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A new commentary every Wednesday - May 24, 2017

THE WIZARD OF LIES: Bernard Madoff

    As my wife and I began to watch the powerful HBO study of the man identified in the film as the principal perpetrator of a record breaking scam by those engaged in the arrest and prosecution of wrongdoers by the criminal justice system—in this case the FBI, which arrested the man who carried out the most injurious Ponzi scheme* ever,  I couldn't help asking myself if a rehash of the crimes and artifices of Bernie Madoff and his long-suffering wife Ruth would be worth watching?

    "The Wizard of Lies" television program, directed by Barry Levinson, is based on a book of the same name written by Dianna B. Henriquen.

    You probably were among those who watched TV, as crews of FBI employees carried out carton after carton of files and electronic gear from Madoff's Wall Street brokerage offices, and you followed the story through the time when JP Morgan Chase bank shelled out $2.5 billion to cover their liability in this matter. Yet, even after he confessed and was sentenced to 150 years in prison, many facets of the story remain unanswered. What was the root cause of the monumental scam?

    Bernie made off (pardon the irresistible play on words) with an estimated $65-billion, much of it forced upon him. Whatever his plan was, it failed miserably. He lost all of it—including  three sumptuous homes, that were later sold to repay debtors a pittance. A man once regarded as the Wizard of Wall Street was instead a wizard of lies. Until the final moments when everything came crushing down, people wanted to believe in him; could not believe what he had done—even to close friends and family.

    You may remember the tumultuous scene on television news when Madoff and a phalanx of bullies attempted to force their way into his office, but couldn't penetrate the wall of desperate investors laying siege to the main entrance to his firm. Madoff, wearing a billed-cap covering what remained of his once curly locks, joined in a shouting and shoving match. At this stage, everything he did was pointless and fruitless.

    The worst of all things took place: A son committed suicide.

    Thousands of investors feared there were no assets—and for good reason, but this inevitably raises a question: Why did it take so long? Why didn't a long list of someones... including the Federal Security and Exchange Commission, JP Morgan Chase Bank, a whole raft of markets, including the NYSE and NASDAQ, smell a rat?

    Someone among our readers may have had their life savings plundered and were in the courtroom when he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison who may be willing to admit that their own greed ought to be blamed.

    I was one of the scufflers in the crowd who was exposed to the story of this psychopath from 2008 to the present. Nevertheless, the film is riveting. I recommend it highly, It is the best performance that De Niro has done since his magnificent performance in "Raging Bull." Between these two films, De Niro has been guilty of making a quick million or two for acting in a number of flimsy attempts at humor. In Wizard of Lies he can make you believe you are watching the real Bernie Madoff.

    "While the production spends comparatively little time on the thousands of people he devastated, including those in his own family...no one, including the producers and director Barry Levinson can explain the reason why he did what he did." -Josh Bell, "The Las Vegas Weekly."

   *Carlos (Charles) Ponzi, an Italian Immigrant, who in the early 1929's gave his name to a fraudulent investment scheme whereby investors were paid fabulous returns by raising new funds from new suckers, and not from profits earned by the conman's company. There were days when Ponzi took in $250,000. He died in the charity ward of a Brazilian hospital in 1949, at the age of 67.


  -Phil Richardson, Observer of the human condition and storyteller. "He goes doddering on into his old age, making a public nuisance of himself." - Joseph L. Mencken



Miguel: Narcotraficante

The life of a narcotics trafficker for one of Mexico's brutal drug cartels. Available in paperback or for any computer, including Kindle eReader—Only from http://www.amazon.com (Enter "miguel: narcotraficante" in the Amazon.com search window). Sample it free.

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