5,397 Semi-Interesting Words on Bernie Madoff

Tonight the NYT unleashed a monster of a Madoff story, with a 5,397-word scale-tipper on the proprietor of the current title-holder for World’s Largest Ponzi Scheme. Not to get all meta or anything, but the piece is not only longer than most Raymond Carver short stories, but it’s got eleven – 11!!! – reporters listed as having worked the piece. I am in awe at the NYT’s zealous flooding of the Madoff zone after the damage has been done.

Anyway, it’s worth a read, so curl up with your laptop and check it here.

Initially, he tapped local money pulled in from country clubs and charity dinners, where investors sought him out to casually plead with him to manage their savings so they could start reaping the steady, solid returns their envied friends were getting.

Then, he and his promoters set sights on Europe, again framing the investments as memberships in a select club. A Swiss hedge fund manager, Michel Dominicé, still remembers the pitch he got a few years ago from a salesman in Geneva. “He told me the fund was closed, that it was something I couldn’t buy,” Mr. Dominicé said. “But he told me he might have a way to get me in. It was weird.”

Mr. Madoff’s agents next cut a cash-gathering swath through the Persian Gulf, then Southeast Asia. Finally, they were hurtling with undignified speed toward China, with invitations to invest that were more desperate, less exclusive. One Beijing businessman who was approached said it seemed the Madoff funds were being pitched “to anyone who would listen.”

Okay, pardon me a short, closing rant. This kind of story, while interesting in a gossipy sort of way, mostly just pisses me off. Sure, it doesn’t piss me off as much as the inevitable tick-tick that’s coming — Bernie Madoff’s final minutes! The exclusive inside look! — but it’s still a narrative piece only useful for landing a book deal. or making NYT  readers feel shocked – shocked I tell you — in appropriate measure.

As I keep saying, you deserve those revenues and the nice building when you more consistently tell us about these things before they happen, not when you write exhaustive 11-reporter pieces after the fact.

Originally published at Paul Kedrosky’s blog and reproduced here with the author’s permission.