Like the unspooling of a Hollywood epic of the golden age (Ponzi with the Wind?), there are reels to go in the Madoff scandal. The climax of the first act was Madoff admitting his guilt to his sons – he could barely say ‘It’s all just one big lie’ before they called in the cops. Fade to black.
The second act has been where his victims discover the fraud – investment managers fall to their knees as they realise they and their clients have lost fortunes. Titans of the City and Wall Street are shamed: Nicola Horlick, Arki Busson, Santander. Adding to the cinematic feel is the real-life cast: Steven Spielberg’s charitable foundation, Kevin Bacon, media tycoons.
But act two does not end with the gnashing of teeth, rather with tragedy: grimly, just before Christmas, a French investor in Madoff was found dead in his Madison Avenue office, his wrists slashed with a boxcutter.
Thierry de la Villehuchet founded Access International in 1994, and in December investors were told that one of Access’ funds, Luxalpha American Selection, had placed money with Madoff. $1.4 billion is thought to have disappeared. His brother Bertrand sais that he felt he had betrayed his friends and his clients, whose money he had invested.
Act three has had an ignominious start, at least for the anti-hero: instead of making his getaway from prison (happily for him, his prison is his Manhattan apartment) through ingenious means, he rather prosaically mailed $1m worth of jewellery to his family.
His lawyer says he did this before he was arrested; his critics says it’s a breach of bail – he’s trying to dispose of his assets. Someone who managed to fool the most ‘brilliant’ minds of the financial world couldn’t escape the notice of the postal system.
As the camera zooms out from the red lines of figures on the boards of a stock market, and then one pans across a financial office, capturing investment managers with their heads in their hands, the audience begins to grasp quite how many people have been ruined.
There is the courtroom drama still to come.