His crime was simple: collect money from investors, fake the returns, pocket the money, and repeat. His crime was the biggest: $20 billion in cash plus $45 billion of fake returns.
Should Bernie Madoff be the new name for evil? Christine Hurt of University of Illinois College of Law contrasts Madoff with the original Ponzi schemer, Charles Ponzi himself.
Judge Chin at the Madoff sentencing cast him with the label of evil:
Here, the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil, and that this kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not merely a bloodless financial crime that takes place just on paper, but that it is instead, as we have heard, one that takes a staggering human toll
His 150 year sentence is a staggering sentence for a non-violent crime. Financial fraud sentences are rapidly increasing in length and severity.
Perhaps, as Hurt point out, this increase in penalty is a reflection of the American society. We are now more afraid of outliving our retirement savings than of home invasion. (But not of people taking pictures of planes.)
Unlike the complexity of the WorldCom and Enron financial misdeeds, Madoff’s were much more straight-forward. It’s an easier story to tell the judge. It’s easier to lay the blame. Bernie kept his mouth shut and did not implicate anyone else.
We are already seeing the “Madoff” label being applied to other fraud schemes. Kenneth Starr’s fraud is being labeled “Madoff-Like.” other frauds are being called “Mini-Madoff.”
Maybe the Madoff label will stick.
- Hurt, Christine, Evil Has a New Name (and a New Narrative): Bernard Madoff (August 18, 2010). Michigan State Law Review, p. 947, 2009; U Illinois Law & Economics Research Paper No. LE10-021. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1661462
- New Paper on SSRN: Evil Has a New Name (And a New Narrative): Bernard Madoff by Christine Hurt in the Conglomerate