Every day turns up an astonishing new detail of the incredible story of Bernie Madoff and his $50-billion Ponzi scheme: aside from Obama’s inauguration, New York can talk of little else. And some of the new angles are very odd.
It’s just been reported that Bernie’s late mother, Sylvia, herself had stock-trading troubles. In 1963 the Securities and Exchange Commission began a probe of broker dealers, including Sylvia, who had had her husband, Ralph’s business transferred to her, possibly because the couple was in financial trouble. Sylvia helped her husband out – at great risk to herself. The case was later dropped.
Then it turns out that 17 years ago, the SEC investigated a friend and feeder to Madoff, accountant Frank Avellino. The SEC believed Avellino was running a Ponzi scheme. He told investigators that most of his returns were being generated by Madoff. But the SEC checked Madoff’s books and could see nothing wrong.
Now it emerges Avellino has kept funnelling funds to Madoff all these years. His housekeeper is suing him for taking $200,000 of her money to invest (with Madoff) and then losing it. One thread in all this leaps out at me: the important role of women in this saga – and not just Sylvia Madoff.
Avellino met Madoff through Madoff’s father-in-law, Saul Alpern. The role of Ruth Madoff, a glossy blonde, has as yet gone unreported. But do we really believe Ruth knew nothing of her husband’s business? The couple spent an unusual amount of time together – just the two of them.
Then there’s Madoff’s sister, forced to move from her Florida home, so I am told, because of threats. Her son worked for Madoff. I know of at least one instance where a feeder fund was led by men who got to know Madoff through one of their wives.
Meanwhile Madoff’s son, Andrew, had divorce papers served by his wife Debbie the day after Bernie’ s confession. Yet the pair was seen happily shopping together shortly after. What, we all wondered, was really going on?
So while the daily reports of financial mismanagement are indeed gripping, what I really want to know is this: what do all the women in this saga have to say? Only when we hear from them will we properly unravel this bizarre affair.