Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bernie Madoff client list exposed

It's the list no one wants to be on. The Wall Street Journal just published the client list of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff. Those on and off the list include a who's who of the wealthy and famous: Larry King, John Malkovich, Sandy Koufax, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick to name a few. This isn't a surprise as celebrities aren't expected to be smart investors.

What's really telling is Madoff's client list also includes all the major money centers, including Bank of America, Barclay's, Citigroup, and Credit Suisse (notice I only covered A through C). It also is includes individuals who should have known better, such as private-equity investor Thomas H. Lee, real estate mogul Stephen L. Green of SL Green Realty, David Greenbaum of Vornado Realty, and Henry Kaufman, former Salomon Vice Chairman and economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Money managers like Sandy Gottesman, an early Berkshire Hathaway investor and long-time Warren Buffett acquaintance who manages $10 billion at his investment firm, First Manhattan, is also on the list.

The Madoff lesson? If you don't know how your money will be invested, don't do it. Don't be intimidated by so-called "experts" in cryptic jargon. There are no stupid questions. Your money is yours and you suffer the consequences if it disappears.

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