Five years after pleading guilty to the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, Bernie Madoff still has plenty to say. In an interview with Politico magazine published on Thursday, Madoff gives his opinion on President Obama, other politicians (this interview did run in Politico after all), the SEC, and his victims. The most chilling quotes are below.
1. The stock market:
“I certainly wouldn’t invest in the stock market. I never believed in it. Most people lose money because of the emotional difficulty involved.”
A little late for this advice, given how much his victims suffered. But thanks for making lots of people feel bad there, Bernie.
2. The SEC:
“They certainly prosecuted me.”
Madoff said it was “wrong” that nobody from JPMorgan Chace was prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis. “These people were breaking the law and nobody was convicted.” Madoff said the regulators could never compete with giant Wall Street firms and their lobbyists—something Madoff knows firsthand from being on the board of directors of the Securities Industry Association. What’s more, later in the interview, he says the financial industry still can’t detect frauds such as his. “There’s always going bad players like myself … the government never gives them enough money to police the industry—whether it’s someone like me or insider trading.”
“It’s actually very pretty. More like a college campus. Everything is provided for you.”
Madoff says he misses the food on the outside—he reminisces about food in Hong Kong in particular and says the chicken fried rice at from the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina is “horrible.” He makes about $40 per month keeping the living quarter clean, and he shares the 8X10 cell with another inmate. But he still admits that he “misses everything” about his life.
“I basically think everybody would be better off … if people weren’t able to exert so much influence on politicians with money. Politicians themselves would probably prefer not to deal with them—both begging for and being beholden.”
Probably the most (and really only) hilarious part of the interview is when Madoff talks about politics. First off: Though he registered Democrat long ago and donated thousands to mainly Democratic political candidates, he now considers himself an independent. When reporter MJ Lee tracked down two particular beneficiaries of his largess, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Ron Wyden of Oregon, both seemed friendly enough until Madoff’s name came up. Then they walked off without comment, even though Madoff was very complimentary toward Wyden. Second: Although Madoff voted for President Obama in 2008, now he’s “terribly disappointed” with that decision. “His policies are too socialist,” says the king of capitalism. Obama’s surely crying over that one. Third: He gave money to Hillary Clinton’s senate bid, but he was disappointed in her role as Secretary of State. “Our foreign policy is a mess,” says the man who allegedly defrauded Holocaust charities. Fourth: He does not like Mayor Bill de Blasio because he says he’s “not a great fan of redistribution of wealth.”
5. On dying:
“I don’t have anything to live for.”
Madoff said he holds himself responsible for his son Mark’s suicide in 2011, and the only topic that he wouldn’t speak about was his wife, Ruth. “The thing that was important to me was family, but that’s all gone. That’s more punishment that being incarcerated.”
6. His victims
“Everybody thinks the worst of me. The only thing I’m happy about is I was able to help people recover … There’s nothing for me to change from. It’s not like I ever considered myself a bad person. I made a horrible mistake and I’m sorry.”
Madoff insists he has helped some of his victims recover some of the lost money. But one of his victims, Miriam Siegman, 70, says “he never tells the truth … he’s a master manipulator.”