Until this week Bernard Madoff had a solid reputation built up over decades as a shrewd Wall Street money man. That was what he relied on to dupe investors.
Initial reports said he also kept the operations of the investment advisory side of the business secret, separate from the rest of his firm and under his exclusive control.
As a result he was able to persuade major banks, hedge funds and other investors – including many charities – to hand over billions.
He promises big returns, but as with all pyramid schemes, little or no money was made though investments, instead it came from new investors and what they put in went to the original investors.
Madoff says 50 billion dollars – 40 billion euros -has been lost. It is not clear how much he personally profited.
Gilles Du Fretay, who heads HDF Finance in Paris said investors and the authorities should have been suspicious earlier: “It’s difficult to get returns of eight to 12% per year when the markets are losing 30, 40, 50%. The disconnect in performance between Madoff’s fund compared with the markets should have been a worrying sign.”
Some on Wall Street were concerned about Madoff’s brokerage. The US regulatory body, the Securities and Exchange Commission, investigated Madoff’s firm twice – in 2005 and 2007 – but found nothing wrong.