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Madoff's legacy: What have we learned from the debacle?

Bernie Madoff is gone, but the effects of his crimes live on. Fraud examiners endeavor to learn from all frauds, including the world’s largest-ever Ponzi scheme. What lessons have we learned? How has the regulatory environment improved? How have Madoff’s schemes affected the anti-fraud profession?

“What’s your number?” asks a young trader to a veteran market maker in the movie, “Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps” — meaning the amount of money that will bring contentment and enable an escape from fevered Wall Street. “See, I find everybody has a number, and it’s usually an exact number. So, what’s yours?” The other trader pauses and then says with a smirk, “More."

Bernie Madoff didn’t have a number either. What he did have was hubris and greed that drove him to grab “more” and mastermind the largest-ever Ponzi scheme that cruelly stole the retirement savings of hundreds of victims, caused suicides and decimated charitable efforts around the globe.

Court-appointed trustee Irving Picard has relentlessly recovered billions for Madoff’s victims. That’s solace for some but not for those who lost all and died destitute before they could benefit from Picard’s efforts. Regardless of the avarice of Madoff — who succumbed to kidney disease at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, on April 14 — what has the fraud examiner community learned from the colossal fiasco?

Fraud Magazine recently posed that question and others to Diana Henriques, the first reporter to interview Madoff in prison, and four anti-fraud professionals — including the original Madoff whistleblower plus an expert witness in the “Madoff 5” trials — to see how the case has changed the anti-fraud profession. The experts’ answers provide insights far beyond the scheme that redefined “Ponzi.”

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