There is a way that one expects visits with jailed criminals to go: typically, there's guilt, contrition, the accepting of responsibility. Not so with Bernie Madoff, serving 150 years, the executor of the world's most famous Ponzi scheme.
As the five-year anniversary of the discovery of his crime approaches — is that even something worth keeping an anniversary for? — The Wall Street Journal's Sital Patel sought out comment from the convicted fraudster. What she found over a two-hour sitdown at a comfy Butner, N.C. prison was a man who basically pointed fingers while raising other fingers, to boot. Haters, it appears, gonna hate.
The 75-year-old, dressed in beige polyester pants and shirt with a matching canvas belt, showed no signs of stress. He told the occasional joke and said he was lucky to be in Butner, as it had a reputation of being "very laid back" and is kind of like a "camp."
"This is as good as it gets," said Mr. Madoff. He explained that the Federal Bureau of Prisons "put you where you will survive."
He would later say that the people he conned should have known better, that they didn't ask good questions (Rob Ford has some thoughts on this), called the whistleblower an "idiot," and reminisced fondly about his days as a financial power player.
So excellent was he at financial prognostication, in fact, that he boasted that he saw the housing bubble burst coming. How? Because his young African-American golf caddy was able to buy and sell houses.
He said he didn't need credit. He would buy homes and flip them for a profit. I told my wife, 'This is the end.'
Of course, history proves that the 75-year-old former investment banker was alas unable to use his crystal ball to foresee his eventual conviction in 2008 for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of more than $50 billion. He pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts in 2009, and was sentenced to the maximum 150 years in jail.
The profile comes at a time when the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office is in the process of investigating J.P. Morgan, which enjoyed a two-decade-long relationship with Madoff, for failing to provide regulators with a report of Madoff's suspicious behavior, even though it did with a British agency more than a month before he was arrested. It's likely that J.P. Morgan will be fined.
While Madoff does tell Patel that he despairs the fact he's been cut off from his family, including his wife and also-jailed brother Peter, the profile ends on this queasy little note:
His son Andrew Madoff refuses to talk to him and won't allow his wife to speak to him either, he told me. Mr. Madoff briefly brought up his other son, Mark, who committed suicide following the revelations of his father's Ponzi scheme. Mr. Madoff said he regretted that happened but showed little emotion.