16 December 2008
The repercussions from the collapse of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, whose founder and owner was arrested last Thursday after admitting that his $17 billion investment advisory business was "a giant Ponzi scheme," continue to widen. According to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI and a civil action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the elderly Madoff estimated that the losses from his fraud exceeded $50 billion. The tally of losses already reported by banks, hedge funds and wealthy investors climbed over the weekend to nearly $20 billion.
Banks and hedge funds around the world—in the US, Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland and Japan—are reporting hundreds of millions and even billions in losses. University endowments, charities and other institutions that entrusted their money to Madoff or to hedge funds that invested in Madoff's company are reeling from the news that their investments are worthless.
Prominent and wealthy individuals—including J. Ezra Merkin, the chairman of GMAC, Fred Wilpon, the principal owner of the New York Mets, Norman Braman, the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles professional football team, Frank Lautenberg, the multimillionaire Democratic senator from New Jersey, and Mortimer Zuckerman, the owner of the New York Daily News—are among those who have lost millions. Among the thousands and even tens of thousands of individuals likely to be affected is no small number of retirees of relatively modest means whose life savings were tied into Madoff's operation.
The fallout from the Madoff scandal will inevitably result in the failure of other investment firms, impacting thousands more individuals and hundreds more businesses.
Madoff's scam could not have been carried out without the complicity of the highest echelons of the financial elite and the government.
US officials now allege that Madoff was engaged in a Ponzi scheme—using new...