Bernie Madoff’s obsession with the Harvard Business School continues with the accused swindler writing the FOX Business Network last week to once again protest our coverage of the school’s denial of his claim that it is “building an entrepreneur course” based on his pre-Ponzi scheme days as a trader on Wall Street.
So we checked with Harvard once again, and Harvard came back with much the same answer.
“There are no official discussions of any kind about developing a course with him,” a spokesman for the business school tells FOX Business.
So what is Madoff talking about? As we reported Madoff, boasted in a series of emails with FOX Business about this entrepreneurial course that will focus not on the scam that made him infamous, but on his days as one of the pioneers creating the electronic market-making of stocks, where computers rather than traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, matched buy and sell orders. Madoff would later become chairman of the largest electronic exchange, the Nasdaq stock market, which this alleged course would also focus on.
“I have been approached by number of other business schools but have only committed to Harvard,” he wrote me in mid July adding: “I have an interview that is ahead with the Harvard Business School. I will keep you posted. Some strange turn of events, HUH!”
When I reported the school’s blanket denial, among other questionable statements he made in a series of emails to me, Madoff followed up by calling me a “hatchet man.” Then in an email he sent from prison last Thursday, Madoff again spoke about a “Harvard Business School’s professor’s course project with” him.
But like most things involving the world’s most notorious white-collar criminal, his involvement with the Harvard Business School contains an element of truth, though if you believe officials at Harvard in their latest set of denials, Madoff’s statements are a gross exaggeration.
A spokesman for the school tells FOX Business that while the school itself hasn’t sanctioned a Madoff course and isn’t even discussing one, he has been in touch with a “member of the faculty…for some research (the faculty member) doing,” The faculty member is “conducting this research independently.”
The school adds that “we are unaware of anyone else having been in touch with him and there are no official discussions of any kind about developing a course with him.”
The spokesman for Harvard concludes by saying “I’m sorry for any confusion that has caused but we do not monitor the research activities of our individual faculty members.”
It’s interesting to note that Madoff has been touting his involvement with Harvard for months in the few interviews he has granted with reporters, and Harvard has steadfastly denied any involvement with him, though this is the first time the school has conceded that Madoff
has been in contact with one of its professors about independent research.
The school didn’t respond to a request to supply the name of the professor to FOX Business; neither so far has Madoff, though in his most recent email he said he shared the name of the professor with Diana Henriques, a New York Times reporter who wrote a book about the Madoff scam titled “The Wizard of Lies”.
“If you wish to call Diana Henriques I’m sure she can confirm that I sent her copies of the Professors letter and numerous e-mails concerning Harvard Business School’s professor’s course project with me,” Madoff wrote me last Thursday.
So we contacted Henriques, and in an email, she told FOX Business’s Sital Patel, that she has seen “communication between Madoff and a Harvard Business School professor for some independent research.” She did not elaborate and hasn’t return emails for further comment.
The issue here isn’t to catch a convicted liar like Bernie Madoff in yet another lie than it is to underscore the need to remember why he is spending the rest of his life in jail at a time when media outlets and a professor at a major business school appear to want to hear his insights into the financial business.
Madoff, of course, ripped off some $50 billion from investors both large and small. He did this over a 20 year period by touting an investment formula that defied reality in that it never lost money and produced steady, albeit fake returns.
During this time, Madoff attracted throngs of customers who looked beyond the wild claims. He even managed to hoodwink regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission, who examined his alleged investment strategy several times over the years, and gave him a clean
bill of health.
Only when the 2008 financial crisis caused his big European investors to withdraw massive amounts of money from his Ponzi fund so fast that he couldn’t attract enough new money to replace what was being yanked out did Madoff come clean and turn himself in to authorities. Since then Madoff has either been under house arrest or in the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina serving a life sentence.
Most recently he has been speaking to selective members of the press, including myself. As I reported,Madoff has no problem waxing on about the evils of Wall Street, while pointing accusatory fingers at people like high profile hedge fund trader Steve Cohen. As he does, he is also engaging in a not-so-subtle attempt to remake his image from a complete villain into someone who was just caught up in the overall greed and avarice that he says is the modern financial business.
In other words, Madoff — the guy who destroyed so many lives with his $50 billion fake investment fund — is spinning a tale that he is simply one of many scoundrels, who did his dirty deed to keep pace with the deeds of his competitors.
The FOX Business Network hasn’t shied away from covering the seedy side of Wall Street whether it’s the greed that caused the 2008 financial collapse or the federal government’s current insider trading investigation that has among its many targets, Cohen and his hedge fund, SAC Capital (A spokesman for SAC has denied wrongdoing.)
But while Madoff’s story line that he is one of many players in a completely corrupt Wall Street sounds enticing, let’s hope both the media and Harvard—if any of his words of wisdom actually translates into course material for students of this unnamed professor —consider the source.
Remember what happened to all those others who suspended their disbelief and believed Madoff’s tales in the past.