White-collar criminal Bernie Madoff isn't a particularly unattractive man. We might put him in a lineup with Joe Biden (he's our current vice president, by the way), Tim Allen, or Jim Belushi. But have you heard who'll play Madoff -- the man who literally made off with billions of dollars through an investment scam -- in an upcoming HBO movie? Robert DeNiro! What does that say about the fairness of life? Work hard, pay your taxes, mow the lawn, keep the cat fed -- then some hotshot businessman scamster with a bad haircut gets played by DeNiro, while you can't afford any haircut because you're getting played by hotshot businessman scamsters. This minor slight mirrors one of the larger issues explored by New York Times financial journalist Diana Henriques in her book about Madoff -- trust. In fact, it's in the title: Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust. Henriques appears Wednesday (Dec. 21) at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Henriques illustrates Madoff's road from mansion to the big house through scores of interviews (including with Madoff himself) as well as hundreds of court filings and government documents. (In the video clip above, hear her describe the elaborate web of technology Madoff employed to keep investors and investigators in the dark.) She describes and interviews some of Madoff's victims -- well-connected philanthropists, retirees, and even members of Madoff's own family -- to expose the personal tragedy he wrought.
Henriques also details the scandal's wreckage, including suicides, closed charities, failed businesses, and broken families. It starts with the Madoff clan itself: The tip that led to Bernie's arrest came from his two sons -- one of whom later took his own life.
Diana Henriques appears at 7:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California (at Presidio), S.F. Admission is $10-$25.