Friday, January 9, 2009

How to run a Ponzi scheme

Here is a letter sent to the SEC asking them to investigate Madoff:
C. Red Flag # 2: why would a Broker-Dealer (like Madoff) choose to fund at such a high implied interest rate when cheaper money is available in the short-term credit markets? One reason that comes to mind is that Madoff couldn't stand the due diligence scrutiny of the short-term credit markets. if Charles Ponzi had issued bank notes promising 50% interest on 3 month time deposits instead of issuing unregulated Ponzi Notes to his investors, the State Banking Commission would have quickly shut him down. The key to a successful Ponzi Scheme is to promise lucrative returns but to do so in an unregulated area of the capital markets. Hedge funds are not due to fall under the SEC's umbrella until February 2006.

Red Flag # 3: Why the needfor such secrecy? if I was the world's largest hedge fund and had great returns, I'd want all the publicity I could garner and would want to appear as the world's largest hedge fund in all of the industry rankings. Name one mutualfund company, Venture Capital firm, or LBO firm which doesn't brag about the size of their largest funds' assets under management. Then ask yourself, why would the world's largest hedge fund manager be so secretive that he didn't even want his investors to know he was managing their money? Or is it that BM doesn't want the SEC and FSA to know that he exists?

Red Flag # 14: Madoff subsidizes down months! Hard to believe (and I don't believe this) but I've heard two FOF's tell me that they don't believe Madoff can make money in big down months either. They tell me that Madoff "subsidizes" their investors in down months, so that they will be able to show a low volatility of returns. These types of stories are commonly found around Ponzi Schemes. These investors tell me that Madoff only books winning tickets in their accounts and "eats the losses" during months when the market sells off hard The problem with this is that it's securities fraud to misstate either returns or the volatility of those returns.

Red Flag # 17: Madoff does not allow outside performance audits. One London based hedgefund, fund offunds, representing Arab money, asked to send in a team of Big 4 accountants to conduct a performance audit during their planned due diligence. They were told "No, only Madoff's brother-in-law who owns his own accountingfirm is allowed to audit performance for reasons of secrecy in order to keep Madoff's proprietary trading strategy secret so that nobody can copy it. Amazingly, this fund of funds then agreed to invest $200 million of their client's money anyway, because the low volatility of returns was so attractive!! Let's see, how many hedge funds have faked an audited performance history?? Wood River is the latest that comes to mind as does the Manhattan Fund but the number of bogus hedge funds that have relied upon fake audits has got to number in the dozens.


  1. Looks like many of his investors knew it was a ponzi scheme and thought it could continue long enough to be worthwhile.

  2. Is the government the only ones allowed to run a Ponzi scheme?