From the New York Times, Saturday, December 20, 2008:
"Mr. Madoff's higher profile in the highly competitive world of hedge fund management intensified the skepticism about his remarkably consistent returns. Rival money managers complained that when they sought to replicate his trading strategy based on the statements the Madoff firm sent its clients, they found it wasn't possible.
There was a scattering of inconclusive regulatory investigations-efforts so unavailing that the chairman of the SEC in Washington has ordered an internal investigation to determine how the agency could have missed so many red flags and ignored so many credible complaints over the years."
In one sense, Bernard Madoff is us. A man who built a business, a reputation, a fortune, American-style. He was the go-to investment counselor to some of the most prominent Jewish wealth and cash-rich institutions in America. Eventually, he built an international clientele. Eventually, he consulted for the SEC itself on electronic trading. People who spent life times, even generations amassing money and assets cautiously and wisely, turned to this man. They trusted him implicitly. Some actually knew Madoff personally. Many did not.
Madoff promised them results. He is believed to have set up an illegal scheme that would help him fulfill that promise. Madoff himself became rich and admired while pursuing that goal. Now people are beg inning to know the real Madoff. A man who wanted to shield his clients from reality. In a sense, we made Madoff. This society and its desire for results and more results. The disease of more.
The mechanism that helps us to verify the claims of individuals in any market place, to know what we need to know to function and to make the essential decisions, is called regulation.
Years ago, you bought your meat from a man you knew. Now, you trust that a company miles away is doing its best to protect you. Not putting profit over public health and safety. You have government agencies that are meant to insure that this is so. In the investment world, there are mechanisms in place to keep an eye on people. all people. Madoff included. Some people thought this would never happen to them. Some of those people voted for Bush. Twice. The Bush legacy: the Chairman of Merrill Lynch, John Thain, just got paid $83 million. With your bailout money. The company lost $7.8 billion in 2007. Merrill got $10 billion in bailout money.
The Bush legacy: No regulation. A free-for-all. Market anarchy. You could not assemble a worse group of public officials into one presidential administration.
Americans are hard working people. And they are governed, especially lately, by absolutely shiftless, contemptible, even criminal trash. Let us hope that the new administration will be a brave one. Let us hope that they will not shield us from the truth.
That inauguration cannot come quickly enough.