Bintel Blog

Bernie Madoff and Jonathan Pollard Are Prison Pals, Filing Says

By Gabrielle Birkner

Bernard Madoff may have lost all of his old friends, but he’s made some unlikely new ones — and among them is convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, according to a recent court filing.

Madoff is now serving a 150-year-sentence in the North Carolina federal prison that also houses Pollard and mob boss Carmine Perisco, who is reported to be another one of the convicted Ponzi schemer’s prison pals.

The court papers, which support a lawsuit filed on behalf of several Madoff victims, contain details about the scammer’s bleak life in the slammer: Madoff apparently shares a prison cell and a bunk bed — Madoff sleeps on the bottom bunk — with a 21-year-old convicted drug offender, and “eats pizza cooked by an inmate convicted of child molestation.” (That’s quite a change for a man who, until recently, lived in an Upper East Side penthouse and dined frequently at Primola nearby.)

But then again, Madoff may have something in common with his new roommate: The same court papers allege that, beginning in 1975, Madoff tasked a staffer at his investment firm with procuring drugs for himself and other company employees; the filing also says that Madoff would hire topless, G-string-clad entertainers to perform in his Midtown office.

Watch this report for more on the court filings:

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The Madoff Mash

By Rebecca Dube

Bernard Madoff got in his first prison fight last week. And according to an account in the New York Post, the convicted Ponzi schemer emerged victorious.

The bout was no Ali vs. Foreman. Apparently, Madoff, 71, who is serving a 150-year sentence at a federal prison in Butner, N.C., got into a heated argument with another inmate, who is in his 60s, over the state of the stock market. Then the two settled the matter prison-brawl-style, sort of: “The inmate pushed Madoff, who shoved back harder with both hands, causing his attacker to stumble.”

As the attacker tried to stand up straight, Madoff hovered over him red-faced and glaring, eyewitnesses said. According to the New York Post:

The stunned attacker went chicken and took off — allowing Madoff to collect some ‘cred’ among his fellow prisoners. ‘”I didn’t think Bernie had it in him. He got the best of him; he was really aggressive, and the other guy was in shock that he fought back,” an inmate said.

Apparently Madoff needn’t worry about a shiv in his back — at least not from the guy he pushed. The two inmates were spotted the next day talking amicably, the Post reports.

Meanwhile, Madoff imitators will be lurking on every corner this Halloween — although these schemers are after your candy, not your money. Madoff masks are a big hit with the costumed crowd: Rubie’s Costume Company has distributed more than 15,000 rubber Madoff masks to stores across the country, according to the Associated Press.

As if senior citizens brawling over the stock market in our federal prisons wasn’t scary enough.

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Madoff Décor: 'Queens Baroque' at Home; Austere at the Office

By Nadja Spiegelman

Last week’s color photographs of Hitler’s home got us wondering: Do all dictators have awful taste? North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is well known for his gaudiness and these paintings from Saddam Hussein’s collection of fantasy art look like they’ve been rescued from beneath the bed of a teenage video game aficionado.

And now there’s a fourth man to add to our list: Bernie Madoff. Sure, he’s no dictator, but we wouldn’t be the first — or the second or third, for that matter — to compare him to Hitler. And, to be fair, his decorating skills are slightly better. But these New York Daily News photos of the inside of the Madoff’s Upper East Side duplex prove that while Bernie’s no Saddam, he’s definitely no Martha Stewart either (although they do have the jail thing in common).

Indeed, an article that ran in the Forward in December describes Michael Skakun and Ken Libo’s visit to the Madoff’s apartment five years ago. “Queens High Baroque,” they recalled whispering to each other as they stepped into the apartment, which they described like this:

The ample Madoff foyer and living room burst with what appeared to us as classical knockoffs, the regal effect spoiled by overexertion. Gold sconces lined the stenciled wallpaper, a Napoleonic-style desk stood to the side, and the Greek and Egyptian statues vied with each other to set a mood of antique decorum. Arabesque-styled Central Asian rugs beguiled our vision with looping patterns and impressive symmetries, further softening our footfalls.

