THE BLOG
05/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Raiders of the Rubber Chicken Circuit

Not another Ponzi scheme.

The lineup of disgraced financiers is growing. Danny Pang is the newest entrant. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal ("WSJ") reported that authorities are investigating his firm for...you guessed it...a Ponzi scheme. At stake are $4 billion in assets under the control of Private Equity Management Group.

The picture of Pang at a charity event in Los Angeles is classic. There's Pang posing with a star from "Desperate Housewives." For a $100,000 gift, you can get your picture taken with anyone. Apparently, this prerogative holds true even if the money isn't yours.

But that's not the point.

We find similarities every time a new Ponzi scheme is uncovered. Swindlers control the flow of information. They use sexy names to describe their investment styles, like Madoff and the "split-strike option strategy." And now, I would suggest a third example of recurring behavior:

Philanthropy.

Madoff, Sir Allen Stanford, and Pang were all noted for their largess among charities. They gave big and grew powerful through the patina of success, excess, or whatever. They became regulars at black-tie fundraising events, which begs one all-important question.

Wouldn't it be safer to leave formal wear in the closet and just write the check?