International Writers Magazine: A New Yorker Diary
Fraud, Moral Fibre and Madoff
the old saw goes, Whom the gods would destroy they first make
mad. Today Bernard Madoff of Madoff Investment Securities,
a $50 billion investment firm catering to institutional investors
and very rich (not any more) people was exposed as a huge ponzi
scheme, and its founder arrested. Fifty billion up in smoke
As W.C. Fields
once said, "You cant cheat an honest man." Now that
the authorities have made the streets safe, using computer projections
and pins in maps to deploy police, they should start to station cops
in board rooms to arrest lawyers and accountants. Gone are the days
of 3-card Monty idiots shuffling nut shells on a milk crate. All the
gangsters have moved indoors to target a much more lucrative class of
Somebody ought to build a statue to this Bernard Madoff for bringing
down an absolutely repugnant class of people, who defined themselves
into social classes determined by gradations of wealth. Ugh!
It was a cult of money, with Madoff as the priest of greed. How do you
define somebody who invests his whole family fortune with a guy who
tells him, "Dont ever ask me what Im doing with your
money, because I wont tell you."
I wouldnt trust a guy like that with five bucks.
There have been great scam artists throughout history. Ivar Kreuger,
the Swedish match king, came to the aid of European governments in exchange
for the monopoly on manufacturing matches in their countries, then he
sold debt securities based on the income from the loans and from the
match production. Ultimately he sold too many bonds, and when the Depression
hit he had to turn it into a Ponzi scheme. When the law closed in on
him he blew his brains out in his Paris mansion.
Another fantastic crook was Serge Stavisky in France who bribed bankers
to issue letters of credit based on imaginary assets of gold and jewels
locked in safety deposit boxes in their banks. Nobody could check if
the collateral was really there because it was locked in safety deposit
boxes, get it? Stavisky bribed judges and government ministers to keep
the cops and prosecutors off him, but it couldnt last forever
and eventually his erstwhile friends decided that they would sleep a
whole lot better if he were eliminated from the scene. Stavisky was
found with a bullet in his head in a chalet in the French Alps, while
an honest magistrate who had been doggedly pursuing him was also found
dead a few miles away. The resulting furor caused the collapse of the
French government and rioting in the streets.
Stavisky had style. His story was made into a movie in which he was
played by Jean-Paul Belmondo with Catherine Deneuve for his mistress.
If they decided to make a movie about whats going on here in New
York, it would have to resemble Its A Mad Mad Mad World
with a cast of thousands of idiots. You dont have enough funny
comedians to fill all the roles.
Its like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels times a hundred. Calling
Madoff the biggest thief in history is letting all those other jokers
off the hook. What about AIG and the $140 billion that vanished there?
Or the $750 billion investment bank bailout? The current thievery goes
back to Ken Lay and Enron. People are so fickle. They only care about
the latest thief.
We need a freakin Pantheon of Thievery, like a Caesars Palace
with marble statues, a special hall for embezzlers like Conrad Black,
insurance fraud for AIG, securities fraud, hedge fund fraud. These guys
are like gods of crime and they deserve their own temples with statues
and virgins burning incense.
The times we are living in today require new mega-jails for the millions
of attorneys, accountants, brokers, auditors and crooked regulators
who need to be locked up. Maybe that old movie Escape From New York
was right after all. Just throw up a fence around the place.
The New York Post calls it the biggest fraud scheme ever. I suppose
theyre differentiating it from the banks collapsing, or AIG defaulting
on $140 billion, which they dont regard as fraud but just witless
stupidity. We are being propelled headlong into some kind of socialist
nightmare, not because of a mastermind like Lenin or Chairman Mao, but
because people are just too stupid to manage their own affairs. People
are getting stupider, not smarter. It must be something in the water.
Archeologists determined that the collapse of Rome was partly due to
people going mad because of lead poisoning from the pipes used to construct
the citys aqueducts. Judging from the societal freefall I am witnessing,
I believe that people are getting progressively stupider with each passing
day because of environmental pollution.
Nobody is right in the head anymore, this writer excepted, naturally.
