Who is Bernie Madoff, and how did he pull off the biggest Ponzi scheme in history? These questions have fascinated people ever since the news broke about the respected New York financier who swindled his friends, relatives, and other investors out of $65 billion through a fraud that lasted for decades. Many have speculated about what might have happened or what must have happened, but no reporter has been able to get the full story - until now.
In The Wizard of Lies, Diana B. Henriques of the New York Times - who has led the paper's coverage of the Madoff scandal since the day the story broke - has written the definitive book on the man and his scheme, drawing on unprecedented access and more than 100 interviews with people at all levels and on all sides of the crime, including Madoff's first interviews for publication since his arrest. Henriques also provides vivid details from the various lawsuits, government investigations, and court filings that will explode the myths that have come to surround the story.
A true-life financial thriller, The Wizard of Lies contrasts Madoff's remarkable rise on Wall Street, where he became one of the country's most trusted and respected traders, with dramatic scenes from his accelerating slide toward self-destruction. It is also the most complete account of the heartbreaking personal disasters and landmark legal battles triggered by Madoff's downfall - the suicides, business failures, fractured families, shuttered charities - and the clear lessons this timeless scandal offers to Washington, Wall Street, and Main Street.
©2011 Diana B. Henriques (P)2011 Tantor
"Henriques offers an impressive, meticulously reported postmortem not only of the Ponzi scheme but also of Madoff's entire career.... The Wizard of Lies is the definitive book on what Madoff did and how he did it." (Bloomberg Businessweek)
"In The Wizard of Lies, Diana Henriques, who covered the Madoff scandal for the New York Times, offers a riveting history of Mr Madoff’s shady dealings and the shattering consequences of his theft.... She offers a raw and surprisingly moving portrait about the toll that Mr Madoff’s deceit took on his family." (The Economist)
"Entertaining.... Cogent and well researched, The Wizard of Lies is an engaging narrative…. [The book] reveals many moments where Madoff might have been stopped. But his investors were too trusting or too greedy to ask the right questions, and US regulators were too cowed and too disorganised." (Financial Times)
The Wizard of Lies tells the story of the Madoff Ponzi scheme, but its a story in two acts. The first act is predictable; how Bernie Madoff got started, how he developed his scheme and how he managed to fool very sophisticated investors into believing that consistent, steady returns could be obtained without ever incurring a loss. That story is worth the trip alone, but it's really Act Two in the book that is equally compelling. That portion of the book tells the story of what happened after Madoff was caught (or gave himself up - he was never really "caught" although he should have been many times before his ultimate demise). That story tells the continued greed of the defrauded investors, with the "net winners" claiming that they were entitled to what turned out to be ill-gotten gains at the expense of the "net losers." The efforts of the bankruptcy trustee to recover as much money as possible for those who lost money given to Madoff is as fascinating, and complex as the story of the original scheme. Sorting out the truly "innocent" victims from the opportunists was no easy task.
The narration by Pam Ward is smooth and she keeps the narrative going. As so little of the book is "dialogue" she does not resort to different voices to help the listener distinguish the participants. However, with slight inflection changes, she is able to convey the essence of some of the key players, for example, the arrogance of the two original accountants who profited off of Madoff's scheme and left before the house of cards came crashing down.
There are some shortcomings in the book. Madoff's purported investment strategy is mis-described by the author at some points, so if you already know the finer points of option trading, you will be slightly jarred to realize that the writer may not fully understand what Madoff claimed to be doing. However, for the listener not schooled in options, this is a minor point and should not distract from the story.
Where do I start on this one? Recently I have found myself watching American Greed on MSNBC which shows some pretty interesting tales about scammers and con-men, making a living off the hard work of others retirements, investment portfolios and cold hard cash. It’s interesting to me because I still wonder how people get duped like they do when there is so much out there on investing and retirement which would lead me to believe that even a high school graduate should be safe from these predators. Maybe not. People like Bernie Madoff are professional con-men because they’ve honed their craft after years of manipulation and confidence in their victims. Social class has no boundary for these professionals and the evidence in Madoff’s $60+ Billion scam is clear.
A few years back I read a book about the real Ponzi (Charles) written by Mitchell Zuckoff whom outlined the story behind the moniker. In his case, he genuinely started out straight as an arrow, trying to make money by buying and selling Postage overseas and selling it back in the United States. When it didn’t work, well, he had to do something and the scheme was born. Many years later Madoff, following a similar code of ethic, shocked the world when his billion-dollar scheme unfolded.
The story was interesting but it seemed the entire tale could have been told in the first and last chapter of the book. The story opens with a decent outline of what was happening and how he turned himself into a crook and then how he decides to turn himself in. And the last 1-2 chapters talks about him, his family and friends, and how they all cope(d) with the ordeal. It was really quite interesting. The 10 or so hours of dialog in middle which seems to go on and on about who was affected and who wasn’t, who was fighting the schemes involvement and who wasn’t, and who should get paid from the proceeds of Madoff assets and who didn’t was mind numbing at times. It just kept going on and on. And it didn’t help to have a reader sounding more like a scorned lecturer than anything, driving home points from the story in her condescending voice which was very taxing at times. Maybe that was just me.
The book was OK and I’m not disappointed I took a chance on it. I would recommend the title only if you have the patience to get thru the hours of minutia that make up the bulk of the background story. Oh sure, there will always be another con man and there will always be people who would rather place their money with them than in a name like Fidelity or Vanguard. But there will never be another $60 billion scam artist like Madoff or will there?
Diana Henriques exhaustive research paid off in learning almost step by step how Madoff pulled off one of the biggest financial Ponzi schemes in the history of the U.S. It is unbelievable how much money Madoff and his "feeders" made and how many people and institutions were affected and wiped out.
This is a long term read and at times confusing, but overall a terrific learning experience of what not to do with financial advisers and secret tips.
This is a great book, offering a thorough account of Madoff's Ponzi scheme. It helped me understand what I believe is the most pressing question raised by the whole affair: how was Madoff able to fool so many people for so long? The performance was very good.
As Madoff inched closer and closer which be inevitably be the end of his scheme, I was completely engrossed in the story. I was utterly enthralled and horrified as the layers of Madoff's scheme started to unravel.
I really loved this listen. The material was very detailed, but fascinating. I would get lost for hours in the Madoff scheme, with each antic becoming even more horrified as he hurtled towards the end and by the fate of those he brought down with him.
I would highly recommend.
I have listened to the whistleblower's book and the daughter-in-law's memoir & now The Wiz of Lies. The other 2 books were good - whistleblower's was very good - but the Wiz of Lies is the best. It gave a very overall, balanced look at madoff & explained complicated concepts so that the general public could understand them.
As another reviewer indicated, there is a whole story in the bankruptcy case, including the battle between factions, some well-moneyed and -lawyered, over the funds in (or possibly to be clawed back into) the bankruptcy estate. I came away with a new admiration for the bankruptcy trustee and his team, for their standing up to the pressure brought to bear in the courts and media, and doing (what they saw as) the right thing.
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