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Bernie Madoff Case Study

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The Fraud of the Century:
The Case of Bernard Madoff

The fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff which was discovered in December, 2008 is based upon a Ponzi scheme. Madoff took money from new investors to pay earnings for existing customers. The greater the payout to retiring and withdrawing customer, the more revenue or clients he would need to start and “investment relationship” with Madoff. The Ponzi scheme was named after Charles Ponzi who in the early 20th Century, saw a way to profit from international reply coupons. International reply coupons were a guarantee of return postage in response to an international letter. Charles Ponzi determined that he could make money, legally, by swapping out these coupons for more expensive postage stamps in countries where the stamps were of higher value. While making a significant profit with this system, Ponzi got the idea of enticing investors to provide him more capital to trade coupons for higher priced postage stamps. His promise to investors was a 50% profit in a few days. Touted as a financial wizard and the ‘Warren Buffet’ of his day, Ponzi lived outside Boston, he had a fairly opulent life bringing in as much as $250,000/day. Part of Ponzi’s success came from is personal charisma and ability to con even savvy investors. The promised payout was supported by the new investors anxious to take advantage of these robust returns because he appeared to create an image of power, trust, and responsibility. In July of 1920, the Boston Post ran an article exposing the scheme and soon after, regulators raided his offices and charging him with mail fraud knowing that his fabricated investment reports were mailed to his clients. The foundational operating principle of a Ponzi scheme is that you must constantly attract new investors to pay the old investors the ‘gains’ they were promised. Most Ponzi schemes...

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