Brooke Masters , 16 April 2021
When Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme collapsed in December 2008, $65bn vanished overnight, devastating tens of thousands of small investors, charities and religious groups who continue to struggle to this day.
The former chair of the Nasdaq stock market’s confession that his fabled investment company was “one big lie” came at the depths of the financial crisis and riveted global attention. Amid an alphabet soup of opaque financial products that had crashed the world economy, people could understand this crime.
Madoff, who died this week aged 82 in a North Carolina prison, was so hated that he wore a bulletproof vest in court. His saga has sparked at least five on-screen depictions, including portrayals by Robert De Niro and Richard Dreyfuss. “Underneath that facade, there truly is a beast. He has fed upon us,” Sheryl Weinstein, one of his victims, testified at his sentencing.
Though the scrappy broker turned Manhattan mogul was the chief villain, Wall Street and the financial capitals of Europe were tarnished, too. His apparent extraordinary run of steady, solid returns had raised red flags for years, but many hedge funds, banks and asset managers clamoured to profit from him rather than ask questions.