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Abstract

Each semester when I explain to students how a Ponzi scheme operates, someone in the class invariably comments that surely no-one would be stupid enough to fall for such a scheme. Sadly, in reality, many people do. For example, up to December 2008, more than 15,000 investors (among whom were celebrities, prominent businessmen, charities and universities) believed that they had made an excellent investment through the company Bernie L Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BMIS) – in fact, many of them were about to hear that they had lost all or most of their investments in what was the largest Ponzi scheme ever. Collectively, it is likely that the investors in this scheme lost around US$50 billion (the final figures still have to be calculated).

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