It seems that, when it came to decorating, Madoff kept his home life separate from his work. An article in The Daily Mall describes his preferred office décor. The article quotes the manager of Madoff’s London office, Julia Fenwick, as saying:

The London office had to resemble as closely as possible the New York office — grey walls, grey carpets, black trim, black cupboards. Everything was grey and black. On the occasions he visited London, we’d spend days before his arrival leveling the blinds, making sure the computer screens were an identical height, lining every picture up straight. No paper was allowed on the desks.

Grey, black and austere is a far cry from the frilly and overwrought perfectionism of the Madoff’s New York penthouse. Perhaps Susan Blumenfeld, Madoff’s personal interior designer, is to thank for the disparate decorating styles. Writes the Daily Mail:

According to Mrs Fenwick, Madoff was often accompanied by his interior designer, Susan Blumenfeld, president of New York firm SBI Design, who even approved his wife’s clothes.

A quick Internet search for Susan Blumenfeld reveals the Edward and Susan Blumenfeld Foundation is on the long list of foundations that found themselves victims of Madoff’s scam. Their foundation’s estimated exposure: $2,539,993.

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Ruthie Madoff Breaks Her Silence

By Alex Suskind

After Judge Denny Chin threw down a hefty 150 year sentence to Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff, his wife, Ruth, who has remained quiet in her posh Upper East Side penthouse throughout the entire situation — except when she made the mistake of leaving her home in March to buy cheese — finally broke her silence on the matter. Her statement follows:

I am breaking my silence now, because my reluctance to speak has been interpreted as indifference or lack of sympathy for the victims of my husband Bernie’s crime, which is exactly the opposite of the truth.

From the moment I learned from my husband that he had committed an enormous fraud, I have had two thoughts — first, that so many people who trusted him would be ruined financially and emotionally, and second, that my life with the man I have known for over 50 years was over. Many of my husband’s investors were my close friends and family. And in the days since December, I have read, with immense pain, the wrenching stories of people whose life savings have evaporated because of his crime.

My husband was the one we (and I include myself) respected and trusted with our lives and our livelihoods, often for many, many years, and who was respected in the securities industry as well. Then there is the other man who stunned us all with his confession and is responsible for this terrible situation in which so many now find themselves. Lives have been upended and futures have been taken away. All those touched by this fraud feel betrayed; disbelieving the nightmare they woke to. I am embarrassed and ashamed.

Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years.

In the end, to say that I feel devastated for the many whom my husband has destroyed is truly inadequate. Nothing I can say seems sufficient regarding the daily suffering that all those innocent people are enduring because of my husband. But if it matters to them at all, please know that not a day goes by when I don’t ache over the stories that I have heard and read.

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On Madoff, Charity and Morality

By Anthony Weiss

More tawdry news on the Madoff front. Lawsuits have been filed against Stanley Chais and Jeffry Picower for receiving what appear to be suspiciously generous and apparently preferential returns for their investments. An investigative report by ProPublica documents that Picower and his family withdrew an astonishing $5.1 billion from Madoff — more, apparently, than Madoff himself. Chais and Picower had been two of the most generous donors to Jewish causes, as well as a number of non-Jewish causes. (Just four months ago, Israeli non-profits held an event to honor Chais for his generosity through the years).

What this means is that the damage to Jewish institutional life seems to be both deeper and more insidious than was first suspected when Madoff bomb first went off and vaporized endowments and fortunes. Jewish philanthropy was awash in fictional money; now, we learn, it may also have been steeped in dirty money — money that helped obtain awards, encomiums, board seats and status.

This is, of course, the currency of philanthropy. Donors give money, and in return they get recognition, respect, publicity, loyalty, and a good (or a least a better) name. There’s a certain logic in this, and even a certain social benefit: Many big donors wouldn’t give a penny, or certainly not as much as they do give, if they weren’t paid back in prestige. They buy a little prestige, and society gets money for good works.

Generosity is only truly generosity when the money is given for the sake of the giving, but life is imperfect, and such is the way of the world.

