayed a penchant for stockpicking.  There was no marketing per se either (no staff) as Madoff himself and his feeder people, companies, and funds.  An unusually large portion of the money was foreign.  If there ever was a marketing plan it would indicate best prospects as Jews and wealthy foreigners–Wall Street, steady returns, and the strength of the dollar would be attractive.  The air of “society” and “I want in” helped also.

If the TV movies are any indication the sons wanted in.  How could they sit right outside Madoff’s office and be excluded from all these private meetings?  Brother Peter–portrayed as being bought off–was apparently satisfied as defacto COO.

The guy wasn’t close to anyone.  Everyone seems to agree that he lived in his own creepy world.  He was unequivocally the leader and even the sole proprietor, but what was his motive?


Queens high baroque.  This guy has a bigger expense account, and has written more words on Madoff, than anyone.

“I had to sell my home because of Bernie,” says one investor, who had considered herself a close friend of Ruth’s. “Quite frankly, I don’t know whether she knew or not—and I don’t know which is worse. Either way, it’s a tragedy for her. He’s ruined a lot of families, but none worse than his own.”

Did she know?  I think it is a matter of plausible deniability, or degrees.  It isn’t a way to run an investment company, keeping clients’ money in general funds, not keeping records of where and how the money is invested, and writing checks to everyone including yourself.

She knew to a degree.  Would it be a correct statement to say that she never made a dime in her life (married at 18) that was not provided by Bernie Madoff?  She depended on him, and trusted him, for everything.

It took her a while to be herself and do the “right” things on her own.  “I don’t know which is worse,” one of the many quotes (above) said.  She just couldn’t, herself and on her own.

And here’s where there is some separation.  Is she criminally or civilly guilty?  No.  Did her faith, trust, and probably greed lead her in the wrong direction…

When you start to hear the same kinds of things from different people, years apart and with no link at all except Madoff, it gains life.  Rather, it shows life and who he really is.

Earlier he was not handsome, athletic, or particularly smart.  His roots and probably future success was link was linked to Judaism.

He has a slight stutter.  In interviews–they are rare–his speech is on and off, disjointed, and difficult to watch.  In what little I’ve seen, I can’t really tell what he is saying.

He has a bit of a social problem.