When Bernie Madoff earned a reputation as a Wall Street savior, he also acquired an unusual nickname: “The Jewish T-Bill.” The nickname referred not only to the U.S. Treasury note (widely seen as an investment not to be missed), but also to Madoff’s estate. At one time, about 85 percent of its investors were also Jews, also known as members of the tribe, and included well-known individuals, charities, and institutions, from Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel to the women’s organization. Hadassah.
In the end it turned out that Madoff was actually running the largest Ponzi scheme in history. On December 11, 2008, he was arrested by the FBI, and his investors collectively lost nearly $ 65 billion, the largest scandal in Wall Street history.
This scandal is the subject of a new book, “Madoff Talks: Uncovering the Untold Story Behind the Most Notorious Scheme Ponzi in History,” by American business radio presenter Jim Campbell, union-level national, who had rare access to Madoff and his family. Interest increased when Madoff died in April, with the book published several weeks later.
In a telephone interview with The Times of Israel, Campbell called Madoff “a serial financial assassin” who “ended up with a lot of people, particularly many Jewish charities.”
Still, he said, “When I do interviews, they ask me how Bernie should see the world. The main goal of the book is that the system has failed. It allowed him to continue. To the extent that we say, “This guy did this bad Ponzi scheme for so long that it destroyed the lives of 16,000 U.S. citizens, 720,000 around the world” … that’s not the right way to look at it. He wasn’t a guy acting alone. “
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The author wants to present a balanced representation of Madoff, to whom he corresponded for more than eight years, while he was serving a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina. It reflects Campbell’s approach halfway and in depth as a radio presenter.
Over the years, Campbell has helped listeners understand complex issues such as the 2008 global financial crisis, which initially aroused his interest in doing a business-focused talk show. However, it was another thing to write a book about Madoff once McGraw-Hill took the idea.
Jim Campbell, radio presenter and author of ‘Madoff Talks’. (Courtesy)
In the end, he said, it was “just like the radio: writing the facts.”
The book incorporates Campbell’s access to three members of the Madoff family: Madoff himself, his wife Ruth Madoff, and their late son Andrew Madoff, who died of cancer in 2014. The couple’s other son, Mark Madoff, died by suicide in 2010.
The hard-to-get interviews that led to the book were “a series of fortuitous coincidences,” Campbell said.
It began in October 2011, when author Laurie Sandell unexpectedly related Campbell to Andrew Madoff, who was collaborating with her on a book. The second degree of serendipity passed that December. Campbell learned that Ruth Madoff was moving from Florida to her hometown, Old Greenwich, Connecticut. They gathered for lunch. As Campbell recalled, she came in with a coat and sunglasses, ordered a seafood salad, asked if she was connected, and ended up introducing him to her imprisoned husband.
“Bernie said,‘ My wife and son said you are a sincere person; I am happy to speak to dispel misconceptions [me]”Campbell said, noting that in fact Andrew hadn’t said” a word “to his father since the day before Elder Madoff was arrested.
In this photo from the April 6, 2009 file, Ruth Madoff is escorted for private security when she leaves the Metropolitan Correctional Center after visiting her husband, the dishonored financier Bernard Madoff in New York. (Photo AP / Mary Altaffer)
“If Bernie reported that Andrew said he was a good guy, he should have gone through Ruth,” Campbell said.
From 2011 to 2019, Campbell corresponded with Madoff, even through the Bureau of Prisons email system. Madoff showed what Campbell described as a lack of introspection and spoke of himself in the third person, including the memorable line: “No one knows why Bernie Madoff did this.” Campbell never got to know his correspondence friend in person and was denied a visit to the prison on three different occasions.
However, Campbell amassed 400 pages of correspondence and developed an ambitious idea.
“I wanted to make the first book on the general architecture of the case,” he said, calling it “a kind of detective.” Campbell imagined the first part that represented – in reverse chronological order – the day of Madoff’s arrest, his last months at work and his last year of work.
