Bernie Madoff: Is He Now A Consumerist?

Or is Bernie the new Bonnie and Clyde? During the Great Depression, bankers were held in low regard by most of the country. After what banks had done to most folks, they liked the idea of B&C robbing banks. 80 years later, we consumerists hope for tougher regulation of and more transparency from the financial industry. We need help. Enter Bernie Madoff.

Who knows the industry better than Bernie? He has an insider’s view of the ineptitude of financial institutions and regulators who, for the most part, were either inept or quietly complicit in Bernie’s Ponzi. In an extensive interview published by the Financial Times*, he was in a talkative mood.

Otherwise known as Prisoner 61727-054 at the Federal Prison in Butner NC, Bernie has two jobs. His day job is to manage the prison commissary, renamed in his honor as the “money management department.” His other job is to set the record straight. It could be his Bonnie and Clyde moment. (FT also reports that leading business schools see Bernie as a resource for business ethics courses.)

According to him, the SEC missed the biggest Ponzi in history by missing his. He claims bankers preferred not to ask too many questions as long as they got good returns. If he keeps on talking, Bernie’s approval ratings might exceed Congress’s 23% and soar to rival Bonnie & Clyde’s at the height of their popularity. To keep his momentum going, some consumerist questions for and projected answers by Bernie:

Millions of consumers use JPMorgan banking services. You are pretty hard on them. Did they know what you were doing?

BM: They want to blame me for their diminished due diligence. Putting it all on me is a subject changer for them. Bankers always say they know what they are doing. They also know what other bankers are doing. They all knew what I was doing. I was making money every year. They read my reports.  I was making money—that’s all they needed to know. Look how well I did: My Ponzi was a beautiful thing for 16 years! I say to those guys, “Thanks for the memories!”

Is our money safe with them?

BM: As safe as ever. You’ll bail them out again when they bet wrong again.

There have been so many Ponzi schemes since yours. Is regulation already yesterday’s story?

BM: Regulation? ☺ Regulators know the rule: Regulate as little as you can as long as you can. My Ponzi was the record breaker. Compared to me, Mr. Ponzi was a piker. Makes me wish I were out of here and back out there.

Bernie, lots of smart consumers are New York Mets fans. Your former friend, Fred Wilpon, may lose ownership of the Mets because he trusted you. How do you feel about that?

BM: Now the fans know why Mets tickets cost so much. I guess Freddie was like the bankers, “Trust but don’t verify.”

*The full Financial Times interview is in FT’s Feb 9-10 Weekend Edition or available on its website:


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