Jewish Journal

Madoff Speaks from Prison

by Susan Freudenheim

February 16, 2011 | 9:18 am

In a lengthly, far reaching article based on Bernard L. Madoff’s first prison interview, which took place Tuesday, Feb. 15, as well as a series of emails from December and January, Diana B. Henriques reveals that Madoff believes some of the banks “had to know” what he was doing during the 16 years that he conducted his Ponzi scheme.

From the article, published in today’s New York Times and at nytimes.com:

“‘They had to know,’ Mr. Madoff said. ‘But the attitude was sort of, “If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.”’

“While he acknowledged his guilt in the interview and said nothing could excuse his crimes, he focused his comments laserlike on the big investors and giant institutions he dealt with, not on the financial pain he caused thousands of his more modest investors. In an e-mail written on Jan. 13, he observed that many long-term clients made more in legitimate profits from him in the years before the fraud than they could have elsewhere. ‘I would have loved for them to not lose anything, but that was a risk they were well aware of by investing in the market,’ he wrote.”

Henriques also describes Madoff as being surprised by how much harm his crimes had hurt his family, and said he was told he would not be allowed to attend his son, Mark’s funeral after Mark’s suicide in December because officials did not have enough time to plan for it, and because of “the pubic safety issue”.

The article also reports that Madoff has been working with Irving H. Picard, the trustee assigned to recover assets for victims of the scam, and met with Picard’s team last summer.

Reading the article, one comes away shocked both by his wonderment at his family’s pain and at his apparent lack of concern for his victims. While taking responsibility for his own deeds, he apparently doesn’t show remorse about the havoc he has wreaked on such a wide swath of people. This continues to be one of the most tragic, hate-filled and mesmerizing train wreck stories of our times, whose full outcome, as the claims continue to pile up, will not ultimately be determined for a long, long time.

Henriques is writing a book on Madoff “The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust,” which Times Books expects to publish in the spring.


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