Bernie Madoff: The accomplishment of an entrepreneur or a psychopath?

Last night was the final night of a course in social gerontology I taught at the University of Bridgeport. I left the class feeling optimistic about humans. While walking to my car I reflected on an interview of Dr. Charlotte Perry, Medical Anthropologist at UCSF. When asked about the needs of aging African Americans she said,

“I did a study in the Southeastern part of the United States of a large group of widows living in subsidized housing. The widows who were “weller” (for lack of a better term) were in fact taking care of those in the housing complex that weren’t as well. The housing complex management took no responsibility for making assessments on health status beyond the initial application that showed that applicants were able to manage their daily lives. People didn’t come forth and say, “Well, now I’m unable to do this,” because if they did, they would no longer be able to live there. What we found was that younger widows were taking care of those who were frail.”

The “weller widows” don’t get much press but I believe they actually reflect the values and beliefs of most humans.

On the ride home, I was jolted out of my euphoria by News Radio 88 which had quite a different story to tell. It is alleged that one of Wall Street’s most trusted investment advisors, Bernie Madoff has actually been a fraud. He stands accused of the largest Ponzi scheme in history. The losses may approach 50 billion dollars.

When I got home, I emailed my cyber-friend who is securities fraud investigator, asking, “Is Bernie Madoff a con artist?” This morning on awakening I eagerly opened her reply hoping to read a long story of some terrible mistake. The email said only, “Of course.”

The Wall Street Journal has the most detailed account I could find of the unraveling of Madoff’s life. FBI agent Theodore Cacioppi said Madoff’s investment advisory business had “deceived investors by operating a securities business in which he traded and lost investor money, and then paid certain investors purported returns on investment with the principal received from other, different investors, which resulted in losses of approximately billions of dollars.”

The WSJ also tells the story of Madoff the entrepreneur who started his company with “$5,000 he saved from a lifeguarding at Rockaway Beach in Queens and a job installing underground sprinkler systems, according to a 2000 report in a trade magazine, Wall Street + Technology.” Lifeguard to Wall Street vanguard? does sound a little far-fetched for anyone but a sociopath/psychopath.

Is it possible Madoff is a sociopath? or maybe one of Paul Babiak’s psychopathic Snakes in Suits?

In Chapter 12, of Unmasking the Psychopath, Dr. Ethyl Spector Person compares entrepreneurs to psychopaths. She states, “In their personality styles, both psychopaths and entrepreneurs are action oriented and innovative rather than reactive and inhibited. In particular, they utilize manipulation of the interpersonal field”¦In the entrepreneur, domination and the will to power are incorporated into the ego ideal and therefore stand at considerable psychic distance from primitive sadistic wishes”¦Sadism must be vented (in the psychopath), in order to preserve the sense of self; sadism saturates the interpersonal enactment of intra-psychic dramas and ultimately leads to downward drift in the lives of psychopaths.”

Can we infer from the above quote that sadism and downward drift differentiate the psychopath from the entrepreneur?

I’ll leave you with the story of one of Madoff’s alleged victims. “Susan Leavitt of Tampa Bay, Fla., said she had several million dollars of inherited money invested in the firm and added $500,000 earlier this year. A stay-at-home mother with two children, the 46-year-old Ms. Leavitt says she is considering going back to work. “That was my nest egg for the children, and my future. I’ll never see much back, I’m sure,” she said.”

I move we put disadvantaged African American widows in charge of Wall Street, the Banks, the Auto Industry and the country. Anyone else for that?

For more information on the scam, read this report on Bernard Madoff arrested over alleged $50 billion fraud on Yahoo News.

To read an interview of Madoff from 2000, visit CNN.

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39 Comments on "Bernie Madoff: The accomplishment of an entrepreneur or a psychopath?"

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My mother married some sort of sociopathic narcissist (not sure of the label) who was abusive to my sister and me from the time I was 7 till I left home at 16. Back in those days there was no information or resources about abusive people. To this day, my mother doesn’t realize how harmful of a person he was and how much damage he did to us. I admire you for having the courage to face this past marriage and come out of denial about what you were dealing with. It can’t be easy looking back after so many years. It is understandable that you are still affected by it. Trauma symptoms don’t know any time table and can last a lifetime. There are some forms of therapy that address trauma specifically. Sounds like you may be a good candidate for some of those things. I hope you will find it therapeutic to talk about it here and learn about it. Maybe it will give some of this stress in your psyche an outlet of expression.

Congratulations, too, on rebuilding your life. You are a role model for many of us here.
Peace out,

Thank you JJ for the comments on rape. Needed that. Have suffered physical (before I was even a teen, by a stranger, and my family just TOTALLY ignored the whole thing) and emotional rape, and I’m here to say the emotional is MUCH WORSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God, how I wish the P had just beat me up and left me for dead. MUCH easeir to put behind you.

Rune: What is your definition of GREED?

Go put the word in the search engine and see what is listed under it’s headings. You’ll be surprised.


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