...I was a participant — and victim — of the Madoff scam, and have a pretty good understanding of the factors that caused me to behave foolishly. So I shall use myself as a case study to illustrate how even a well-educated (I’m a college professor) and relatively intelligent person, and an expert on gullibility and financial scams to boot, could fall prey to a hustler such as Madoff.
Greenspan (no relation to Alan Greenspan) explores the social situations and emotions that lead people to invest their money in scams like Ponzi schemes, and how the Madoff situation got out of hand.
The real mystery in the Madoff story is not how naïve individual investors such as myself would think the investment safe, but how the risks and warning signs could have been ignored by so many financially knowledgeable people, ranging from the adviser who sold me and my sister (and himself) on the investment, to the highly compensated executives who ran the various feeder funds that kept the Madoff ship afloat. The partial answer is that Madoff’s investment algorithm (along with other aspects of his organization) was a closely guarded secret difficult to penetrate, and partly (as in all cases of gullibility) that strong affective and self-deception processes were at work. In other words, they had too good a thing going, for themselves and their clients, to entertain the idea that it might all be about to crumble.
http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/08-12-23.html#feature -Thanks, Eli Schwimme!
(image credit: Dan DeVore)