Billion-Dollar Questions on Madoff Must Be Answered

The Evening Standard (London, England), March 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

Billion-Dollar Questions on Madoff Must Be Answered


Byline: Chris Blackhurst CITY EDITOR

BERNARD Madoff must hope that, by pleading guilty, he draws a veil over his frauds.

That must be the only explanation for his behaviour. It's not like he is going to get a shorter sentence that will make any difference to him -- he is 70 years old and he will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in jail.

His bluff should be called: the investigation must continue because there are gaping holes in the Madoff affair.

We're led to believe he acted entirely alone, that he created false tickets for investments he never made, to cover up his giant Ponzi scheme -- using money from some investors to make payments to others.

Impossible. While Madoff was a control freak and obsessed with detail, nobody can keep a handle on a scam of such magnitude and complexity.

Prosecutors say the US government is trying to recover up to $170 billion ([pounds sterling]121 billion) in assets from Madoff which, they say, is equal to all the money that ran through accounts linked to the scheme.

He is thought to have cost his clients $50 billion (the widely published figure for his clients' losses). If so, what did he do with all that money? One theory is that he blew it, gambling on the markets. But traders have a shrewd idea if someone is posting large losses. Every trade has a counterparty -- with every buy or sell order, there is someone on the other side.

However, Madoff never crossed their radar.

Or he invested the cash in traditional securities -- in which case he wasn't wiped out. He may have had a bad 2008 -- he finally broke down about his "big lie" to his sons at the end of the year -- but the Dow did not fall that much.

Over the 12 months prior to his arrest it was off more than 30% -- a significant drop but nowhere near a total wipeout. …

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