Tuesday, 16 December 2008

'Little Dorrit', Mr. Madoff and other peoples' greed

What extraordinary times we are living in! Every day something new appears to make our hair stand on end. Now it's the story of Mr. Madoff - Mr. Madeoff-with-lots-of money Madoff. I was talking to my sister in New York this afternoon. We were both astounded at the apparent lack of fiduciary 'nous' all these investors have had all these years. They've invested all their money with one man for seemingly unrealistic returns.

Unrealistic is the right word. It's all surreal. Extraordinary. What were they all thinking of? Where did they think that the money was coming from? I would have thought that Steven Spielberg and Elie Wiesel and HSBC and Santander could have employed independent FSA's in order to investigate that the fund that they were investing in was bona fide. Apparently they did not.

So my New York sister now relates how once were millionaires are now paupers. "There's going to be so many suicides..." she told me. "How can people sleep at night? We're now wealthier than them!" I suppose that there's some kind of irony in that. One of the most bizarre things is that Mr. Madoff belonged to so many golf clubs. Not so many years ago he wouldn't have been able to belong to one! Anyone ever seen 'Gentleman's Agreement'? Of course the nasty, vituperative, insidious comments are showing their faces on various websites. The Daily Mail especially. "Don't deal with the Chosen People" was how one correspondent sneeringly wrote. Charming.

And then there's Nicola Horlick spewing venom. She only invested 10% of her clients' money with Mr. Madoff-with-lots-of-other-peoples'-money. That's a lot of money. £21 million, at the last count. I thought that she was supposed to be clever too. At least that's what she tells everyone she is! So she was taken in?

It's interesting that when a little man makes a mistake with his taxes or there's perceived to be something fishy about the way that he conducts his business, that law and financial enforcers are on his doorstep at dawn but here, where there's $50 billion at stake, no questions were ever asked. The auditor was a seventy-eight year old retiree in Florida and the auditors' office was run by one man and a secretary. S e c r e t a r y... take that apart: doesn't 'secrecy' reside there somewhere?

Even more bizarre is the fact that I watched the last three episodes of the wonderful BBC production of Little Dorrit on the telly on Sunday afternoon. Cold, wet and positively frigid it was outside. I curled myself up in the corner of the settee, while it got darker and darker the closer we got to 3pm. What a surprise! Mr. Merdle was the Victorian embodyment of Mr. Madoff! Everyone was desperate to invest in his bank. Why? Because his interest rates were far higher than anyone else's. Of course the whole thing was a sham and when he knew he was going to be rumbled, he took himself off to the bath house, gobbled a good slug of Laudenam and slit his jugular with a pretty penknife. Maybe Mr. Madoff read only three-quarters of the book and got bored before the end.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say have just finished reading your book. Harrowing yet heartening. You are an amazingly brave lady. I heard you on Excess Baggage, and at that time my 17- year -old son had just been placed under Section with a first psychotic episode probably due to cannabis abuse. We live near Guildford but he was studying art in Toronto and our biggest fear was that we wouldn't be able to get him home. health insurers were terrifically obstructive as it was drug-induced. your 'Erik' sounded like a fairy godmother by comparison!! Can you recommend good health insurers for the future please? We were with Norwich Union...

Thank you so much, Ros

Kind Regards, Karen

Ros Morris said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks for that. I really appreciate the feedback. So sorry to hear how difficult it has been for you. I think that we were lucky because it was the first time that it had happened to 'Zach' and, therefore, the insurers didn't have a precedent that they could use against us. PPP were the insurers at the time but once you have a history of a psychotic illness, with the addition of drug abuse, then it's likely that you will not be insured again.

I hope that things have improved. In my opinion, and not necessarily Zach's, it's so much better when you actually manage to get your offspring sectioned when they really need to. They hate it. Never forget it. Never forgive you for it but it is, fundamentally, the best for them and you are lucky to have had him sectioned into hospital when, no doubt, he must have been extremely ill.

If you have a moment and think that the book warrants it, I'd always appreciate a mention on Amazon!

All the best,