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"I do not anticipate that another Charles Ponzi will ever appear in the financial world"
August 10, 2011 7:24 AM   Subscribe

On July 23, 1920, Charles Ponzi hired former Boston Post journalist William H. McMasters as his publicist, who quickly realized that his new client was defrauding the public. Just ten days later, McMasters wrote an exposé published in the Post that led to Ponzi's ultimate downfall. The newspaper won a Pulitzer. McMasters was The Man Who Time (Almost) Forgot (Via)

Mentioned in the article is this one, from 2009 in The New York Times: Lost Manuscript Unmasks Details of Original Ponzi

Background on Ponzi Schemes.

Fraud Magazine has a blog entry on their story.
posted by zarq (11 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's a shame publicists never court this kind of publicity for their clients these days.
posted by orange swan at 7:41 AM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's unlinked from the main page these days, but you can buy the restored text of Charles Ponzi's autobiography from Despair.

[disclosure] they're a printing client of ours
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:14 AM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Devils Rancher, thanks for that link. :)
posted by zarq at 8:18 AM on August 10, 2011


"Declares Ponzi Is Now Hopelessly Insolvent" is such a weird headline, depending as it does on the masthead to supply the subject. I wonder how long the scam would have continued if McMasters had signed a nondisclosure agreement?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:49 AM on August 10, 2011


I wonder how long the scam would have continued if McMasters had signed a nondisclosure agreement?

Does an NDA hold when it is protecting fraudulent activity? I'd think it would be just as useful as an NDA preventing an individual from telling anyone where you dump the bodies.
posted by griphus at 9:43 AM on August 10, 2011


I'm not a lawyer, but I sign a lot of non-disclosure agreements.

As private contracts, NDA's are generally voidable if the disclosure involves illegal activities, but whistleblower laws in the US are complicated, vary from industry to industry and do not always fully shield the whistleblower against retaliation.
posted by zarq at 9:50 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Said Dr. Faith Dickerson of her grandfather, William H. McMasters, "He took very principled positions. He maintained them and fought for them. He was not easily swayed by criticism. He was determined, resolute."

What an interesting person.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 9:52 AM on August 10, 2011


He wouldn't even survive an internship in PR today.
posted by spicynuts at 10:09 AM on August 10, 2011


orange swan: "It's a shame publicists never court this kind of publicity for their clients these days."

You'd be surprised.

A client's publicist, PR/PIO department (or agency) is very often the first place a whistleblower will reach out to, because we're used to dealing with the media and the whistleblower is nearly always interested in raising awareness and getting the word out, not in initiating a messy lawsuit. What happens once they contact us depends on the publicist or their bosses.

It's happened to me three times. I can't talk about any of those incidents, but I can tell you that they weren't buried or ignored. That would have been both unethical and illegal.
posted by zarq at 10:11 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


McMasters worked a variety of jobs as a boy; he drove cows, picked berries, chopped wood and even watered circus animals.
Cool.
posted by variella at 5:22 PM on August 10, 2011


Great post. I lead a Dark Side of Boston tour and Ponzi is one of the featured stories.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 9:49 AM on August 12, 2011


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