"Please understand me" says Bernie Madoff

Yes, he manipulates, deceives and deludes,
but read him in your own words to decide.

Bernie Madoff, the man who led the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, just wants you to understand him. He wrote letters from prison to Diana B. Henriques, the author of a book on him called The Wizard of Lies:
Whatever his motives, he displays the same talent for manipulation, deception and delusion that served him so well in his criminal life. Sometimes he transforms himself into a victim–the dupe of malevolent clients or prosecutors. One of his biggest regrets, he tells me, is not having gone to trial to tell his side; it seems not to have occurred to him that he would have been publicly eviscerated in court. He mentions repeatedly, and seriously, that he stands ready to advise lawmakers on regulatory reform. The offer’s absurdity escapes his stunted sense of irony.

He remains obsessed about his image. He insists that he was once an honest and successful trader, before unscrupulous clients–people, he says, “I foolishly trusted”–forced him to take on losses, then failed to make him whole on deals gone bad. As a result, he argues, he sank into crime. When did this take place? Madoff is fuzzy about actual details, calling it his “riddle.” It occurred, he says, sometime after the 1987 market crash, but before 1992, when he claims his Ponzi scheme began.

Madoff dishes out a lot of blame, heaping little on himself. He reserves special contempt for feeder-fund managers who invested with him and bankers who handled their accounts: Their over-the-top greed, he suggests, blinded them to obvious signs of fraud–and, therefore, they deserved their fates. Others come off as fools who cannot grasp the basics of a trader’s life–chief among them Irving H. Picard, the bankruptcy trustee trying to track the cash that flowed through his fraud and distribute it to its rightful owners.

If people could only understand him, Madoff seems to be saying, they might not demonize him. He starts an Oct. 11, 2011 e-mail to me this way: “I hope you understand that I am in no way trying to rationalize my terrible behavior.” A ray of conscience? Hardly. Near the end of that e-mail the clouds of self-deception close in again, and Madoff turns himself into a pitiful martyr: “I made the tragic mistake of trying to change the way money was managed and was successful at the start, but lost my way after a while and refused to admit that I failed at one point.”
Read the rest of the article: Exclusive: The Secret Madoff Prison Letters, Forbes>>

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