Thursday, June 17, 2010
MADOFF WITH THE MONEY
MADOFF WITH THE MONEY. Jerry Oppenheimer. John Wiley and Sons; 2009.
"The Madoffs were a family I thought I could trust. Now I want the man hung, I want the wife hung. I want the kids hung."
You know the story of Bernie Madoff and his incredible Ponzi scheme will eventually become a telefilm or big screen movie, hence the review of this book. [Al Pacino as Bernie?]
Madoff With the Money -- don't you love that title? -- not only goes into detail as to how Madoff bilked hundreds of "investors" of billions of dollars -- financing his and his family's cushy lifestyle -- but looks into his early life, and his parents, and shows how he seemed almost predestined for a life of fraud [not that there's any excuse for it]. What is most disgusting is that Madoff (and others like him, even those who got their money honestly) aren't content to live comfortably but insist upon a lifestyle of "conspicuous consumption" -- not just one beautiful home but four, not just one or two expensive cars, but half a dozen .. and so on.
Madoff's victims weren't just wealthy people or celebrities who might have to pass on an extra yacht due to their losses, but middle-class people who worked all their lives and hoped for some kind of pay off in old age. One couple wanted extra money so that their mentally disabled son could be cared for after they were gone, and now the cash they thought they could count on is kaput, never even invested. And there were hundreds of similar victims. Two men even committed suicide.
Madoff With the Money makes it clear that is is highly unlikely that Madoff acted alone and that other family members and associates at least knew what was going on. His relatives can act all outraged but it's more likely they just didn't want to deal with it as long as those checks kept coming in to pay for the fancy cars and houses. I have zero sympathy for them. Oppenheimer also offers interesting portraits of others in the circle such as Madoff's "entitled" homely niece, Shana.
The fascinating, fast-paced book is bolstered by many interviews, including one with a family insider.
Verdict: A non-fiction page-turner. ***.