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No One Would Listen: A True Financial…

No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller (2010)

by Harry Markopolos

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Either Markopolos is a good writer or he had a great ghost, because this was a much better read than I expected it to be. Could have used fewer "The SEC couldn't find ice cream in a Dairy Queen" metaphors but otherwise a compelling story, well-told. ( )
  sblock | Feb 11, 2016 |
You can’t really criticize Harry Markopolos. He was right. He had spotted something wrong with Bernie Madoff years before the biggest Ponzi scheme collapsed. Unlike many others, Markopolos contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission about his suspicions. They ignored him. Markopolos went to the press, but no meaningful article came of it.

When Madoff’s scheme collapsed and he turned himself in, Markopolos became lauded by the press, testified in Congress about the failings of the SEC, and was even offered the job of Chairman of the SEC by an ill-informed Congressman. No One Would Listen is another step in the Markopolos victory lap.

He celebrates his brilliance in discovering the fraud and the incompetence of the SEC for not stopping it. He fills his attacks with similes:

“His returns were as reliable as the swallow returning to Capistrano.”

“As I continued examining the numbers, the problems with them began popping out as clearly as a red wagon in a field of snow.”

Markopolos lays out how he first ran into Madoff and the years he spent trying to figure out how Madoff was generating his returns. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that he couldn’t do it. Since Madoff ran a big trading organization, he could have been front-running orders to generate illicit profits. Effectively, he would be stealing from his brokerage customers and giving it to his money management operations.

The other likely possibility was that Madoff was making up his returns and using new funds coming in to redeem those leaving. Markopolos could not find any footprints of Madoff’s split-strike trading strategy. There didn’t seem to be enough options traded on the markets to support the amount Madoff had under management.

I think it’s important to see why Markopolos was focused on Madoff. The principals at his firm wanted him to reverse engineer Madoff strategy so they could offer a similar product to their clients. Markopolos could not figure out how Madoff was generating his steady returns. He first contacted the SEC as a way to get his boss off his back. If he could prove Madoff was a fraud, his boss would quit demanding that Markopolos duplicate the Madoff strategy.

Markopolos starts off No One Would Listen by stating that he made five separate submissions to the Securities and Exchange Commission over a nine-year period. So far, I’ve only seen one, his December 22, 2005 letter. Frankly, I found the letter to be a rambling, half-coherent diatribe. It was penned by a competitor who couldn’t figure out the trading strategy of the legendary Bernie Madoff, the founder of NASDAQ.

As Chris MacDonald notes “Markopolos is a bit of a strange cat. He’s a likeable guy, and apparently a man of integrity, but also a bit paranoid-sounding.” (He had seen the new movie, Chasing Madoff, based on the book.)

Clearly the SEC was unable to stop Madoff. Was it their fault? Yes. They relied on the well-established credentials of Madoff and dismissed the paranoid ramblings of an eccentric analyst. Markopolos’s barbs against the SEC are over-the-top and eventually got distracting. On top of that, I was often distracted by his misuse of “principle” instead of “principal” in the book. You would think that a financial analyst would know the difference. ( )
  dougcornelius | Sep 7, 2011 |
Strangely, I've done a few reviews at LT and never before had the conscious feeling while reading the book of thinking about reviewing and rating it. I was pretty well aware of the Bernie Madoff story and how Harry Markopolos fit into it before I read the book.

While reading the book I thought that it could have been shorter and a bit less repetitive (the material about fearing for his life, e.g.). I also had a mental image of SEC people reacting to Markopolos personally in a negative manner. Markopolos may well be a nice guy but I'd bet that he was very intense; I would have been considering the circumstances. The book wasn't particularly well written and could have used a good editor.

All that said, the story is an extremely important one. The folly at the SEC is deserving of study and contemplation of their ineptness and of corrective action. The gullibility of investors was extreme and the general acceptance of stuff at face value from someone belonging to the same group as the investor (religious, ethnic, geographic, etc) astounds me and seems to happen regularly, although not in this scale.

Bottom line, the story is a five, the writing is a two, so the difference is split. If you are in the financial arena or a trusting soul with regard to financial matters that matter to you, read the book. A smattering of cynicism is a good thing.

Links relevant to the above:

Here is a most interesting, because of the early timing, Barron's article from 2001(!!!) by Erin E. Arvedlund. It may be fair to say that Arvedlund and Barron's were somewhat suspicious at that early time. Instead, the Ponzi scheme dragged on and the dollar numbers skyrocketed.

Reuter's 2011 article.

Wikipedia's background. ( )
1 vote bookblotter | Jan 25, 2011 |
An amazing story about the early discovery of the Bernie Madoff "ponzi" scam a decade before his confession and jailing - and the lack of action by the SEC. Written by the investigator, who is a self admitted "quant", and as such, the writing is not good and rambles. However, this book is the equivalent of "All the President's Men" for the Financial Securities field. Recommended. ( )
  CarterPJ | Jan 6, 2011 |
Guy is nuts, but his diagnosis is not that far off base. ( )
  jcvogan1 | Jul 12, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Blank stares, disdain and tears. Harry Markopolos encountered all three during his nine-year struggle to convince the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernard Madoff’s returns were mathematically impossible. SEC officers didn’t grasp the numbers until the Ponzi scheme had swelled to $65 billion, as Markopolos shows in “No One Would Listen,” a disturbing firsthand account of his quest to expose one of the most powerful men on Wall Street.
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To all the victims - you above all others deserve to know the truth.
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(Introduction) On the rainy afternoon of June 17, 2009, David Kotz sat patiently in a small room with a single barred window at the Metropolitan Correction Center, a prison in lower Manhattan, waiting to interview Bernard Madoff, the mastermind behind the greatest financial crime in history.
On the morning of December 11, 2008, a New York real estate developer on JetBlue flight from New York to Los Angeles was watching CNBC on the small seat-back television.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0470553731, Hardcover)

Harry Markopolos and his team of financial sleuths discuss first-hand how they cracked the Madoff Ponzi scheme

No One Would Listen is the exclusive story of the Harry Markopolos-lead investigation into Bernie Madoff and his $65 billion Ponzi scheme. While a lot has been written about Madoff's scam, few actually know how Markopolos and his team-affectionately called "The Fox Hounds" by Markopolos himself, uncovered what Madoff was doing years before this financial disaster reached its pinnacle. Unfortunately, no one listened, until the damage of the world's largest financial fraud ever was irreversible.

