Sunday, May 08, 2011

Bernie Madoff's Golden Parachute

Bernie Madoff's Golden Parachute is a piece of my music.  You don't have to read about it.  Just click here to listen to Bernie Madoff's Golden Parachute right now.


Bernie Madoff might be the biggest crook in the history of the world. He created a ponzi scheme masquerading as a Wall Street brokerage house which stole as much as $20 Billion and might have been going on nearly 40 years. He was arrested in 2008 when the recent "George Bush" recession made it impossible for him to keep robbing Peter to pay Paul. Madoff realized that the jig was up and confessed to his sons.  They turned him in.  Six prior investigations by the SEC had failed to notice that anything was wrong.

A Golden Parachute is severance pay for corporate executives.  When a CEO is fired they often receive such a payout.  This is irrespective of how well they did their job.   Here's a list of the largest-ever golden parachutes.  It includes Angelo Mozilo (who was accused of insider trading during the recent mortgage bubble; he got $44 million), Michael Ovitz ($130 million for working just a few months) and Michael Eisner (who collected a $1 Billion bonus for making Disney strong enough to control U.S. copyright legislation.)

I don't know whether Bernie Madoff had a formal golden parachute agreement with his company.  If he did it wasn't worth the paper it was written on because after his conviction he had to forfeit all his  wealth.  Since he knew full well that what he was doing was illegal it's doubtful that he expected to retire with the same level of comfort and splendor in which he lived.

Still, Bernie Madoff lived the good life while he could.  I've seen estimates that his fortune was around $800 million.  He lived in a New York penthouse.  He created a philanthropic family foundation and gave money away to charities.  After his conviction he was sent to prison in North Carolina.  He'll be eligible for parole in 2139 (when he's 201 years old).

America likes its criminals.  We often celebrate their stories with works of art - mostly movies and television shows these days.  Jesse James, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde - the list of hero/crooks is a long one.  Makers of such entertainment must cover their ass morally by making sure the bad guys die at the end (or at least go to prison).  Of course to be popular these stories must have a great deal of action including chases, gunplay, daring heists and sanitized love-making.

In comparison, Bernie Madoff's story is a yawn.  In this age, when the "greed is good" philosophy is no longer even slightly controversial, the tale of how one boring guy in a suit sat in an office and quietly stole a pile money beyond the dreams of even the most avaricious thief, might actually sell lots of movie tickets.  Bernie Madoff Gets Rich could be just as popular as the movie about Facebook.

The plot of the Bernie Madoff story will seem familiar to opera fans.  It's Faust by Charles Gounod.  Bernie plays the part of Faust himself (although his victims might think of him more as the Devil).  In the beginning Bernie/Faust, of his own free will, makes a deal with Mephistopheles and is rewarded with riches and other perqs.  But the deal is good only for a limited time only.  After that, the devil claims the hero's soul and sends him to Hell. 

Being sent to Hell is Faust's own golden parachute.  And Bernie's too.  These days many of us don't believe in a actual physical post-death fire and brimstone eternal torment.  Being sent to prison in North Carolina for the rest of our natural lives, however, is a pretty darn good substitute. 

I wonder how many Americans would make the same deal with the Devil that Bernie made: trading a few years in prison for decades of wealth, influence and notoriety.

Listen to Bernie Madoff's Golden Parachute © 2011 David Ocker - 149 seconds

Here's a WSJ article about what Bernie's life is like in prison.  He is Inmate No. 61727-054 at Butner Federal Prison

There are many variations of the Faust legend - not just operas. Read more about them here.

Madoff Tags: . . . . . .

1 comment:

Archivist/Cultural Liaison said...

I think you should sent him a copy. i bet he will appreciate that you captured him~!