Lets examine the facts: Super Bowl champion Plaxico Burress shoots
himself in the leg, missing his nuts by inches, with a gun in his waistband
that went off while he was adjusting his pants in a nightclub. The ensuing
coverup includes his teammate Antonio Pierce, who hides the gun for
Burress until he can hand it off to Burress wife, who is an attorney
and who now risks being disbarred for participating in the coverup;
the doctor at Cornell Medical Center, who risks losing her medical license
for treating Burress for a gunshot wound and not notifying the police,
as she is legally required to do; the hospitals top administrator
who professes to be ignorant about the procedure for reporting gunshot
wounds to the police. As a result, Burress was suspended for the season
without pay, indicted for felony weapons possession, which is punishable
by up to 3 years in prison, forfeits a million dollars that he was supposed
to receive this week from the Giants as the last payment of his $4.5
million signing bonus. What a genius! To make matters worse for the
Giants, the next day their star defenseman, Shaun Ellis, was busted
for transporting marijuana while speeding in his car without a valid
license or insurance in New Jersey, and then they lose to the Eagles
when Dominick Hixon blows an easy pass reception with nothing between
him and the goal line except the ghost of Bill Belichick.
But anybody who believes that our sports stars are the only ones who
are off their rocker should take notice of the French rugby champion
Marc Cécillon, who got twenty years for emptying a .357 Magnum
into his wife at a dinner party and killing her in 2004. The appeals
court judge, a woman, reduced Cécillons sentence from twenty
years to fourteen, citing extenuating circumstances he was drunk
when he did it. If Plaxico Burress went to court in court in France,
the judge would probably rule that he already suffered enough and award
him damages. Nevertheless, when I see an item like this, it only confirms
my conviction (maybe I shouldnt use that word) that people are
losing it. The legal profession not being exempt from this general deterioration
of the spirit, Marc Dreier, the founder of a law firm with 250 attorneys,
was caught red-handed in Toronto trying to impersonate a Canadian pension
fund manager in an attempt to swindle a hedge fund out of $100 million.
Any American who thinks that he can impersonate a Canadian to another
Canadian is out of his mind. This guy was so used to putting it over
on other bogus New Yorkers that he was completely divorced from reality.
Now he is in jail. Frankly, Id prefer to work for a living.
Then theres the story of the attorney who got shot standing up
for the honor of his dominatrix. The New York Post ran a photo
in its print edition of him wearing a garter belt and fishnet stockings
but yanked it from its web site, probably at the insistence of his law
firm, Paul Weiss, which probably did not feature the idea of its attorneys,
even the deceased ones, being featured in the paper wearing girls
panties. Anyway, Paul Weiss, a place this writer knows well from having
worked there for a couple of years, is a well-known 50-storey nut house
of perversity and perversion, the alleged recipe for advancing there
being that you have to be practically totally illiterate and totally
off your rocker, which criteria did not fit me at all, which is why
I eventually got shown the door. Just to show you, that firms
star alumnus, none other than Im a freakin steamroller,
Eliot Spitzer, the governor who wore black socks for banging hookers
while his justice apparatus was railroading people to jail for doing
the same thing.
Now the latest little divertissement which is being served up to entertain
the public, even as the whole country is being sucked down the drain,
is the Illinois governor, Blagojevich, whose main offense seems to be
that he spits in the eye of political correctness. The Republicans are
trying to indict him, though he has committed no crimes, and the Democrats
are trying to impeach him because he uses a lot of profanity. Well,
I dont think any of that is going to happen. Im not worried
about Blagojevichs chances. Hes tougher than all his detractors.
Americans are going soft. Chicago mayor Richard Daley (the father) used
to keep a punching bag in his office. New York mayor La Guardia once
had a nude statue removed from City Hall Park because, he said, I
have to deal with big pricks all day long, and I dont want to
see one every time I look out my window.
These guys wouldnt last long in the current environment, where
Bloomberg is proposing dietary reform. Where people are so wrapped up
in identity politics that theyre incapable of taking care of business.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost and daddys money is
running out. The new environment is going to be a lot more rigorous
and more on the side of initiative, with less emphasis on fitting into
a slot that was prepared for you.
Borok DECEMBER 14TH 2008
Dean Borok lives and works in New York
Dean Borok in Mexico
I never imagined a place could come so far so fast. Quintana Roo
state is now the richest state in Mexico due to the tourist boom.
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