Since the news of Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion swindle broke, we’ve heard a lot about the victims of his fraud: The senior citizens who lost their savings, the charities forced to shut their doors, the foreign banks swept into his trap. But little has emerged about the man himself, other than that he was perceived as a brilliant investor who “lacked the flamboyance of other well-heeled money managers” and somehow managed to make do with only an Upper East side apartment, a mansion in Montauk, a small villa on the French Riviera, an office in London, and yachts in New York, Florida, and the Mediterranean. But what were his motivations for perpetrating a crime of such magnitude? What was he thinking? What made Bernard Madoff tick? A cryptic detail in yesterday’s Times summation doesn’t quite bare Madoff’s soul, but it does, we think, shine a thin beam of light onto it.
The revelation comes via a Swiss banker who visited Madoff’s offices in the Lipstick Building in midtown Manhattan.
The only thing that struck the Swiss banker as odd was the bull memorabilia strewn about his office. “It seemed strange for a guy to have all these bulls, little sculptures, paintings of bulls,” he recalled. “I’ve seen offices with bears. This was bulls.”
Bloomberg also points out that he kept a fishing boat called “Bull.”
What can this bull motif mean? Was it merely a suggestion that with him, there was always a bull market? A secret reminder to himself that everything he was doing was bullshit? Or: A subtle warning that he saw himself as a hungry, aggressive bull, and his investors were all matadors, arrogantly waving red capes in his direction assuming they’d beat the bull, when really the chance was always there that they’d be gored.
Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders [NYT]