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The International Writers Magazine: A New Yorker Diary

Money, Fraud, Moral Fibre and Madoff
Dean Borok

As 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 can’t 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 marks.

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, "Don’t ever ask me what I’m doing with your money, because I won’t tell you."
I wouldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 what’s going on here in New York, it would have to resemble It’s A Mad Mad Mad World with a cast of thousands of idiots. You don’t have enough funny comedians to fill all the roles.

It’s 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 Caesar’s 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 they’re differentiating it from the banks collapsing, or AIG defaulting on $140 billion, which they don’t 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 city’s 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. Let’s 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 hospital’s 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 Cécillon’s 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 shouldn’t 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, I’d prefer to work for a living.

Then there’s 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 firm’s star alumnus, none other than “I’m 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 don’t think any of that is going to happen. I’m not worried about Blagojevich’s chances. He’s 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 don’t want to see one every time I look out my window.”

These guys wouldn’t last long in the current environment, where Bloomberg is proposing dietary reform. Where people are so wrapped up in identity politics that they’re incapable of taking care of business. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and daddy’s 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.

© Dean Borok DECEMBER 14TH 2008

Dean Borok lives and works in New York

Akumal Beach Resort
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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