Saturday, December 13, 2008

Madoff's scam straight out of crime comedy book: Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer

Obviously crime comedy lovers have their sixth or seventh sense proved right. The Madoff fraud affair on Wall Street is just like it is carried out by Harvey Metcalf who sells shares in a non-existing North Sea Oil producing company. A scam in which he creates exactly the same impression of a well-doing investment fund just like Bernie Madoff did.

Has Madoff read Archers' comedy?
Here the factual insight into the Madoff case:
Henry Blodget from Business Insider has done an excellent job shedding light on the conduct and behaviour. If not knowing it from Yahoo finance, here's the link (Silicon Alley Insider):
"I Knew Bernie Madoff Was Cheating"

Investors held the belief that Madoff was cheating somehow and assumed they would gain because of that. They would not expect a good old-fashioned that it actually was.

"Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less" was first published in 1976 and been reprinted several times since then. It is an evergreen. We have introduced it in
September on this blog, together with another similar crime comedy classic:
Wodehouse's: "Do Butler Burgle Banks?"

Such scandals, affairs, bankruptcies are, seen historically, time and time again pretty much the same in their core characteristics. The real differences are the scope and size, the amounts of money blown and gone. The amount embezzled between four investors in "Not a Penny more" came to $ 1 Million. 1976 was a time when £ 30,- for petty expenses were expenses, lots of money for that matter.

The same goes for "Do Butlers Burgle Banks?", written and published a bit earlier, and set much further back. A time, when a "deficiency" in a banks balance of say, £ 150 000,- was a mind blowing and existential problem. Whereas today it's billions, if not trillions.

It is probably the much smaller amounts of money at stake or lost in those yesterdays books that make them so easy to read, to understand what is really the core problem. Those billions currently coming up are really a psychological hammer, it takes a while to come to terms, get a clear mind again to tackle the principle problems, criteria, beginning with accounting standards and so forth.

The goal of the heroes in Archer's story is to get all money back
to the cent. And indeed they came close to it more at the end
(but not the very end!):
"He still owes us $ 101 and 24 cents."
"DISGRACEFUL", said Jean-Pierre, "Burn the place down."


Henry Blodget continues to do a great job:
The Perfect Ponzi

And Nina Burleigh sees it from a satirical point of view in the Huffington Post:
Madoff in Manhatten

(Our copies of crime comedies are sold out at the moment, we have to refer potential buyers to the net.)