x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Ponzi fraud and the stitch in time

One would have thought a piece of Bernie Madoff's clothing, or a pair of his shoes, would be the last thing you would want. Who wants a lucky charm from somebody who pulled off the biggest fraud in history?

There is something fascinating about famous people's belongings. Take Napoleonic memorabilia. Anything from locks of hair to uniforms to medals that France's greatest man ever touched have become almost an industry, coveted by collectors.

That is understandable, when you consider he reformed the army, conquered half of Europe and developed the Napoleonic Code that remains the basis of the country's legal system. However, one would have thought a piece of Bernie Madoff's clothing, or a pair of his shoes, would be the last thing you would want. Who wants a lucky charm from somebody who pulled off the biggest fraud in history, some US$65 billion (Dh238.73bn) at the last count?

It turns out that in New York on Saturday, just about everybody did. Some of the prices were lower than those reached at a similar, smaller Madoff sale, also held at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers.

But most of the stuff reached absurd levels - $6,000 for a pair of black velvet slippers, with the initials BLM embroidered in gold thread? If I were Bernie Madoff, sitting in a prison cell, I'd consider buying boxes of slippers and spending the days embroidering them with my initials. But he would have to embroider them pretty quick smart.

After all, $6,000 goes into $65bn more than 10.8 million times. To get out earlier than his 150-year sentence he would have to sew more than 72,000 pairs a year, or more than 197 pairs a day.

This is probably another Ponzi scheme that has failed to pay off.

 

rwright@thenational.ae