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The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust [Hardcover]

Diana B. Henriques
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

April 6 2011

The inside story of Bernie Madoff and his $65 billion Ponzi scheme, with surprising and shocking new details from Madoff himself.

Who is Bernie Madoff, and how did he pull off the biggest Ponzi scheme in history?

These questions have fascinated people ever since the news broke about the respected New York financier who swindled his friends, relatives, and other investors out of $65 billion through a fraud that lasted for decades. Many have speculated about what might have happened or what must have happened, but no reporter has been able to get the full story -- until now.

In The Wizard of Lies, Diana B. Henriques of The New York Times -- who has led the paper’s coverage of the Madoff scandal since the day the story broke -- has written the definitive book on the man and his scheme, drawing on unprecedented access and more than one hundred interviews with people at all levels and on all sides of the crime, including Madoff’s first interviews for publication since his arrest. Henriques also provides vivid details from the various lawsuits, government investigations, and court filings that will explode the myths that have come to surround the story.

A true-life financial thriller, The Wizard of Lies contrasts Madoff's remarkable rise on Wall Street, where he became one of the country’s most trusted and respected traders, with dramatic scenes from his accelerating slide toward self-destruction. It is also the most complete account of the heartbreaking personal disasters and landmark legal battles triggered by Madoff’s downfall -- the suicides, business failures, fractured families, shuttered charities -- and the clear lessons this timeless scandal offers to Washington, Wall Street, and Main Street.

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"Riveting reading. . . . [Henriques] probably knows more than anyone outside the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission about the mechanics of the fraud. As a consequence, in The Wizard of Lies she is able to add significant detail to the story. . . . In the end the story holds us not because of the engrossing details of the scam, but because of the human dimension."--Liaquat Ahamed, The New York Times Book Review

"Henriques offers an impressive, meticulously reported postmortem not only of the Ponzi scheme but also of Madoff's entire career. . . . The Wizard of Lies is the definitive book on what Madoff did and how he did it."--Bloomberg Businessweek

"In The Wizard of Lies, Diana Henriques, who covered the Madoff scandal for the New York Times, offers a riveting history of Mr Madoff’s shady dealings and the shattering consequences of his theft. . . . She offers a raw and surprisingly moving portrait about the toll that Mr Madoff’s deceit took on his family."—The Economist

"Entertaining… Cogent and well researched, The Wizard of Lies is an engaging narrative…  [The book] reveals many moments where Madoff might have been stopped. But his investors were too trusting or too greedy to ask the right questions and US regulators were too cowed and too disorganised."--Financial Times



About the Author

Diana B. Henriques is the author of The White Sharks of Wall Street and Fidelity’s World. She is a senior financial writer for The New York Times, having joined the Times staff in 1989. A Polk Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist, she has won several awards for her work on the Times’s coverage of the Madoff scandal and was part of the team recognized as a Pulitzer finalist for its coverage of the financial crisis of 2008. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
"Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life;
He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing." -- Proverbs 29:24 (NKJV)

Veteran financial journalist Diana Henriques does a masterful job of providing a play-by-play account of those involved in the Madoff mess. I found that most of my unanswered questions were well covered here . . . as much as can be the case when dealing with world-champion liars and thieves.

Those who trust in Wall Street will find much food for thought here. I was delighted when Ms. Henriques pointed out in the book that another Ponzi scheme is undoubtedly already out there, lulling the inattentive into a false sense of security while siphoning off their money. Unfortunately, one potential use of this book is to make a Ponzi scheme work better. I pray that no one will use it that way. But you never know.

Naturally, a lot of people have much to hide . . . and others want to avoid extreme embarrassment. So a lot of the details may never be known.

It added a lot to the story to learn about Madoff's life behind bars and how the asset recovery program has been conducted.

Ultimately, it's the horrible human cost of such a crime that makes it so terrible. When someone does this kind of crime, there will be a lot of blood on his or her hands.

Be careful!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  96 reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love a great story April 27 2011
By NYBookClubber - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I haven't read many books about finance or financial crimes, so I was a bit concerned that parts of this book might be over my head. This was not the case with The Wizard of Lies. Instead, what I got was a suspenseful, thrilling story that I couldn't put down. I got it all from this book: a comprehensive overview of when and how this crime started, the smallest details about how it ended, and everything in between AND after. We also learn how it's affected--and continues to affect--individuals and organizations.