But let’s not fool ourselves about the devil’s side of this devil’s bargain. The Madoff affair isn’t the first time we’ve seen big Jewish donors turn out to be big Jewish crooks. When you use money as a gauge of character, you get what you pay for.

The Forward’s editorial director, J.J. Goldberg, recently examined what the Madoff scandal says about Jewish money, charity, and morality. It isn’t pretty. But it’s worth thinking about.

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Growing Up Madoff

By Anthony Weiss

The latest edition of Vanity Fair brought yet more grist for the Madoff mill — this time with a profile of Madoff’s sons, Andrew and Mark. In theory, this ought to be fascinating stuff: the boys who turned in their father. What could be more Oedipal?

But it’s pretty thin gruel. One problem is access. Not surprisingly, reporter David Margolick seems to have had trouble getting anyone particularly close to the boys to speak frankly, and on the record. In fact, there isn’t much in the way of clear information at all. Though the sons remain under a pall of suspicion, there isn’t any solid evidence that they were involved. The suspicion, rather, comes from the sense that they were Bernie’s family – surely they must have known. And plenty of others feel certain that they didn’t – according to the article, Edward Blumenfeld, a New York real estate developer whose family lost big with Madoff, nonetheless invited Mark to Passover seder.

The more serious problem, from a storytelling point of view, is that the sons seem perfectly ordinary: a pair of straightforward, seemingly honest, and un-imaginative young men who spent their entire careers working for the family firm. They don’t have any of Bernie’s epic qualities, such as his resentful ambition, his poker-faced connivance, his compulsiveness, his outrageous audacity or his callousness.

The relationship with their father is hazy. Bernie’s former secretary says they were close, but others say Bernie was a distant, critical man who refused to give his sons any latitude or credit. But rather than strike out on their own, they sullenly continued to work for their father. A more interesting detail emerges about the boys’ mother, Ruth: They apparently haven’t spoken to her since Bernie confessed to them, not because they think she was in on the scheme, but “because they believe that her tendency to side with him, no matter what, when they complained to her about him, enabled his dirty deeds.”

If Bernard Madoff’s story was the dark side of the classic striver’s tale — the outsider whose will to reach the top leads him to destroy his friends, family, and eventually himself — then his sons represent the next generation. They didn’t have to strive to reach the top because they grew up there. They had nowhere to go — except, as it turned out, straight down.

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J. Ezra Merkin, and What Passes for Gallantry

By Anthony Weiss

As we progress ever further into the hall of mirrors that is the Madoff case, the sights become ever more confusing, the stories more sordid and more fascinating. Nobody, apparently, is what he seems.

First there was Bernie, the genial, friendly and thoroughly decent Jewish uncle-type who turned out to be a thief so cold-blooded he would bankrupt his own sister. Then there was J. Ezra Merkin, the Orthodox scion renowned for his brilliance, financial savvy, and intimidating air of superiority, whose investing genius turned out to consist of using his connections and erudition to raise massive sums of money, which he then turned over to managers whose financial methods and moral bankruptcy he was apparently unable to grasp.

And now we are finding that more and more of the sheep may, in fact, have been wolves. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that federal investigators are now looking into the possibility that several of Madoff’s biggest victims may, in fact, have been in on the fraud. Yes, they include some big Jewish donors – Jeffry Picower, Stanley Chais, Carl Shapiro, and Noel Levine, as well as a few others. (We already reported that deceased Madoff pal Norman Levy may have been in on things, as well.) Chais was one of the conduits for Hollywood money that ended up as Madoff smoke, including that of Eric Roth, scribe of “Forrest Gump” and “Benjamin Button,” and a board member for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Shapiro, along with son-in-law Robert Jaffe (who is also being investigated) was one of the main routes to Madoff at the now-infamous Palm Beach Country Club. Levine was a major donor of photographs to the Israel Museum.

Meanwhile, Merkin, in what passes for gallantry amid this mess, announced that he would not accept the post of chairman at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, where he has just finished up his term as president. He made the announcement at the meeting where he was scheduled to be installed, to reportedly warm applause. One might ask why he didn’t quietly step aside earlier in the process and thus save his shul from public embarrassment, but perhaps that’s nitpicking. Meanwhile, he has plenty else on his mind: New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is in the process of liquidating what is left of Merkin’s hedge funds.

