Aug

21

 CHA$INGMADOFF

Directed by Jeff Prosserman

This was on Reuters on 18 August 2011:

*Madoff Trustee Adds Claims in $2 Billion UBS Lawsuit*

08/17/2011 5:55:34 PM ET EDITOR'S NOTE:

This story has been updated throughout. NEW YORK (Reuters)—The trustee seeking money for victims of Bernard Madoff's fraud on Wednesday [Aug.17]…

Bernard Madoff made off with over $50 Billion in funds tendered him for investment over the past two decades or so. The billions came from other hedge-fund brokers, financial people, huge charities, schools, synagogues, and average working Americans. He had no actual investments, as it turned out, because he worked the classic Ponzi scheme: He continually brought in new dupes, fresh money, and paid off older 'investors' with the proceeds of his newer pigeons. His white-collar predators included bankers, international lieutenants, and sundry henchmen, all of whom 'fed' clients to the steely mastermind who heisted a larger sum than any single such dealer in history.

When Madoff, at the end of his machinations and available new marks, surrendered to the authorities in December of 2008, thousands of investors, big and little alike, suffered devastating losses. Often, in fact, their entire lifetime savings.

One persistent investigator tried matching the vaunted Madoff figures 'way back in 1999, and they made no sense. Harry Markopolos, a one-time Boston securities analyst, made it his quest to expose the clear fraudulent dealings of this highly public, highly venerated 'investor,' Bernard Madoff, acquiring a team that worked with him doggedly as he amassed mountains of documentation against the venerated, avuncular silver-maned guy with the seemingly magic touch. If Madoff accepted you, you never seemed to lose. Your earnings accreted month after month, nary a dip or a blip in the chart. The team—Marcopolos, Jeff Sackman, Randy Manis and Anton Nadler, with the legal help of Indian lawyer Gaytri Kachroo, dubbed The Foxhounds—pursued their quarry relentlessly. Years. The documentary makes frequent allusions—maybe too many—to the Eliot Ness/Al Capone /pas de deux/ in the mid-century. Though Chicago's Capone was a known criminal, and Madoff's Manhattan machinations remained shrouded and mostly unsuspected until his public arrest.

Strangely, after submitting piles of documentation, Markopolos found that no one would touch the story. /Forbes/ turned him down. The SEC ignored his repeated efforts to get their response to the ongoing fraud. Wouldn't touch it. Wouldn't return his calls. Markopolos became (understandably) frightened for his own safety, and that of his wife and adorable young twins. In the end, if it does not mar the film's unspooling too much, these cute 6-year-olds think their dad is their "hero," thinking he has "stopped a bank robber." Though they admire Spider-Man just slightly more.

 The tracery of the past decade of the team's effort makes this a compelling story. Interviews, personal recollections, plus highly stylized /mise en scene/ presents as a slightly overblown thriller that raises the ultimate questions: Can ethics exist under capitalism? Can greatness be achieved morally? Whom can we really trust?

Why did people fall for Madoff's charm, scheme, whatever? The average Joe cannot do the due diligence needed to unearth the likes of this mega-operation by a swindler who headed up NASDAQ. He seemed unimpeachable. The SEC seemed to be going about its bounden duties. And his unreal returns spoke louder than rationality. Getting into the game, when everyone was told "he has a closed shop," made surmounting the fencing even more alluring, if you will. Who doesn't relish the idea of being the last one to scoot under the wire before they clang down the *No more* mesh grating sign?

It happened. And Madoff is not the last of the predators by a long shot, though he is serving a 150-year sentence. There are still the unscrupulous, of course, and many hundreds who aided and abetted Madoff are still at large; according to the titles, 300 or so. The SEC, now peopled by new faces, witnessed the testimony, and many of the guilty resigned. But that is scant comfort to those who lost…everything, and at 75 or 80 had to go back to a McJob to pay their monthly rent.

Based on the book, *_No One Would Listen_*, by Harry Markopolos.

(John Wiley & Sons)
 


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