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Fiduciary Responsibity (New 7 Mar2009)

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What ever happened to fiduciary responsibility? 
 
Enron, AIG, Merrill Lynch, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac are just a few of the examples of companies that ignored their fiduciary responsibility to their customers, shareholders, and the rest of the Country.
 
These companies, and many more, bring new meaning to the phrase "inhumanity to man".  As a direct result of their lack of fiduciary responsibility, millions are now suffering from an unprecedented collapse of the world around them.  Their savings are gone.  Their houses are gone.  Their jobs are gone.
 
Some of them share the blame for their current condition.  Many lived beyond their means, paying for a luxurious lifestyle with dept and inflation fueled by an excessive supply of cheap money.
 
However, there is a growing segment of the population who have lost their savings and/or their jobs through no fault of their own.
 
There may be no single individual more symbolic of "lack of fiduciary responsibility than Barney Madoff. 

The iPINIONS JOURNAL

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 5:38 AM

Barney Madoff pulls off the biggest Wall Street Scam in History

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

If the banking crisis has not convinced you that Wall Street is populated by a bunch of arrogant, greedy and amoral shysters, then the Ponzi scheme now unfolding should.

After all, reports are that Bernie Madoff, the erstwhile “pillar of Wall Street”, swindled $50 billion from a motley crew of rich folks, from Hollywood director Steven Spielberg to purportedly sophisticated fund managers, by promising returns (of 15 to 22%) on their money that not even the Almighty God could guarantee.

Apropos the God reference, it does seem rather miraculous that Madoff managed to dupe so many people for so many years by doing nothing more than “stealing from Peter to Pay Paul”.  (It is rather fitting that his last name is pronounced “made off”- as in: he made off with a whole lotta loot!)  In fact, it is a measure of how successful he was in luring suckers into his scheme that stories abound about the number of people whose money he refused to take; i.e., you had to audition for the privilege of having Bernie steal from you.

Meanwhile, the scope of Madoff’s fraud is such that it is on track to surpass the one perpetrated by the snake-oil salesmen at Enron, which - at $60 billion - stands as the biggest in US history.

I am mindful, however, that to delve too much into this sap story would be to indulge in the most unseemly form of schadenfreude - especially since his victims include worthy charities and pension funds that have lost their entire endowments.

Yet, it would be remiss of me not to observe that Madoff would not have been so successful if a bunch of greedy rich folks were not so eager to become even richer. Not to mention that if the heads of many banks in America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East had been content to earn their money the old-fashioned way (like Smith Barney), Madoff would’ve been scheming only with millions, not tens of billions of dollars.

I also feel obliged to note that this scandal confirms my abiding suspicion that much of the US financial market is little more than a house of cards, in which croupiers with MBAs continually shuffle decks to determine winners and losers…

Let us hope that Ken Lay and Jeff  Skilling’s sublime fate disabuses all white-collar criminals of their patently fatuous presumption that - because they swindle billions from stock portfolios and pension plans - they are somehow smarter and more honorable than street thugs who steal nickels and dimes (by comparison) from banks and purses.

[Enron's masters of the universe found guilty as sin, The iPINIONS Journal, May 26, 2006 ]

Unfortunately, as P.T. Barnum folklore has it:

There’s a sucker born every minute.

Incidentally, last week, after investors became spooked by the ongoing global financial crisis and started demanding billions, Madoff reportedly felt compelled to confess to his sons that his reputation as an investment genius was “all just one big lie”; that his business was insolvent for years; that he was “finished and had absolutely nothing”; that “there is no innocent explanation”; and that he “expected to go to jail”.

His sons, who evidently knew nothing about his scam, turned him in to the FBI. He has been charged and is currently holed up in his swank New York City apartment on $10 million bail….

NOTE: Given the unprecedented level of this fraud, I hereby declare that we should retire Mr Ponzi and henceforth refer to the scheme that bears his name as a “Madoff scheme”.  More importantly, I have no doubt that Madoff, 70, will be convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison - if he doesn’t opt instead to take the coward’s way out…