Finally, what I found very interesting is how the author looks at what Madoff's crime--and how he fooled so many--can teach us about ourselves. This was something that made me reflect and think about the stories I tell myself. Highly recommended to those who are looking for a compelling, informative and thoughtful non-fiction book.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really shows how the Madoff phenomenon was a team game May 1 2011
By Peter_is_here - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A fascinating and very readable book that walks the reader step-by-step through Bernie Madoff's Wall Street career, detailing the growth of both his legit brokerage business and his massive Ponzi scheme.

More than anything, the book illustrates how the Madoff phenomenon could never have gotten so big or lasted so long without the complicity of his major "clients." Particularly "feeder funds" such as Fairfield Greenwich and funds run by (or connected to) people such as J. Ezra Merkin and Sonja Kohn. While positioning themselves as hedge fund managers, these operators were nothing more than salespeople funneling money to Madoff. Madoff's genius was allowing them to generate phenomenal fees for themselves off the business they were doing with him, using their greed and ego to keep questions at a minimum. You really see how preposterous it is for these funds to claim they had no idea anything fishy was going on.

One of the most ironic takeaways for me was Madoff's role in bringing greater transparency to the market for OTC securities (through participation in the creation of NASDAQ) and his work in bringing down commission costs for retail investors through his initially controversial "pay for order flow" model. Yet at the same time he was sitting on his own dark secret.

Excellent and engaging. What kept it from being a five star book for me was how much is still left unknown -- when exactly did the scheme begin? How much did the feeder funds know? Maybe there will be a follow up book.
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a compelling read April 26 2011
By William Pinzler - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Diana Henriques, a senior financial writer for the New York Times, has performed an act of wizardry. Not only has she covered the "Madoff affair" from its initial days as a gifted reporter, but she has written an insightful book which gives context and understanding to this most spectacular, longest running and largest Ponzi scheme in history. She understands the financial system and the securities markets inside and out. This book she has written is a must read. The Madoff story is not over. There are major and significant law suits to be decided, but from now on all of the reporting will have the benefit of Ms. Henriques insights and understandings of the events and the real people who worked with Madoff, invested with Madoff and, yes, were related to Madoff.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done, Diana May 2 2011
By Athanasius - Published on
I used to know Diana Henriques, both professionally and personally, and am well acquainted with her outstanding writing and reportorial skills, as well as with her relentlessness as an investigative journalist. These talents, among others, are evident beyond refutation or even argument in her excellent "The Wizard of Lies".

I think what I like most about this book is Diana's decency and sense of fair play. She refuses to engage in idle and destructive speculation regarding the supposed involvement and guilt of Mrs. Madoff or of the two sons (and others). So easy to do, so expected; what an understandable temptation to which to succumb. But Diana is made of sterner -- and better -- stuff. She reports and, to coin a phrase, we decide. Indeed, if anything, she's perhaps a bit too detached. No, I didn't want her to engage in calumny, however coy and oblique. But I had both hoped and expected that she would delve a bit deeper. Her reporting is outstanding, to be sure, but I'm no closer (anyway, not much closer) to understanding Bernie Madoff than I had been. Why did he do it? I'm not impressed by vague and cookie-cutter explanations, such as "He was greedy." Who isn't who doesn't have "Saint" in front of his name? No, what I'm interested in, specifically and exactly, is...why? And I still don't have an answer to the question that's fascinated me from the beginning: Why didn't he run? If it had been me, I would have pulled a Lord Lucan in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

Any other problems? Not really. There's an occasional editing glitch. For example, Diana explains the concept of front-running more than once. And where are the photos? Wasn't it Anita Bryant who astutely observed that a day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine? Well, a nonfiction book without pictures is, well, like a day without, you know, sunshine. Or something.

Still, I heartily recommend "The Wizard of Lies", which is terrific. By the way, try to find a copy of Diana's "The White Sharks of Wall Street". It's a riveting study of Leopold Silberstein and the other original corporate raiders.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Read June 26 2011
By groupworker - Published on
This is a very important book for our generation. I wanted to understand how Madoff could have gotten away with a scam bigger than anyone could have ever imagined and the book does exactly that. I am surprised that someone wrote that there is nothing new here, but it is extremely well written and all the the background and follow up details are in one place. The author's attention to details is captivating. Even for those of us without financial backgrounds it is informative, interesting and provocative. Even though I had to go slowly through the details of the financial market, it was absolutely worth my time. I feel much more informed and eager to discuss with others the greed, deception and ridiculous trust when there should have been skepticism. Wizard of Lies provides a lens on this unfortunate time in our recent history when government officials, financial experts, business and nonprofit leaders, and honest citizens should have stopped Madoff's sickness years ago. As important as it is to understand how it happened and how it continued perhaps for 20+ years, it is even more important to use this book to prevent such an atrocity (or even deception on a much, much smaller scale) from happening again.
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