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What Investors Should Learn From Bernie Madoff
Russel Kinnel: Hi. My name is Russ Kinnel. I am director of mutual fund research for Morningstar, and today I’m going to be talking with Diana Henriques, author of The Wizard of Lies, a book about Bernie Madoff who pulled off the greatest Ponzi scheme ever.
The first question I want to ask you is about some of the research you did looking into his early life, and it’s really striking to see the signs of what would later become a giant Ponzi scheme were really there early on if you knew where to look.
Diana Henriques: That’s true, Russ, and I was quite surprised at that, as well. One of the mysteries I’m afraid, that will live as long as Madoff does, is when exactly the Ponzi scheme started. But I was able in my research to uncover an incident in 1962 when he was a very young over-the-counter trader with his own little firm.
He had invested money that was given to him by friends and family in very speculative, risky, over-the-counter stocks. In a market air pocket in May 1962 the bottom just dropped out of those stocks, and they lost all their money. But rather than confess that to them, he covered it up. He bought the shares back from their portfolios at what they paid for it and didn’t reveal but for that they would have been completely wiped out.
Now, he insisted to me, after the prison interview I had with him in August of 2010, that he kept it a secret from the investors because he knew that if he told them about it, they would insist that they take the losses and that he not nearly bankrupt himself to cover them up for him. But I don’t really buy that. I think he burnished his own reputation as the boy genius in the family and managed to hang on to those investment clients by lying to them about what he had done to prevent those losses in their accounts.
Now, that’s not the beginning of the Ponzi scheme, there’s no doubt about that. But it certainly was a very telling experience in the young life of the young Madoff.
Kinnel: You certainly get the sense that he, and maybe even his father to a degree, were trying to put a veneer on things that made things look better. And maybe all along he was trying to make it look like maybe he was a little more skilled investor than he was and that everyone was better off than they really were?
How much money can banks create – Banking 101 (Part 4)
Published on Jan 18, 2013
What does actually limit the ability of banks to increase the money supply?
In this video you’ll see that the type of reserve ratio that’s discussed in the textbooks has never even existed in the UK. We’ll see that the liquidity ratios that did exist have been reduced and eventually abolished, and that even when they did exist, they only limited the speed that the money supply could increase, but put no limit on the total size that it could grow to.
You’ll learn that the Capital Adequacy Ratios and Basel accords are about preventing banks from going bust when loans go bad, rather than limiting their dangerous lending or limiting how much money they create through lending. And although the capital adequacy requirements can restrain lending after a banking crisis, it doesn’t do anything to restrain lending in a boom.
You’ll also see that there is no natural limit on how quickly the banks can create money. They know that even if they don’t have the actual central bank reserves to make payments, they’ll be able to borrow those reserves from other banks, or even the central bank.
All this comes together to imply that the only thing that truly limits the creation of money, is the willingness of banks to lend. And their willingness to lend depends on their confidence.
In other words, the money supply of the nation depends on the mood swings of banks and the senior bankers that run them. This is surely an insane way to run an economy.
If you’d like to translate this video into other languages, please let us know. We’ll send you the transcript with timecodes.
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Positive Money is a not-for-profit research and campaign group. They work to raise awareness of the connections between our current monetary and banking system and the serious social, economic and ecological problems that face the UK and the world today. In particular they focus on the role of banks in creating the nation’s money supply through the accounting process they use when they make loans – an aspect of banking which is poorly understood. Positive Money believe these fundamental flaws are at the root of – or a major contributor to – problems of poverty, excessive debt, growing inequality and environmental degradation. For more information, please visit: http://www.positivemoney.org/
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