From temple to temptation
Throughout the book, Campbell explores the Jewish thread that runs through history.
Madoff was the son of a president of the Far Rockaway Temple, Queens, who began as an investor in convincing his in-laws, the Alperns, to deposit their money with him. When he lost his investments, he borrowed money and returned it, a precedent he would never repeat.
Over time, Madoff gained a reputation for making money rather than losing it, including among members of the Palm Beach Country Club after acquiring a home in the South Florida city.
“It was an affinity thing,” Campbell said. “[The club had a] largely Jewish members. Finally, all these members said, “Give your money to Bernie, it’s safe, you’ll earn 11% [returns] every year, it’s big, big, big ”. There were those who said they didn’t know how Bernie did it, he was probably not legal or honest, but he’s our boy, let him do it. “
“There needs to be trust,” said Campbell, who is not Jewish. “Jewish people have been expelled from every country in the world for 1,000 years. Within the Jewish community, do not defraud anyone financially. It was devastating … It was a crime of Jewish affinity.”
Illustrative: Bernard Madoff arrives at Manhattan Federal Court in New York on March 12, 2009. (Photo AP / Louis Lanzano, archive)
Meanwhile, Madoff eluded five investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. While running his Ponzi scheme, he ran a separate, crisp business in the same Manhattan office building.
“I found out he was running the two businesses side by side,” Campbell marvels. “One of the most ethical and one of the most corrupt on Wall Street, at the same time, in the same place.”
As Campbell explains, “the completely legitimate business on the 19th floor essentially hid the criminal business, which was locked on the 17th floor. Even his children did not have access.”
Descent and fall
Ultimately, Campbell writes, it was the 2008 financial collapse that brought Madoff down. It was left in the hands of government-appointed trustee Irving Picard to try to recover the stolen money for the victims. Ironically, Campbell points out, if regulators asked the right questions, they could have discovered Madoff’s mockery in all five minutes.
As for Madoff’s family, “I don’t think they were complicit in knowing the Ponzi scheme,” Campbell said. “They didn’t realize he had stolen money from customers.”
Andrew Madoff in an October 2011 interview with Morley Safer. (YouTube)
Despite not being aware of the Ponzi scheme, Campbell said, Madoff’s family was complicit in his lies, that is, the misrepresentation of Madoff’s investments, which Campbell considered illegitimate and contrary to protocol.
Campbell said he understood why Madoff received a 150-year sentence: “He died without telling the whole truth.”
Although he had described Madoff as a financial serial killer, Campbell noted that a real sociopath would not have used legitimate business funds to pay for family medical needs and home mortgages, as Madoff did. He also notes that Madoff avoided a lawsuit to save his wife’s anguish and potentially recoup more money for his clients.
‘Madoff Talks’ by Jim Campbell. (Courtesy)
According to Campbell, Madoff had “four big” investors who extended the longevity of his Ponzi scheme.
“From time to time they fed him money when he had a cash crisis,” Campbell said. “It simply came to our notice then. Jeffry Picower, the eldest of the big four, pulled $ 7 billion out of the Ponzi scheme. Bernie himself is only considered to have stolen $ 800 million.
Campbell’s book also considers whether Madoff, in addition to being an author, was also himself the victim of a tax evasion scheme that allegedly involved “all sorts of dirty money” from Eastern Europe. , Russia and Colombia.
“I didn’t know how much I knew the money was dirty,” Campbell said. “There was more to it than a Ponzi scheme.”
“Only a handful of people went to jail,” Campbell said. “Bernie was a. After he died three weeks ago, no one was still in jail for it … no one was fired from the SEC, eight people were degraded. He has that, you can’t just say it was Bernie. “
Campbell wonders what might have happened if Madoff had survived the 2008 financial collapse.
“He probably would have continued,” Campbell said. “I calculated until 2021. It would probably have had $ 240 billion if it had kept its 11 percent [rate] in this period of time “.