Madoff reveals his suffering: I'm in therapy

Tom Peck
Tuesday 01 March 2011 01:00
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In his first extensive interview since being jailed in 2008, the disgraced former financier Bernie Madoff has revealed he is receiving weekly therapy sessions.

In a series of telephone interviews from his detention centre in North Carolina, Madoff, 72, has spoken of his turmoil over the suicide of his son, the deterioration of his relationship with his wife, of the lie that he led and how his scheme snowballed out of his control. He also launched a controversial attack at critics who have branded him a monster.

"Let me tell you, I cried for well over two weeks. I cried and cried," he said about hearing of the suicide of his son, Mark, a leading figure in his business and one of the many victims of his deception.

"I didn't come out of my room. I didn't speak to anybody, and so on. I have tears in my eyes when I'm talking to you, even. Not a day goes by that I don't suffer."

He was placed on suicide watch by guards at his detention centre, who looked in on him every hour, though they apparently did not need to worry. "I never thought of taking my life," he told New York magazine. "It's just not the way I am."

His suffering will come as scant consolation to his victims, though Madoff refuses to accept the entire blame.

"Everyone was greedy," he said. "I just went along. There was complicity, in my view. The SEC [US Securities Exchange Commission] looks terrible in this thing. It's unbelievable, Goldman... no one has any criminal convictions. The whole new regulatory reform is a joke. The whole government is a Ponzi scheme."

Madoff said his criminal enterprise began in the recession of the early 1990s, when he was already an established figure on Wall Street. "The market went to sleep," he said, and on the books of his hithero legitimate business was too much of other people's money. With nowhere to invest it, he started borrowing from his investors' capital to pay big returns. Though they were false, they attracted attention.

"All of a sudden, these banks, which wouldn't give you the time of day, they're willing to give you a billion dollars," he said. "It wasn't like I needed the money. It was just that I thought it was a temporary thing, and all of a sudden, everybody is throwing billions of dollars at you.

"These banks and these funds had to know there were problems. I was not willing to have them come up and do the due diligence that they wanted. I said, 'You don't like it, take your money out', which of course they never did.

"I kept telling myself that some miracle was going to happen or that I was going to be able to work my way out of it. I just didn't know when that was." By 2002, he realised this was a fantasy. "By then, the number was so astronomical I didn't know what I was hoping for, quite frankly."

When the markets seized up in 2008, and he was left with $7bn (£4.3bn) worth of repayments he knew he could not make, he confessed all to his family. His sons turned him over to the police.

Of his wife, Ruth, he said: "We had a very luxurious life. There's no question about that. But that was not what she was interested in. She would have been perfectly happy if I'd been a teacher. My wife, quite frankly, doesn't forgive me for what I did. But at least she understood. You know, I guess, they say for better or for worse. She stood by me."

He said he had always been a "worrywart", something of an understatement for someone who concealed a $65bn fraud for almost two decades.

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