Saturday, August 27, 2011
"Chasing Madoff": one man's fight for what is right
“Chasing Madoff”, directed by Jeff Prosserman and produced by Cohen Media, does tell the story of one man’s forming and tracking down his convictions, and having to ponder the moral aspects of how his activity plays out with his responsibility to his wife and three sons. I’ll say from the outset, his greatest service to his sons was setting the right example of doing the right thing even when it is risky. That is something he had learned in Catholic school in Massachusetts and then as an Army officer.
That man is Harry Markopolos, who had entered Wall Street after his Army career, married and had twins, and then noticed around 2000 or so that competitor Bernie Madoff (his Lipstick Building is shown) could not have been so steadily successful unless he were running a Ponzi scheme, where new “clients” provide the income to pay older customers. Markopolos ran models, some of them on a laptop on an Amtrak train, that showed extremely low probability that Madoff’s operation could be making bona fide investments. In 2001, he approached the SEC, which kept stalling on a real investigation. He also approached the Wall Street Journal, which acted incredulous.
He kept at it, but became fearful for his (and his family members’) lives. He learned from a local Massachusetts cop how to arm himself, and exercise his Second Amendment rights. He would even look under his car before starting it. Madoff’s own scheme collapsed only because of the 2008 crisis, when h turned himself in. The film makes the point that without watchdogs doing their jobs (the SEC) and alert individuals (Markopols) a financial system becomes unstable. Finally, Markopolos has to undergo more tension as he faxes his documents to the WSJ after Madoff confesses at the end of 2008. Some of this activity reminds me of Daniel Ellsberg's (Feb. 28, 2010 review).
The film makes light of some of the points, especially the self-protection, with some animation and stills.
Official site from Cohen Media.