Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Madoff Legacy

Three years ago this weekend, the Bernie Madoff scandal broke.

The greatest Ponzi schemer of all time, a once respected investor and former NASDAQ head was revealed to be nothing but a huge fraud. He lost billions and billions of dollars, and thousands of people were financially destroyed. Madoff plead guilty right away and is now serving 150 years in the pokey. His family was shattered, a son committing suicide last year, his wife cutting him off forever. Their story is the subject of books, countless magazine articles, and a long 60 Minutes profile.

But what about their victims? What about the people trying to uncover the biggest financial crime in history?

Needless to say, this story continues. The victims are trying to rebuild their lives and finances, and hoping that the investigators will recover some of their money. Meanwhile the investigators have what has to be the most awful job ever. They are suing people who actually profited from this scheme -- and those people are suing back. They are dealing with victims' frustrations at the slow pace of the investigation (how could something like this possibly be fast?). And then there are the prosecutors who are still trying find out who else was in on this scheme and who else needs to be punished.

Some legacy, Bernie.

A legacy of pain. A legacy of misery. A legacy of destruction. And worse, a legacy where the only people who benefit are loners.

As I get older, I wonder about what kind of legacy I'll leave behind. What will I create (or not) that my family, friends, and others will have to deal with? Hopefully it will be something good. It might be something very modest (maybe nothing more than this blog) but at least I hope it will be something that makes them happy or least content. Hopefully it just won't be, like Bernie Madoff, a legacy of pain.

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