There’s a Difference Between a Ponzi Scheme and a Bank Scheme

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It may not feel like it when you have placed your faith and savings in a money manager who assured you his bets were low-risk and the fund blows up, which is what happened to a municipal employee pension fund in New Orleans, which made what turned to be an unwise bet when they handed over their hard-earned cash to a JPMorgan banker to invest in various securities, agreeing to absorb whatever losses the bank suffered in hopes of ekeing out a return. All was well until the manager, a seemingly "low-key Wall Street everyman" (aren't they all), placed their money in a vehicle known as Sigma, which blew up during the crisis, losing them the $340,000 they had earned. Naturally, they were upset.


In January 2009, a representative from JPMorgan, Robert Bentz, visited to discuss the situation.

“These are not easy meetings,” Mr. Bentz began, according to a tape recording from the meeting.

Mr. Bentz told the New Orleans officials that former workers from Citigroup created Sigma.

“So it was like Bernie Madoff!” one city official exclaimed.

Mr. Bentz replied: “I would like to think he was more of a crook, and these people were just smart.”

Banks Shared Clients’ Profits, but Not Losses [NYT]