People will be drawing moral lessons from this whole Madoff affair ad infinitum, and ad nauseum, for years. For now, we’ll stick with the most relevant: Money is just money. Having a lot of it doesn’t mean you’re a genius or a villain. Giving a lot of it away to charity doesn’t mean you’re a saint or a leader of the Jewish people — or even necessarily a mensch. It just means you’re rich.

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Was Norman Levy in on Bernie Madoff's Scam?

By Anthony Weiss

The first part of the Bernard Madoff story raised a profound and troubling question about human nature: How could a respected and successful man — a man almost universally described as kind, considerate and apparently trustworthy — knowingly fleece his closest friends, charities he had supported, even his own sister?

But now that Madoff is in jail, and investigators are working their way through reams of documents and interviewing scores of associates, the story is beginning to take on the twists and turns of a good mystery, and it is looking like it is not only Bernie who was not who he appeared to be.

Lucinda Franks is reporting on The Daily Beast that investigators suspect that the late billionaire real estate mogul and philanthropist Norman Levy may have been part of an international web of Madoff accomplices who helped him transfer money into accounts around the world to launder the operations, and perhaps stash some of it away. This revelation may help explain why Ruth Madoff continues to live in such high style, despite legal authorities seizing her assets as fast as they can.

The investigation of Levy is so fascinating because it has the potential to transform Levy from a betrayed dupe into a knowing accomplice — one who invested his girlfriend’s money with Madoff, and thus hung her out to dry. And it raises a grander question: Who else is not what they seem? It’s a question that must have Bernie Madoff, master of deception, chuckling in his cell.

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Merkin's Legal Woes

By Anthony Weiss

There are signs that with Bernard Madoff convicted and jailed for orchestrating an estimated $65 billion Ponzi scheme, the attention is now shifting to the so-called “feeder funds” that supplied Madoff with much of the cash to keep his schemes going. On April 1, the Massachusetts secretary of state sued the Fairfield Greenwich Group. And now, Modern Orthodox scion J. Ezra Merkin is in the crosshairs.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is suing Merkin for funneling funds to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme allegedly without proper due diligence or the knowledge of his investors. Merkin is also being sued by real estate magnate and publisher Mort Zuckerman, who claims to have lost $40 million with Madoff via Merkin. (Full disclosure: The Forward Association, which owns this newspaper, lost approximately $355,000 through an indirect investment in one of Merkin’s funds.)

The suits will turn the spotlight back onto Merkin, a son German immigrant Hermann Merkin — Hermann founded and funded a number of major New York institutions, including Merkin Hall near Lincoln Center and the Fifth Avenue Synagogue — and brother of Daphne Merkin, a prominent writer. J. Ezra Merkin was on the board of a number of major Modern Orthodox institutions that lost money in the Madoff debacle, including Yeshiva University and the Ramaz day school.

The ongoing legal battles — and the colossal legal fees sure to follow — don’t bode well for Merkin’s world-class collection of paintings by modernist master Mark Rothko.

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Just Be Glad Your Last Name Is Not Madoff

By Gabrielle Birkner

New York’s other B. Madoff — Ben, not Bernie; pronounced MAD-off, not MADE-off — has been a target of some of the rage directed at the admitted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. Listed in the Manhattan phonebook, Ben Madoff, no relation to Bernie, has received dozens of angry calls — several of them anti-Semitic in nature — and one suspicious-looking package, since Bernard Madoff’s December 11, 2008 arrest, The New York Times reports:

The other day, Ben Madoff’s phone rang at 4:30 in the morning. “I’d hope that if you’re angry enough at him to want place a call,” he said, “you might follow the news closely enough to realize that he’s at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, not on the Upper West Side.”

“A surprising number of callers are wounded victims who were just at a loss,” he said. “I feel for them.” But others are “hateful.” They include some who have used the scandal as “a camouflaged opportunity” to spew anti-Semitic venom, he said.

