The Ethical (And Mathematical) Dilemma Of Madoff Investors Who Took Some Money Out

from the what-to-do? dept

With respect to the Bernard Madoff scam, I'd been hearing plenty of people ask "where did the money go?" since there's none left. The answer has always been pretty straightforward: as a Ponzi scheme, much of the money went back out to the earlier investors who took some money out. The rest was probably invested in various investments whose value has gone down to almost nothing in the last few months. However, this is apparently creating something of a quandary for some of those early investors who took money out -- but still had some money (theoretically) still with Madoff. Should they apply for aid from the Securities Investor Protection Corp?

SIPC acts like an FDIC for these types of investments, helping to protect investors in cases of fraud. But some are realizing that if they took money out from Madoff over the years (and some did so profitably), if they go ask for money from the SIPC, it could alert regulators to the fact that they profited from Madoff's scam -- and they could suddenly owe the "profits" they had taken out in the past. The Feds can demand that those who profited from Madoff's scam return the money -- but that will involve actually being able to track them down. For some "victims," it may be better to just keep what they have, keep quiet, and forget what they thought they still had invested with Madoff. But there are concerns for others who have already admitted to cashing out (sometimes a long time ago), are they suddenly going to be forced to return the money they took out of their accounts?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:31pm

    "gone done"

    I think you meant "gone down".

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    Re:

    Dang, you beat me to it.

     

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  3.  
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    Dave, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:50pm

    Having looked into the background of the Madoff "scam", it seems it only became a scam once the market started going south a couple of years ago.

    For many years, it operated successfully, but started to fail and then used the ponzi method to keep going "until the market recovered" Not smart, but that's what happened.

    Of course, the market got worse and people pulled money out faster than they could get it in as investors pulled out of the market in general.

    So, for many over the years, the profits are legitimate. For some, they invested in good faith and it doesn't seem like a good idea that they should pay back what isn't actually stolen.

    On the flip side, it makes you wonder how many of these investment firms may be doing the same thing...

     

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  4.  
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    PixelPusher220, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:59pm

    Re:

    @Dave:

    A scam is not only a scam when it's losing money. A Ponzi scheme is a scam because it can never ultimately turn a profit. It runs out of new investors since you need an ever increasing number of investors to meet your claims of growth. The collapse of the market in general sped this to a close, but it was guaranteed to happen eventually.

    My question on the profits is that if they didn't know it was a 'scam' how are they responsible for returning profits that were by all appearances were legit. I thought the Feds had looked at Madoff (albeit fleetingly) and incorrectly determined there wasn't a problem. If the cops say it's legal, isn't it legal? You don't get a fine for driving through a red light when an officer directs you to do you?

    Even if you need to return your 'profits' it would only be what you happen to have left rather than punitively asking for everything back if they didn't know it was illegal?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Re:

    feeble

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Better question.

    Are you invested in any like vehicles which without your knowledge could be a Ponzie scam?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    My understanding based on some other articles is the Feds can only go back six years to seize profits. In addition, if you can demonstrate you cashed out for reasons other than you suspected Madoff was playing fancy with the numbers, you are probably not liable for the illicit gains. For example, if you cashed out to buy a house then you could argue you didn't profit from the fraud because you took the money out for purposes other than a suspicion the investment wasn't kosher.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 2:05pm

    Its like the FDA, just because the feds look at something, give it the 'ok', that doesn't mean its:

    A) Safe
    B) Protect anyone from liability
    C) Smart to do

    Sorry for my medical analogy, but it's how I understand it

     

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  9.  
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    SmackWho, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    Honesty is the best policy...

    If you are aware that what you have become involved in is illegal, you need to come forward regardless of the consequences. Just clamming up and hoping the feds never catch on to you puts you in equal share of the guilt with this alleged thief.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 2:27pm

    Re:

    Actually, no. If you look at this report http://online.wsj.com/documents/Madoff_SECdocs_20081217.pdf, then you will see it has been a fraud for a long, long time. Note the date: Nov 7, 2005.

    You need to do your research better....

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re:

    [replying to my own comment]

    Oh, and let's not forget the 2001 Barron's article about Madoff being suspicious: http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/top-5/2008/12/17/madoff-barrons

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 4:48pm

    given that the entire stock market is by definition a ponzi scheme (i.e., no more money can go out than come in and all "growth" is based on future suckers (errr investors) AND there is skimming on every single transaction by the brokers), why all the whining? Madoff is just a small stock market. Now, are there still fools out there dumping money into the "never lose" stock market? Where does your 401k $ go? Mine certainly does not end up in the market - it never has and never will.

     

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  13.  
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    Beta, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 7:43am

    @Anonymous Coward: "...given that the entire stock market is by definition a ponzi scheme (i.e., no more money can go out than come in and all "growth" is based on future suckers (errr investors)[)]...

    No, stocks pay dividends.

    That's... pretty basic.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 10:39pm

    Dividends?

    What I never understood was why the stock market had stocks that would be around forever. It would make more sense for the stock market to be much more like risky bonds. That would make the gambling that is inherent in the system more clear. You would buy from a given batch of end payout securities, which would be based on a percentage of corporate profits over a given timeframe.

    Say a corporation wanted to start out with a 10 year scheme. Their total yearly profits would be 100%. If they loose too much they go bankrupt and your left with worthless paper. If they make a profit then that 10% is split proportionally among the batch they sold for that year and similarly among the other batches. Every 10 years a given batch would expire and they would sell new issues.

    The valuation of a given batch would be determined by how much profit potential investors expected it to make.

    If the company wanted to sell longer duration batches they would have to reduce the percentage of profits they have leased shares in so they could support a longer duration. Alternatively they would have to use more complex dilution methods.

     

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  15.  
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    anonymous, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Madoff

    They are all winners. I can't believe I'm the only person who can see it. Each and every person who "lost" money is part of the scam!
    Watch as those "losers" start to leave the country within the next year or so. They will all be hotel and casino owners in the "New Middle East"!

     

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  16.  
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    Thadeus, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 7:22pm

    Bernie Madoff

    It was Bernie Madoff's birthday this past Wednesday. Here is an interesting article about the day he was born:

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1657671/jail_time_makes_madoff_more_fortunate.html ?singlepage=true&cat=47

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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