It’s hard to believe that it has already been two years since the implosion of Bernie Madoff’s devastating Ponzi scheme, and it’s hard to comprehend why the fallen financier would choose this moment to unburden himself to New York magazine’s Steve Fishman (not much to lose, perhaps), whose interest in Madoff’s tale was piqued by Mark Madoff’s December suicide. Their resulting discussion is posted on the mag’s site—complete with audio clips of Madoff’s stories from prison. —KA
In some ways, Madoff has not tried to evade blame. He has made a full confession, telling me again and again that nothing justifies what he did. And yet, for Madoff, that doesn’t settle the matter. He feels misunderstood. He can’t bear the thought that people think he’s evil. “I’m not the kind of person I’m being portrayed as,” he told me.
And so, sitting alone with his therapist, in the prison khakis he irons himself, he seeks reassurance. “Everybody on the outside kept claiming I was a sociopath,” Madoff told her one day. “I asked her, ‘Am I a sociopath?’?” He waited expectantly, his eyelids squeezing open and shut, that famous tic. “She said, ‘You’re absolutely not a sociopath. You have morals. You have remorse.’?” Madoff paused as he related this. His voice settled. He said to me, “I am a good person.”
There aren’t many who would agree. For most of the world, Bernie Madoff is a monster; he betrayed thousands of investors, bankrupted charities and hedge funds. On paper, his Ponzi scheme lost nearly $65 billion; the effects spread across five continents. And he brought down his own family with him, a more intimate kind of betrayal.
Mr. Misunderstood: Bernard Madoff exits Manhattan federal court in 2009.