California Real Estate Fraud Report

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02
Jul

Eyes Wide Shut to the Bernard Madoffs of the World

In an article published today on its website, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ chairman questions what the best way to prevent fraud is, and whether our society can do more to prevent fraud than it is doing currently.

Joseph T. Wells is a former FBI agent and CPA who specialized in fraud cases before he founded the Association of Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and developed the rigorous training program that can result in professionals earning the CFE – Certified Fraud Examiner certification.

Published on the ACFE’s website today, Wells’ article first reviews how Bernard Madoff created the largest Ponzi scheme ever recorded, then describes the mathematical impossibility of Madoff’s scheme and that it was bound to unravel. All Ponzi schemes depend on earlier groups of investors being paid off by later, larger groups. Eventually it becomes exhausting for the person operating the Ponzi scheme to keep the fraud going; we all know the rest.

All that being the case, what is most surprising is that ten years ago, a CFE named Harry Markopolos, hired by a Madoff rival to reverse-engineer Madoff’s successful strategy, determined that Madoff was most likely operating a Ponzi scheme, yet Markopolos’ verbal and written reports to authorities such as the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) were rebuffed. All those early investors were laughing all the way to the bank and future wannabe investors plus Madoff’s many friends in the federal government, had their collective ears and eyes wide shut.

Joseph Wells argues that in addition to the prison sentence handed out to Bernard Madoff, Madoff also should be required to educate consumers from the confines of his prison cell about how he conceived and carried out his Ponzi scheme for so long. This, argues Wells, is one of the best ways to prevent fraud: by educating and deterring.

But in the case of Bernard Madoff, it is not clear whether the public being educated would have had much, if any, impact or a deterrence effect upon Madoff. As noted, Madoff never advertised his services or successes, so there was essentially a wall of ignorance separating each investor group from the other. It was this inability to see the forest through the trees, as well as most investors trusting their investment managers to have knowledge of the true abilities of the world’s Madoffs, that allowed Madoff to operate freely and without concern of being detected for so long.

Click here to read the editorial by Joseph Wells on the ACFE website.

© Copyright 2007-2017 Monique Bryher

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