Last week, he took a call from a woman in Illinois. “She said, ‘Are you Bernard Madoff?’ ” Ben Madoff said. “I said: ‘No, I’m not. You have the wrong number.’ And she said, ‘Are you a Jew, too?’ ” He hung up.

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For Madoff Victims, Tax Breaks and Osso Buco

By Rebecca Dube

The Department of Justice released Bernard Madoff’s mug shot this week, following his guilty plea to 11 charges related to his multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Now living at the Metropolitan Correction Center in Lower Manhattan, the disgraced financier wears a conservative blue-and-white striped shirt and, at least in the mug shot, a grim expression. “After scamming $64 billion, he should have at least had to hold one of those silly little signs,” Gawker commented.

Meanwhile, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service testified Tuesday morning before a Senate committee that the I.R.S. will allow Madoff’s victims to claim a generous tax deduction related to their losses.

In other silver-lining news for Madoff victims, one New York restaurateur is offering them free meals, The New York Times reports:

“All this week, Nino Selimaj is promising free meals to victims of Mr. Madoff at Nino’s 208, on East 58th Street a few blocks from the Lipstick Building, where Mr. Madoff kept offices. To be entitled to the normally pricey grub — $9 daily soups, $19 spaghetti, $25 osso buco — at no charge, people must mention their victimhood when making reservations, then discreetly show the restaurant’s manager a monthly statement from Madoff. Libations are extra.”

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Madoff Scheme Brings to Light Jewish Artifacts

By Gabrielle Birkner

Since Bernard Madoff’s December arrest, victims of his Ponzi scheme have been selling off not only their real estate and their jewelry, but also their Judaica, according to a New York-based auctioneer.

Jonathan Greenstein, whose eponymous company auctions off “rare antique and artisan Judaica” told The New York Post’s Page Six that Jewish artifacts that “haven’t seen the light of day in generations” are going on the block — courtesy of Madoff’s victims.

Case in point: a diamond-encrusted yad dating back to 18th-century Holland and a Torah crown. Greenstein said that these items, slated to be auctioned off on June 8, are owned by Rhea Schindler, the widow of the late Reform movement leader Rabbi Alexander Schindler.

Schindler was the second president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations — the predecessor of the Union for Reform Judaism.

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Did Madoff Wear a Yarmulke to Court?

By Gabrielle Birkner

In this courtroom sketch of Bernard Madoff, the admitted Ponzi schemer appears to be wearing a white yarmulke (and davening). Rest assured, neither is true.

The sketch shows him reading the following statement before Judge Denny Chin of U.S. District Court:

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Thanking Mr. Madoff

By Gabrielle Birkner

As the world focuses on the misdeeds of Bernard Madoff, who pleaded guilty Thursday to operating a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, at least one person — granted, not one of his defrauded investors — is singing his praises. Writing on The Big Money, Chadwick Matlin has gone so far as to pen an open letter of appreciation to Madoff.

What has the disgraced businessman done to warrant such a gracious gesture? Well, according to Matlin, Madoff:

• Forced the government to acknowledge “just how crappy the SEC is at doing its job.”

• Giving Americans a villian — a wealthy, white, Jewish villain who defrauded Holocaust survivors, at that — at whom they could direct their anger about the economy’s nosedive.

• Inspired the creation of a whistleblower’s office at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to keep track of and investigate fraud-related tips.

Matlin concludes: “Without you Bernie, we would have stewed in our internal anger. And we would have had nobody to catalyze change for the future. Know that while you spend the rest of your life in jail, I’ll be thinking of these noble contributions. And I’ll be thankful.”

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Madoff: The Most Unpopular Prisoner

By Rebecca Dube

If Bernard Madoff thought that jail would at least provide a break from confronting angry mobs of people, he may be in for (another) rude awakening.

Sure, the Ponzi scheme architect, who pleaded guilty Thursday morning to all 11 charges against him, will escape the paparazzi that swarmed his Upper East Side penthouse. But experts say Madoff’s reputation will precede him to the slammer, where he was sent yesterday after Judge Denny Chin revoked his bail.

