The Story of Bernie Madoff's Shockingly Simple Ponzi Scheme

Believe it or not, Bernie used to be well-respected in the world of finance.

That is, until he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 150 years in prison. So how did he get go from revered businessman to a despised con man?

Here's the story.

Madoff started an investment firm in the 1970s and developed stock-trading technology that was later adopted by NASDAQ (the first electronic stock exchange). At this time, his firm was raking in about $100 million in annual revenue.

That's plenty of money... right? Well, I guess not for Bernard.

He let greed take over and decided that executing the largest Ponzi Scheme in history was the best move. Bold.

A ponzi scheme basically works by getting initial investors to contribute money, continually bringing in new investors, and then paying early investors with money from the new investors. The majority of the invested money is kept by the organizer of the ponzi scheme - meaning that continuously bringing in new investors is the only way to keep a ponzi scheme going

He leveraged past relationships to establish credibility and used psychological tricks such as exclusivity & turning down new investors to create a stronger desire to invest with him.

He successfully weaved his way through SEC investigations over the years, until 2008 hit. Investors wanted their money. But since nothing was legit, he didn't have it. He confessed to his family when he realized it was all over, got turned in, and sentenced to 150 years.

For all of this to happen, he had taken investor's money that was supposed to be invested, and deposited it into a Chase bank account that he could use. It was also used to send funds whenever existing investor's requested redemptions - he would falsify documents to show investors their returns. It's estimated that there was over $5 billion dollars in this one account before the 2008 market crash.

In total, he scammed investors out of ~$65 billion.

Some of the notable investors who fell victim to the scheme were Steven Spielberg, Kevin Bacon, and Larry King.

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