“At one point, he cornered the hot chocolate market,” Fishman told MarketWatch. “He bought up every package of Swiss Miss from the commissary and sold it for a profit in the prison yard. … He made it so that, if you wanted any, you had to go through Bernie" ... “He’s a star in prison. He stole more money than anyone in history, and to other thieves, this makes him a hero,” said Fishman, a journalist who spoke with Madoff extensively. Bernie Madoff manipulated the market for hot cocoa mix at his prison [more inside]
The last mystery of the financial crisis. It's long been suspected that ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's helped trigger the meltdown. A new trove of embarrassing documents shows how they did it. by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.
Secret and Lies of the Bailout. "The federal rescue of Wall Street didn’t fix the economy – it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme. And the worst may be yet to come." [Via]
"For a few months in 1922, throngs of America’s youth — from schoolkids to shopgirls — were swept up in a leaderless pyramid scheme that promised “something for nothing” and encouraged promiscuous flirtation. These were the “Shifters.” This is their (brief) story." (NYTimes link) Previously on the flappers and flapper slang: 1, 2.
"The Great Housing Bubble cultivated a gentility of entitlement, a sordid societal residue, a system of reliance, a conviction among people that they may possess anything they wish just because; deserving without earning; Grace." The Irvine Housing Blog has been documenting the housing bubble in Southern California since 2006. Highlights include an analysis of why "the California economy is dependent upon Ponzi borrowers." Now, as the term "strategic default" (discussed previously here and here) continues to trend upward , the stars of Bravo Network's reality television series The Real Housewives of Orange County are confronting realities of a different sort including bankruptcy, short sales and loan modifications. Discussion boards are filling up with legal talk concerning recourse vs. non-recourse loans, 2nd and 3rd lien holders and the prospects of settling 2nd lien debt at 4 cents on the dollar. Given the decreasing societal stigma associated with the issue of strategic default, many are speculating that this trend is in fact acting as an economic stimulus of a different kind
Another massive Ponzi scheme uncovered. Meet Sir Allen Stanford and his bank. Sir Allen stands accused of running an $8 billion fraud. Read the SEC filings here.
Would you trust this man with your life's savings? Successful entrepeneur and president of Trans Continental Airlines cum boy band svengali, Lou Pearlman was the guiding hand behind N'Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and O-Town. Now, however, he's on the lam, wanted by the FBI for swindling old folks out of $317 million. Pearlman was last seen in Berlin on February 1st; as he sat in a crowded theater watching his latest creation, the German boy band US5, win an international pop award, FBI investigators were already combing through his Florida home and offices.
In the murky world of HYIP (high-yield investment programs), on the wrong side of the Internet tracks, Team Aaron and Shara were very well known. They had tens of thousands of fans, eager to know which programs were still paying 1-2% per day (or more!). Now their fans will have to resort to other sites to see who is still paying. Curiously, these programs only seem to take anonymous, non-disputable forms of e-payment, such as e-gold. Now, all that is left of them is their farewell website. Did they retire on all of the referral fees, as some suspect? It is impressive that such effort is dedicated to this snake oil, but the law of large numbers must make it work. Who can resist 1.5% an hour return on investment? Is this what has become of anonymous micropayments?