Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bernie Madoff & Greed

After listening to Frontline on PBS, I made the following observations:
1. The rich are no wiser than the rest of us-- witness the French aristocrat who invested his entire fortune with Madoff and advised his royal friends to do the same.
2. Greed blinds.
3. Madoff used the social capital (affinity) of his friends, but offered none to them.
4. When the unregistered investment adviser, Michael Bienes, was asked if he ever questioned himself about earning millions just forwarding checks to Madoff he replied,”I’m a little too lucky. Why am I so fortunate? Then I came up with the answer ... God wanted us to have this and to be a conduit for good causes. .... God gave us this ,,,,”
5. Madoff was a marketing genius who understood how the human brain works. When any investor asked him any questions about his investment strategy, he simply offered to give them their money back. Few did, reasoning that there was no other place where they could earn as much. Their faith in Madoff’s black box strategy is akin to a child’s belief in Santa,
6. The failure of the SEC is emblematic of Bush’s public policy. So much for the “sophisticated investor” theory that was used to justify no regulation of hedge funds, etc.
7. In the end, Madoff's Ponzi scheme was brought down by large investors taking their money out faster than new money came in-- not because they questioned Madoff’s investments, but because they needed cash to cover their other bad investments.
8. What punishment is appropriate for Madoff? Perhaps he should be placed in the stocks in front of the NY Stock Exchange Building every day for the rest of his life. George Bush could be assigned guard duty to keep Madoff from being killed.

1 comment:

Kenneth said...

Following up on your point #6 -- What theory is to be subscribed to then to understand the place of investors and the power they wield? My favorite treatment of the investors was by John Munkirs in the Transformation of American Capitalism (1985). Do you know of anyone who as pushed that treatment into actionable policy recommendations? Or is there some other leading thinker that you might suggest?