And it’s not a good time to have a name that’s synonymous with financial chicanery.

“Madoff isn’t going to be real popular,” Larry Levine told Bloomberg News. Levine served 10 years in federal prisons for securities fraud and narcotics trafficking, and now advises convicts on surviving time behind bars. “All the guys there will have wives or parents who are losing their homes or their jobs or who can’t send money to them anymore. Everybody’s going to be blaming Bernie.”

And much like his victims and prosecutors, Madoff’s fellow inmates will want to know where all that money went.

“There will be people trying to scam him and people who think he’s hiding money,” Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist at the David Geffen School of Medicine of University of California at Los Angeles, told Bloomberg. “There will be inmates asking for money, and you don’t want them to disbelieve you when you say you don’t have it.” Madoff addressed the court before his guilty plea was accepted, saying, in part: “I am actually grateful for this opportunity to publicly comment about my crimes, for which I am deeply sorry and ashamed… As the years went by, I realized my risk, and this day would inevitably come. I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for my crimes.”

According to CNBC, Madoff did not look at any of his three former investors who testified at the hearing. Courtroom observers broke into applause when the judge ordered Madoff to jail.

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Zeroing in on Possible Madoff Co-Conspirators

By Gabrielle Birkner

Bernard Madoff, who is expected to plead guilty Thursday to running a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, may not be the only one to go to jail for the massive fraud that he allegedly masterminded. A piece by Lucinda Franks, posted Tuesday night on The Daily Beast, suggests that the feds are focusing their attention on some 20 possible co-conspirators, who are divided into three groups. Franks writes:

In the first group are employees of Madoff’s firm who concocted false trades and sent out phony statements to thousands of unsuspecting clients.

The second group is comprised of principals in feeder funds such as Cohmad Securities Corp. and Fairfield Greenwich Group, which funneled investor dollars to Madoff and received large fees for steering this business. If they were aware of Madoff’s fraud, they could face criminal charges; if they were not, they could be hit with civil charges for a lack of due diligence.

…The third group is the target of an investigation that’s still in its early stages into money laundering through British banks, in which US and British authorities are cooperating. This group consists of solicitors, accountants, and others in London who may have assisted Madoff in transferring funds from client accounts to a Madoff entity that lists Ruth Madoff, brother Peter Madoff, and sons Mark and Andrew Madoff among its board members.

Speaking of Mrs. Madoff: The 67-year-old matriarch, who withdrew some $15.5 million in the weeks leading up to her husband’s arrest, will no longer be represented by her husband’s lawyer, Ira Sorkin. Given the increased scrutiny over her role as a company bookkeeper, she’s apparently decided to retain a lawyer of her own.

And as for Sorkin, as long as he continues to defend Mr. Madoff, he can expect to be a target of much of the public rage against his client. The lawyer, whom the Forward profiled back in January, is the subject of a New York Times article. The piece details the angry messages that fill Sorkin’s email and voicemail boxes. One message, The Times reports, was particularly hateful. It read: “As one Jew to another, I deeply regret that the Sorkin family did not perish in the Nazi death camps.”

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When Merkin Met Madoff

By Gabrielle Birkner and Anthony Weiss

New York Magazine’s Steve Fishman writes what is, perhaps, the best character study to date of both Bernard Madoff and the disgraced investor and Madoff enabler J. Ezra Merkin. The article, at times sympathetic, delves deep into the psyches of both men — pulling up new information about Madoff ‘s class resentment, and about what led Merkin to cast his lot with the alleged Ponzi schemer.

