I was all set to write about dating during a recession and how I'd rather stay home and watch Law and Order re-runs than date but this morning's breakfast hosted by Portfolio magazine at "21" and serving up Bernie Madoff on a hot plate was clearly worth morning mascara and undereye concealer. I hotfooted it over to a room packed with every New York high-profile name you can imagine (I even saw Dan Rather in the crowd).
New Yorkers are spoiled because we have access to instant news and the people who make it, so getting us quiet and anticipatory on the edge of our seats isn't easy — until you hear Elie Wiesel talk about Madoff. It wasn't just that both he personally in addition to his foundation lost everything, it was that this is a crime so despicable Wiesel will never forgive Madoff — and this from a man who has forgiven a lot in his life.
While we tried to tout out labels like psychopath and sociopath, Wiesel called him a common thief and a crook. And when asked what punishment would be appropriate, Wiesel imagined perhaps solitary confinement with a video screen that played pictures of his victims... over and over again.
It was former SEC chair Harvey Pitt's take that Madoff didn't act alone and while no one had time to push that further, I want to know why Ruth (the wife) Madoff is out shopping for cigars and still nesting with him in their East 64th street apartment, while so many have lost their homes?
Tina Brown, editor of the The Daily Beast, questioned whether this could have started as a mob plot with Bernie early on becoming dependent on them for money ultimately leading to this huge scam. While no one yet knows the details, someone in the crowd optioned Tina's suggestion as a screenplay.
While outside New York, everyone thinks we all invested through Madoff, in truth most of us had never heard of him — or as someone said, perhaps no longer want to admit it. I sat at a dinner recently surrounded by legendary Wall Street names as well as a man whose name is synonymous with the security (not securities) world and no one knew of him.
Unfortunately, until more details come out, at this point all I can do is walk by his apartment every day on my way to the gym and wonder what the heck is going through his mind. Most of the crowd today still feels he's a psychopath and no punishment — including stoning — will ever be enough. I think all of us at the breakfast today left trying to figure out how we could work in waterboarding...