Bernie Madoff

The bits of wisdom Florian Homm picked up during his stay in Colombia, where he was getting some “me time” and not trying to distance himself from angry investors whose money he’d lost, can be found in the book he wrote about living underground (“Kopf Geld Jagd”), which he hopes will be a “hard-core wake-up call” readers who are “trying to get a second Mercedes and a bigger boat.” For those who can’t wait for the English version, from an interview with the Times we learn: Read more »


  • 25 Jun 2012 at 12:56 PM

Mutual Fund Managers Have The Wrong Skills

We’ve talked a bit before about how there’s a booming academic business in papers finding that investment managers do or do not add value versus non-managed alternatives like passive indexing or keeping your money under your pillow and just burning a constant percentage of it every month. Part of why that’s a thing is that the data can be prodded, smooshed, or cherry-picked to say many different things, and so they are. I enjoyed this paper about mutual funds by Stanford GSB profs Jonathan Berk and Jules Van Binsbergen (NBER today here, SSRN in April here) in part for its discussion of data problems, which starts with the fact that they used the industry-standard (in the academic-papers-about-mutual-funds industry) CRSP database and compared it to Morningstar data because “even a casual perusal of the returns on CRSP is enough to reveal that some of the reported returns are suspect.” Suspect like:

We then compared the returns reported on CRSP to what was reported on Morningstar. Somewhat surprisingly, 3.3% of return observations di ffered. Even if we restrict attention to returns that di ffer by more than 10 b.p., 1.3% of the data is inconsistent. An example of this is when a 10% return is accidentally reported as “10.0″ instead of “0.10″.

That is one way to get alpha. Anyway they look at the data using a (strangely) unusual metric of dollar value added, which is roughly alpha (gross excess return over some investable benchmark, in this case a Vanguard index fund) and multiplying it by assets under management, the intuition being that making 1% excess return on a $10bn portfolio is more impressive than doubling your $10 bet at the craps table. And they find that mutual fund managers are better than controlled money burning by the thinnest of margins: Read more »

  • 11 Jun 2012 at 2:56 PM

So Allen Stanford Might Be Going Away For A While

U.S. prosecutors have urged a judge to send convicted financier Allen Stanford to prison for 230 years, calling him a “ruthless predator” whose $7 billion Ponzi scheme was among the most egregious frauds ever undertaken. Such a sentence, the maximum recommended under federal sentencing guidelines, would be 80 years longer than Bernard Madoff got in 2009 for his Ponzi scheme, and according to prosecutors reflects Stanford’s place as “among the greediest, most selfish, and utterly remorseless criminals.” Stanford’s lawyers are seeking a prison term of 31 to 44 months for their client, which could result in his immediate release because he has already been in custody for three years, according to the government. [Reuters]

You know what has got to suck? When you decide to start charging stuff that doesn’t fall under “business expenses” to your corporate card and engage in a few other amateur hours scams that probably would have gone unnoticed (or, if discovered, not taken to the authorities because the boss had high tolerance for fraud) but then they are because the CEO of your firm had to go and engage in the largest Ponzi scheme on record, which shone an uncomfortable light on company personnel and all of the cheese, popcorn, and salsa of the month clubs you joined (for example).  Craig Kugel knows what we’re talking about. Read more »

  • 21 Mar 2012 at 3:27 PM

Bernie Madoff Not Feeling Wilpon Settlement

Convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff was “desperately disappointed” that the owners of the Mets chose to settle the fraud lawsuit brought on behalf of victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, CBS News reported Wednesday. “He wrote me last weekend that he was so looking forward to that trial,” said Diane Henriques, author of the book “Wizard of Lies” which detailed Madoff’s fraud. “He was hoping that the Mets’ defense would make the case he was making to me that they had no reason to doubt Madoff.” The trustee for Madoff’s victims, Irving Picard, was set to argue at trial that Mets owner Fred Wilpon, once a friend of Madoff and a longtime investor, was willfully blind and chose to ignore signs that Madoff was producing fraudulent returns. Henriques told CBS that in recent emails from prison Madoff blasted Picard, who was seeking more than $300 million at trial. “He calls Picard a fool, an amateur, says he doesn’t understand the market, says he never understood the market, that he’s just lost on Wall Street,” Henriques said. [NYP]

For about a year now, Bernie Madoff has been holding court with various members of the press about something that’s been plaguing him: the fact that few people if any are willing to give credit where credit is due. Yes, he may have pleaded guilty to a $50 billion crime that ruined countless people’s lives, including those of his wife and children, one of whom committed suicide as a result, but he did a lot of other stuff too, like run a “successful business” for which he won lots of “industry awards” during his “legitimate years.” And, yet, everyone seems to forget all that when his name comes up, much like they conveniently forgot about how Mussolini made the trains run or time, or how Hitler built those wonderful autobahns, or how Ted Bundy made women feel special. And since he’s serving a 150 year sentence, Berns has had lots of time to ponder why his years of legitimate achievements go unmentioned and the one thing he keeps coming back to? Irving Picard, who’s pulled a fast one on you all, by suggesting that Bernie’s crime started wayyyyy before it did, when, in fact, Madoff Securities was only running a Ponzi scheme for barely even 20 years. Examine the evidence Madoff shared with Forbes contributor Diana B. Henriques via email:

Jan. 17, 2011 11:05 A.M. … Also remember that the U.S. Attorney admitted that they had no evidence that the crime started in the 80’s and could establish that Montauk and the N.Y. homes in Ruth’s name were not purchased with tainted funds …

Mar. 10, 2011 7:35 A.M. … I would love to know what evidence [Picard] has to date my crime back to 1983 … THE FACT IS THAT THERE IS NONE.

8:05 A.M. … I say once again the fraud started in the 90’s …

Mar. 18, 2011 9:26 A.M. … I guess I’m obsessed with this START OF CRIME ISSUE.

Don’t you see, idiots of the media?! That’s the real issue here. Not the crime itself but the start of the crime. Do the math. Read more »