Washington Post rounds up the Bernie books


The Washington Post also has a roundup of three of the recently released Madoff books, “too Good to be True by Erin Arvedlund, “Betrayal” by Andrew Kirtzman and Madoff With the Money by Jerry Oppenheimer.

The combined review of the three books recounts some of the tales that each of the books share, like the false book report Bernie gave in the tenth grade.

But for me the review is interesting insofar as it gives a little insight into a lot of the folks who invested with Madoff:

"We thought he was a god; we trusted everything in his hands," said Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate whose foundation lost $15 million when Madoff’s scheme

collapsed. In a panel discussion in Manhattan, Wiesel called Madoff a "liar" and a "swindler" and a "scoundrel," but explained that "there was a myth that he created around him, that everything was so special, so unique, that it had to be secret. It was like a mystical mythology that nobody could understand."

Madoff carefully nurtured that mythology, his "velvet rope" image: Not just anyone could invest with him. "Bernie was the Studio 54 of money managers," Oppenheimer quips. He constantly turned down eager investors. The fund was closed, he’d say, or he would insist on a $2 million minimum.

The irony is that Ponzi schemes live off a steady stream of cash; old investors are paid off with fresh funds from new investors. But playing hard-to-get worked. "There’s nothing that sounds more exclusive than saying you don’t need someone’s money," a banker told Arvedlund. "That was his shtick. He would rope them in, taking a small amount of money at first, and then hundreds of millions."

Investors, who included relatives and employees, routinely ignored the red flags that in hindsight seem so evident: Madoff’s insistence that no one disclose their business relationship with him; his less-than-top-notch accounting firm, a one-man operation working out of a strip mall 45 minutes outside New York; and most of all, those insane returns, consistently reaching double digits and sometimes hitting 18 to 20 percent, year after year. The regularity of those bogus returns made Madoff seem like a safe investment; some called him the "Jewish T-bill."


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