Since that time, Markopolos openly has testified and questioned the enforcement and fraud investigation capabilities of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), shared a sliver of this page-turning story with 60 Minutes, and become perhaps the world's most visible and insightful whistleblower on fraud and conflicts of interest in financial markets.

Throughout the book, Markopolos and his Fox Hounds tell their first-hand story of investigating Madoff-with the help of bestselling author David Fisher. They explain how they discovered the fraud, and then how they provided credible and detailed evidence to major newspapers and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) many times between 2000 and 2008, only to have his warnings ignored repeatedly by the SEC.

Provides a firsthand account of how Markopolos uncovered Madoff's scam years before it actually fell apart Discusses how the SEC missed the red flags raised by Markopolos Describes how Madoff was enabled by investors and fiduciaries alike The only book to tell the story of Madoff's scam and the SEC's failings by those who saw both first hand

Despite repeated written and verbal warnings to the SEC by Harry Markopolos, Bernie Madoff was allowed to continue his operations. No One Would Listen paints a vivid portrait of Markopolos and his determined team of financial sleuths, and what impact they will have on financial markets and financial regulation for decades to come.

A Timeline of a Take-Down
Amazon-exclusive content from author Harry Markopolos

How long did it take to uncover and expose a $40 billion crook? Ten years.

• 1998: My Firm “discovers” Bernie Madoff
• Late 1999: I am asked to reverse engineer Madoff’s returns

• I knew he was a fraudster in 5 minutes
• May: Submission to SEC Boston Regional Office’s Director of Enforcement with 12 Red Flags

• January: Team Member Frank Casey recruits MAR Hedge investigative journalist Michael Ocrant onto the team during a chance meeting in Barcelona, Spain
• March: My 2nd SEC Submission on how I think Madoff is running the scheme and his investment process
• I offer to go undercover to assist the SEC
• Apr: Michael Ocrant interviews Madoff
• May: MAR Hedge publishes Madoff expose, “Madoff Tops Charts; skeptics ask how”; Barron’s publishes, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Bernie Madoff is so secretive, he even asks investors to keep mum”

• Jun: Key trip to UK, France & Switzerland; met with 20 Fund of Funds & Private Client Banks: 14 have Madoff and report “special access to Madoff”; two have admitted Madoff losses – Dexia Asset Management and Fix Family Office; 12 have not admitted Madoff losses and all 12 were turned into SEC Chairwoman on Feb. 5, 2009; off-Shore funds attract three types of investors who won’t report losses or file SIPC claims with the US government

• E-mail records of investigation lost; attempting to recover data from non-functioning hard drives

• Jun: Frank Casey discovers Madoff attempting to borrow money from European banks (first sign that Madoff scheme is in trouble)
• Oct: Boston SEC’s Ed Manion arranges for 3rd SEC Submission
• Oct: Meeting with Boston SEC Branch Chief Mike Garrity, who quickly investigates, finds irregularities, and forwards my submission to SEC’s New York Office
• Nov: Boston Whistleblower calls NYC Branch Chief Meaghen Cheung and reveals his identity
• Nov: 29 Red Flags submitted
• Dec: I doubt NYC SEC’s ability, fear for my life, and contact Wall Street Journal and go to local law enforcement for protection

• Jan: Integral Partners’ $40 million derivatives Ponzi Scheme goes to trial five years and five months after discovery, causing us to further doubt SEC competence
• Sep: Chicago Board Options Exchange VP tells me that several OEX option traders also think Madoff is a fraudster; if SEC had called the CBOE’s marketing office, they would have cooperated

• Feb 28: Neil Chelo obtains a Madoff portfolio which shows zero ability to earn a return
• Jun: Casey obtains Wickford Fund LP prospectus showing Madoff is short of cash and offering a 3:1 leverage via bank loans, another clear warning sign that Madoff is running short of cash
• Jul: Chelo obtains Fairfield Greenwich Sentry LP financial statements for 2004 – 2006 and discovers three year-end audits with three different auditors in three different countries!
• Aug: Chelo conducts a 45 minute telephone interview with Fairfield Greenwich’s head of risk management; hedge funds all lose money except for Madoff!

• Apr 2: Undelivered e-mail to Sokobin, SEC’s Director of Risk Assessment, entitled, “$30 Billion Equity Derivatives Hedge Fund Fraud in New York”
• Dec 11: Madoff runs out of money, turns himself in
• Dec 12: SEC insider calls me and warns “watch your back, Operation Cover-up has begun.”

• Feb 4: My U.S. House testimony followed by SEC’s senior staff and FINRA acting CEO
• Sep 4: 477-page SEC IG Report on the Madoff Fiasco released
• Sep 10: I testify before US Senate Banking Committee with SEC IG

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A whistleblower of the monumental Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme describes his discovery of the investment banker's crimes, as well as his repeated warnings to the Securities and Exchange Commision that went unheeded.

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