BOOKCASE: Madoff: The Man Who Stole $65 billion

• Erin Arvedlund
• Penguin
• RRP $30.00

When you think about the crooks you know, if indeed you know any at all, it is surprising what high percentage of them look the part. By that, I mean, they don’t look like crooks at all.
For an outstanding and real-life example of what I mean, consider Bernie Madoff, the 71-year-old fraudster who pillaged billions, 65 in fact, from his closest friends and others of his extensive Jewish congregation. Bernie, with his authoritative bearing and soft, silver locks, was every inch the respectable Wall Street banker he was supposed to be.
Madoff’s eventual confession that he was indeed the architect and caretaker of the world’s largest ponzi fraud, his consequent right to remain steadfastly silent, his sentence of 150 years in jail and host of other intriguing revelations, are deliberately documented in Erin Arvedlund’s book, Madoff: The Man who Stole $65 billion.
The book is more interesting than illuminating. Madoff’s silence makes it impossible for even conscientious researcher like Arvedlund to get access to some of the really interesting details – like what made him do it?
The author had been on to Madoff for quite some time. She wrote about his “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach to avoiding explanations of his investment strategy back in 2001.
This is book of mad and sad revelations. Madness on the part of both punters and American Securities Exchange Commission officials who were obviously swayed by Madoff’s charisma and confidence. And sadness from the gruesome accounts of those who entrusted everything to him, and lost it. There are compelling tales aplenty here.
Arvedlund’s approach to her subject is professional, questioning (of his family who deny any knowledge of “Uncle Bernie’s” wrongdoing), and respectful (though not tear-jerkingly so) of those who found themselves separated from their often hard-earned cash. It is well-balanced and nicely written account of the working-style approach of man who, unlike his victims, was never self-delusional and knew exactly what he was doing. Why, however, remains mystery.
Madoff is “whodunnit” which, unfortunately, we know the answer to. The other questions, such as how exactly, why and with whose complicity – questions which are usually answered in the last pages of good crime novel – are not answered here.
The lack of classic crime novel ending doesn’t detract however. This is another excellent holiday read. • Reg Birchfield

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