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addabook - No One Would Listen
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No One Would Listen
A True Financial Thriller
Harry Markopolos
read on May 1, 2010

The Harry Madoff story is actually very interesting. I didn't know much about it because frankly, when the news first broke, the press didn't really make me care. They all focused on lame human-interest drama. The so-and-so-lost-their-whole-life-savings-boo-hoo angle. I just thought "diversify" and changed the channel. However, the story is really fascinating. Madoff ran a 60+ billion dollar hedge fund for 20+ years without ever making any investments, and without being caught! He never even was caught, and likely would not have been. The 2008 crises caused a flight to safety, and his non-fund obviously couldn't handle the redemptions, so he imploded. But still, the idea that such a big scheme existed is crazy- and there must be an amazing story behind it to read.

This book is not that story. This is one of the worst books I've ever read. I only made it to the end out of morbid curiosity.

This book is nothing more than a victory lap for Harry Markopolos, the absurdly annoying, egomaniacal douchebag who wants credit for bagging Madoff. Markopolos is a terrible writer. Really, really bad. I really can't believe the garbage that made it past the editors here. I love complaining, and I could go all day long on this guy. But I won't. I'll just leave it at this: Markopolos is not a writer or a journalist. He did some equations that led him to believe Madoff was a fraud, and then obsessed over them for ten years. Then he wrote a book about those ten years. He did no additional research for the book. There is nothing in the book about Madoff's actual operation. Just the facts that Markopolos thought were true, repeated over and over again and again and again- followed by much whining about how he was right the whole time and no one would listen and how he deserves everyone's apologies and recognition.

It is terrible. It is just awful. But the good news is that it made me curious about what actually was going on inside Madoff's "lipstick" building for all that time, and hopefully I can track down a legitimate book by an actual journalist that's interested in more than getting a shiny gold star.

One last thought: It's interesting that none of the big five investment banks had any exposure to Madoff. Markopolos makes it pretty clear that in speaking to people at those banks, and at many other sophisticated hedge funds, that pretty much everyone on Wall Street knew. Yet the SEC received "only" a half dozen or so tips about Madoff in the last ten years or so- five of them from Markopolos. Makes you wonder about where the incentives are for these folks. I mean, Madoff was competition, so I imagine anyone running a fund would want him out of business, since it was impossible to compete with him. But at the same time, if you knew he was a fraud, then doesn't it help you to have all your competitors money go down the crapper once it blows up? Interesting trade off, but it looks like the clear choice was that everyone in the know kept their mouths shut.

Author Bio:

Harry M. Markopolos (born October 22, 1956) is an American former securities industry executive and an independent forensic accounting and financial fraud investigator. He discovered evidence over nine years suggesting that Bernard Madoff's wealth management business, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, was actually a massive Ponzi scheme. In 2000, 2001, and 2005, Markopolos alerted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the fraud, supplying supporting documents, but each time, the SEC ignored him or only gave his evidence a cursory investigation. Madoff was finally uncovered as a fraud in December 2008, when his sons contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation. After admitting to operating the largest private Ponzi scheme in history, Madoff was sentenced in 2009 to 150 years in prison. In 2010, Markopolos' book on uncovering the Madoff fraud, No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller, was published.