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Bernard Lawrence Madoff

Madoff, Bernard Lawrence (māˈdôf) [key], 1938–, American stockbroker, investment manager, and swindler, b. New York City, grad. Hofstra College (B.A., 1960). In the early 1960s he founded Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, which bought and sold inexpensive over-the-counter stocks and later traded blue-chip stocks. The firm, which gained an edge by being one of the first to be completely automated, was by the 1980s one of the largest trading companies, with New York and London offices. Madoff served as chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange from 1990 to 1993. Acting as an agent for individuals, foundations, charities, and other groups, Madoff's firm produced unusually consistent profits on a portfolio that was ultimately worth some $17 billion, and he became a wealthy and respected Wall St. insider. In 2008, however, as the American financial crisis deepened, Madoff acknowledged that since the early 1990s he had been running an elaborate Ponzi scheme in which new investments were used to pay dividends on existing investments while Madoff himself skimmed millions of dollars to pay for a lavish life. (Later, an associate admitted that fraud had occurred since the 1970s.) Accused of cheating thousands of investors of as much as $65 billion in all, Madoff pleaded guilty (2009) to fraud, theft, and other charges and was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

See E. Arvenlund, Too Good to Be True (2009); A. Kirtzman, Betrayal (2009); D. B. Henriques, The Wizard of Lies (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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