The answer to the latter question has a surprising lot to do with Merkin’s apparently tortured relationship with his own father, the late investor and philanthropist Hermann Merkin. Fishman writes:

Some viewed Bernie and Ezra as two sides of the same coin. One was down to earth, the other positively ethereal; one was hiding in plain sight, the other ostentatiously public. They needed each other. “Ezra was captivated by Madoff,” says one person who knows him, especially, perhaps, compared to his father. “Bernie Madoff must have seemed like a kind, haimish sort of guy compared to my father,” says [Ezra’s sister, the writer Daphne Merkin]. [Ezra] Merkin didn’t exactly think of Bernie as a peer. To him, Bernie was an auto mechanic, a blue-collar technician focused on what was under the hood. “I’m only interested in where the market is heading in the next fifteen minutes,” Bernie sometimes said. A man like that could bear down on the details so the Ezra Merkins of the world could concentrate on finer things. For Ezra, Madoff’s returns weren’t eye-popping … though his average of more than 12 percent a year was more than respectable. But the real selling point was Bernie’s consistency—barely a down month in more than a decade.

One of the many interesting revelations to come out of the article is that although Merkin was widely regarded as brilliant, he actually wasn’t much of a money manager; rather, he was a master salesman who wowed customers with his erudition rather than his financial acumen. In fact, Merkin’s whole hedge-fund business was built on funneling his investors’ money to successful fund managers, rather than investing himself.

That was certainly the case when it came to Yeshiva University’s endowment, which Merkin, as the chairman of the school’s investment committee, helped guide. He channeled large portions of the university’s funds to Madoff, via his own Ascot Partners hedge fund. Merkin would ultimately collect a total of $10 million in money management fees from YU. According to Fishman’s article:

Some now wonder about the propriety of the chairman of the investment committee’s taking fees for simply passing along money to Bernie — especially since Bernie was elected to Yeshiva’s board of trustees in 1996, when Hermann served as vice-chairman. Why not just give the money directly to Bernie and save Yeshiva the fee? To some, it seemed like Ezra was skimming profits, and from an institution he loved.

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Inside Madoff's 'Penthouse Prison'

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

On Friday, the ABC News show “20/20,” aired videos of a polo shirt-clad Bernard Madoff, holed up in his Upper East Side “penthouse prison” — using his MacBook laptop computer, a bottle of sparkling water at his side.

In the segment, former Madoff employee Nader Ibrahim said Madoff’s sons and brother ran the business while Madoff traveled the world for months at a time via private jet. This statement contradicted Madoff’s account that he acted alone in perpetrating the multibillion-dollar fraud of which he stands accused.

Also on Friday, Irving Picard — the court-appointed trustee responsible for liquidating the assets of Madoff’s company — spoke before a group of Madoff investors in Manhattan. The New York Times reported that Picard told the group of creditors that there is no known documentation that, during the 13 years leading up to Madoff’s arrest, the trader bought or sold any of the securities or Treasury bills reflected on clients’ statements.

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Madoff's Lawyer Not Part of 'Madoff Diaspora,' After All

By Gabrielle Birkner

Even though his name and the names of his late parents  appear on the 162-page list of purported Bernard Madoff investors, Ira Sorkin, Madoff’s attorney, tells The Wall Street Journal: “I have never been an investor or customer of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. I’m not going to talk about my family members.”

If the rest of the list, which was filed Wednesday in bankruptcy court, is to be trusted, CNN talk show host Larry King, baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, movie producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and some 13,000 others may not be so lucky. The alleged Madoff victims are fanned out across the country, but residents of New York, Denver, Palm Beach, Fla. and Minneapolis seem to be among the hardest hit, according to an unfortunately named graphic published in the Journal and on its Web site. The graphic’s title: The Madoff Diaspora.


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Could Bernie Madoff Not Find a Lawyer Whom He Hadn't (Allegedly) Bilked?

By Gabrielle Birkner

In what The New York Post has dubbed “Swindler’s List,” a document containing some 13,000 names and addresses of those who claim to have invested with Madoff was filed Wednesday in federal bankruptcy court.

To see the list, click here.

Not surprisingly, it is chock-full of Jewish names — including retired baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax, developer Larry Silverstein, and CNN talk show host Larry King — and Palm Beach addresses.

The list of alleged Madoff victims includes Madoff’s own attorney, Ira Sorkin — a profile of whom the Forward published in its February 6 edition. To read the profile, click here.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Larry Silverstein, Larry King, Sandy Koufax, Bernard Madoff, Ira Sorkin




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