The Bernie Madoff fraud scandal has been a tragedy for his many investors, but it has proven a gold mine for the business media. Finance writers, exhausted from years of trying to inject drama into the Randian mutterings of Alan Greenspan and the scholarly condescension of Ben Bernanke, have finally found a hot headline grabber of their own.
Prison or no prison, we're not letting Bernie go.
The latest scuttlebutt is that Madoff may have been beaten in December 2009. According to The Wall Street Journal (NWS), the alleged assailant -- hereinafter referred to as "the head sister" -- claimed that Madoff owed him money. A body builder with a black belt in judo, the head sister (may have) lived in a different section of the prison, which (could have) made it impossible for him to beat Madoff. Still, the famed Ponzi schemer was (supposedly) treated for broken ribs, a fractured nose, and cuts to his face.
The bulk of the WSJ's story -- which ran for almost 1,000 words, by the way -- is based on hearsay sourced from various inmates. Madoff may have been beaten by a man who may be a bodybuilder. He may have been treated for broken bones and contusions, or he may have been treated for exhaustion and hypertension, as the prison reported in December. According to prison officials, when authorities investigated the case, Madoff stated that he hadn't been in a fight. Then again, as any fan of The Shawshank Redemption or Prison Break could attest, nobody tells the authorities the truth -- at least not in the movies.
That's Why He's There
And the fight isn't the only way in which Andy Dufresne -- er, Bernie Madoff -- seems to be channeling Stephen King's prison novel. Like Shawshank's protagonist, he is allegedly hanging out in the library where, according to the WSJ, he's dispensing financial advice to his fellow inmates. Madoff reportedly told one inmate to check out index funds, "where my money would be on all the stocks instead of putting my eggs into one basket." While this is sage advice, it is also fairly generic; then again, as the inmate and the Journal seem to have forgotten, Madoff didn't make his money through investing; in fact, it's worth noting THAT'S WHY HE'S IN PRISON.
There is no word yet on whether Madoff is using his business acumen to suck up to the warden.
Admittedly, the WSJ story loses something in translation. Originally reported by inmates rattling mugs against their cell bars, the rumors seem flimsy when held up against the standard of real news. The trouble is, by that standard, there isn't really all that much happening on the Madoff front.
Madoff Had Help!
This week the big news is that -- surprise, surprise -- Madoff may not have acted alone. Court-appointed trustee Irving Picard is suing Madoff's sons for $198 million, alleging that they were "completely derelict" in their duties as employees of the family firm. Predictably, Bernie's boys responded that they are also victims of their father's scheme.
In other real news, it looks like Madoff may soon be joined by two of his former employees. On Wednesday, a federal grand jury indicted Jerome O'Hara and George Perez, programmers who allegedly developed specialized computer software that helped Madoff to defraud his investors. If guilty, the pair could face prison sentences of up to 30 years.
In the meantime, the WSJ has yet to investigate reports that Madoff has ordered a poster of Raquel Welch from "Red," the kindly felon whom he befriended in the yard.
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