Disgraced financier Bernie Madoff will become infamous for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding investors of $65 billion over decades.
Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 felonies including securities fraud and money laundering in 2009. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison and died 12 years into his sentence at the age of 82 in April 2021.
“He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the middlemen. He had no values,” former investor Tom Fitzmaurice said at Madoff’s sentencing. AP News. “He cheated his victims out of their money so that he and his wife… could live an incredibly luxurious life.”
Netflix plans to revisit the scam that rocked the 2008 financial crisis and explain how Madoff used his status as a respected money manager to pull off the ruse in a new four-part docuseries.Madoff: the Wall Street monsteron the streamer on January 4.
The series chronicles Madoff’s rise to power and the poor oversight that allowed the scam to flourish. So far, only $14 billion in recovered funds have been distributed to the victims, per ABC newsand the effects of Madoff’s fraud are still being felt.
Here’s everything you need to know about Madoff and his infamous Ponzi scheme.
Who was Bernie Madoff?
Before Bernie Madoff became a Wall Street powerhouse, the New York native had humble beginnings. After growing up in Queens and attending Hofstra University, he started Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities with just a few thousand dollars.
The company traded penny stocks in the 1960s until Madoff convinced family and friends to invest with him, using an investment strategy called a split-strike conversion. He promised big returns to his clients and he delivered, but he kept all the money in a single Chase bank account. After decades in business, he became one of Wall Street’s largest and most respected players.
Madoff was also instrumental in launching the Nasdaq, the first electronic stock exchange, in the 1970s, and he even collaborated with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the project, per The protector.
He later became chairman of the Nasdaq in the 1990s. That, coupled with a high return on investment, gave him the credibility investors needed to trust him with their wealth. Some of his most notable investors have included Steven Spielberg, Kevin Bacon, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
What did Bernie Madoff do?
Bernie Madoff’s legitimate business endeavors and stature diverged from a $65 billion Ponzi scheme hidden behind the scenes. A Ponzi scheme is when investors are told their money was going to be used for investment opportunities but was in fact given as compensation to previous investors, in other words, Madoff robbed Peter to pay Paul.
The dark side of his company was hidden on an entirely different floor of his office that had very limited access, even Madoff’s sons who worked at the company were reportedly unaware.
To keep his ruse going, he printed fake monthly statements that showed steady double-digit returns.
Despite several warnings to the SEC about the too-good-to-be-true nature of Madoff’s business, his power in the industry and the billions of dollars involved allowed the scheme to thrive for years to come.
What happened to Bernie Madoff?
The woes of the 2008 financial crisis prevented Madoff from continuing his Ponzi scheme with investors scrambling to get their assets back. He knew the game was over when he only had $300 million in investor money in his account, so he told his sons that the family business was “all one big lie,” according to AP News.
His sons, Andrew and Mark Madoff, subsequently reported him to the FBI, and Madoff was arrested the next day. He pleaded guilty to several counts of fraud in March 2009 and was released on $10 million bail. Months later, he was sentenced to 150 years in prison.
After being slapped with the highest possible sentence, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said, “Here, the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extremely vicious and that this kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not just an anemic financial crime that only takes place on paper, but it is instead… one that takes a dizzying human toll.
Twelve years after Madoff’s sentence, he died behind bars due to “natural causes related to his poor health,” according to the outlet. He turned 82 years old.
“Nobody sees this as a big loss,” said Jerry Reisman, a lawyer who represented some of Madoff’s victims at the time. “No one will mourn Bernie Madoff. They are glad they survived him.”
Madoff’s son Mark committed suicide on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest in 2010, and his other son Andrew died of cancer in 2014. His wife, Ruth, is still alive.
What was Bernie Madoff’s net worth?
Before Madoff’s empire collapsed, ABC news reported that Madoff and his wife, Ruth, had a total net worth of $823 million at the end of 2008.
According to the outlet, assets consisted of $22 million in homes in Manhattan, The Hamptons, Palm Beach and France, plus $17 million in cash, $45 million in securities and his $700 million investment business.
After Madoff was convicted in 2009, a judge ordered him to forfeit all of his property, real estate and investments, in addition to $80 million of Ruth’s personal effects, leaving her with $2.5 million, according to AP News.
Bernie Madoff posthumous net worth is estimated at negative $17 billion.