Madoff

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The financial crisis of 2007-08 left many individuals and institutions scarred for life. What began as a seemingly curable flu slowly transformed into a pandemic that devoured many a prestigious, long-standing financial institutions across the world. Casualties were several – from inconsequential entities to world-cup competitive ones. When Lehman brothers went down on 12th September 2008, the usual suspects for the tumult were not too difficult to nail – greed, towering leverage, oversight, misconceptions, etc. Typically, the major financial institutions were caught in the eye of this maelstrom. However, for the first time the events of December 2008 turned the spotlight on an individual. His name was Bernard L. Madoff, chairman of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BMIS).

Until the news broke on 8th December 2008 that he had masterminded the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, Madoff’s status in financial circles was as revered as it was enviable. Madoff’s capture shared a tantalizing analogy with  a thriller movie wherein the guy you suspect the least turns out to be the culprit.

Madoff’s capture shared a tantalizing analogy with  a thriller movie wherein the guy you suspect the least turns out to be the culprit

Madoff, for one, had a reputation that preceded him and credentials that were formidable enough to blow away any mortal being. He had served on the executive committee of the NASDAQ and was also the chairman of the board for several years. To his clique of investors, he was nothing less than a demigod. Nonetheless, Madoff’s human frailties got the better of him and in the end, marooned him for life.

The bursting of Madoff bubble created waves everywhere, even the world of business literature was awash. Much had already been written about the global financial meltdown, sub-prime goof-ups, credit freeze, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers. Madoff’s $50 billion grand betrayal had everyone scurrying for a piece on him. Peter Sander, the author of  “Madoff: Corruption, Deceit and the making of the world’s most notorious Ponzi scheme”, I speculate, must be the one of the few who got there first. Candidly, Peter Sander’s “Madoff” is by no yardstick a biography on Bernie Madoff. It can’t even be credited with a complete, inside-out, threadbare research of Madoff’s scandal. Yet Sander deserves the applause for having written an intelligible and unambiguous book.

Madoff scandal broke on 8th Dec, 2008. And by the references in the book, it’s quite clear that the author had wrapped up his research on Bernie Madoff and his dirty work by January 2009. There is no doubt in my mind that the author was in a hurry to publish this book. After all, when it’s a $50 billion con game exposé, you can be rest assured that even those resting in the graves would be itching for the low-downs. Right from the first chapter, Sander gets down to the brass tacks. He expands upon the various con artists that existed before Bernie Madoff and reasons why Madoff is the granddaddy of them all.

Sander takes the readers through the facts, whatever little were available by January’09 end about the scandal. He relies on a lot of assumptions and second-hand confirmations, the credibility of some of which could be dubious. I admire the  author for his forthright attitude in his admission of the lack of availability of facts. That said he leaves no stone unturned when it comes to research. From the interviews of whistle-blower Markopolos and the members of Jewish charity foundations whom also Madoff duped to the excerpts of various reports including the FBI charge-sheet against Madoff, Peter Sander lets everything roll.

 “Madoff” is abound with invaluable pieces of information. As a reader, you can glean a lot of information about the financial world not just Madoff. Author has quite elaborately outlined the following in the book – Madoff’s self-proclaimed style of investing, history of SEC and its functions and role in Madoff Scandal, Hedge funds and why aren’t they regulated, functional differences between NYSE and NASDAQ and various financial concepts. Finally, Peter Sander’s Madoff is not a play by play account of the scandal or the man himself, nonetheless, it’s a very well-though-out and well-written book. Read this one or wait for the yet-to-be-published tomes on Madoff and his scam.

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