Bernie Madoff and the Crisis

9780804795586: Hardback
Release Date: 4th July 2017

9781503602724: Paperback
Release Date: 4th July 2017

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 224

Edition: 1st Edition

Stanford University Press

Bernie Madoff and the Crisis

The Public Trial of Capitalism

This is a critical investigation into the social significance of Bernie Madoff Ponzi's scheme. Eren analyzes media coverage of the case alongside original interviews with dozens of journalists and editors involved in the reportage, the SEC Director of Public Affairs, and Bernie Madoff himself to offer fresh insight into the 2008 crisis, how we have or have not come to terms with it, and what we might yet gain from the case of the century.

Hardback / £70.00
Paperback / £20.99

Bernie Madoff's arrest could not have come at a more darkly poetic moment. Economic upheaval had plunged America into a horrid recession. Then, on December 11, 2008, Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme came to light. A father turned in by his sons; a son who took his own life; another son dying and estranged from his father; a woman at the center of a storm—Madoff's story was a media magnet, voraciously consumed by a justice-seeking public.

Bernie Madoff and the Crisis goes beyond purely investigative accounts to examine how and why Madoff became the epicenter of public fury and titillation. Rooting her argument in critical sociology, Colleen P. Eren analyzes media coverage of this landmark case alongside original interviews with dozens of journalists and editors involved in the reportage, the SEC Director of Public Affairs, and Bernie Madoff himself.

Turning the mirror back onto society, Eren locates Madoff within a broader reckoning about free market capitalism. She argues that our ideological and cultural tendencies to attribute blame to individuals—be they regulators, victims, or "monsters" like Madoff—distracts us from more systemic critiques. Bernie Madoff and the Crisis offers fresh insight into the 2008 crisis, whether we have come to terms with it, and what we have yet to gain from the case of the century.

Contents and Abstracts
1A Crisis in Search of a Villain
chapter abstract

The book begins by placing the Madoff case in its socio-historical context amidst the 2008 crisis in the US and the UK. Causes and consequences of the crisis are briefly described, and how it overlapped in time with the exposure of Madoff's Ponzi. The author demonstrates how extensively in media coverage the case was conflated with the crisis. A main argument of the book is offered here: Madoff became a vehicle through which issues related to crisis could be explored and contested. The chapter also briefly discusses the author's mixed qualitative methodology, involving open-ended interviews and content analysis. It reviews the literature on white collar crime and how this book builds on and extends this literature. Brief summaries of all book chapters are provided.

2Out of the Business Section, Into the Front Pages
chapter abstract

This chapter discusses the media frames that allowed the Madoff Ponzi to seize international attention. The scam involved a single, comparatively simple crime, one that exemplified the dark side of British and American individualistic ambitions. Surrounding the crime was a family drama of epic proportions. And tens of billions of dollars were at stake: a tale-worthy sum. Additionally, the case involved victims from both celebrity/elite strata as well as the everyman and everywoman. Finally, there was an ethnic/religious dimension to Madoff's affinity scheme that disproportionately affected those in the Jewish community. The author demonstrates that these frames provided a familiar storytelling scaffold that appealed to a wide audience and enabled Madoff's case to become a focal point for discussion of the more difficult, abstract issues related to the financial crisis.

3Sleeping Watchdogs: Blaming the Regulators
chapter abstract

This chapter presents the controversies about government financial regulation that emerged through the Madoff case. We learn through the interwoven narratives of reporters, editors, and diverse media content how the public viewed the role of regulation. It is argued here that the narrative of "SEC failure," or "US regulatory failure" was by far the dominant narrative. Larger, systemic problems in the industry, as well as cultural issues on Wall Street were subjected to less scrutiny. In this chapter, Bernie Madoff's reactions to the SEC controversy and debate about the role of regulation are also presented. He is placed in dialogue, as it were, with the voices of the public as expressed by the reporters and dominant media narratives.

4It's How You're Rich That Matters: Narratives of the Haves, the Have Nots, and Have Lots
chapter abstract

Chapter 4 addresses narratives about social inequality that emerged through the Madoff case. Class resentment and schadenfraude about the losses of wealthy victims were evident in media coverage. Inequalities in the treatment of "street" offenders versus white collar offenders were also highlighted. The chapter argues that this focused public anger displaced an underlying anger about the financial crisis, an anger that had no other identifiable targets. The author explores the public's loss of faith in the myths of meritocracy and the American Dream, the promise that hard work and innovation were the foundations of fortune. Madoff draws attention to the greed of his wealthy clients, their complicity in his scheme, their awareness, and their culpability.

5Boil Him in Oil: Cracking Down on Wall Street through Madoff
chapter abstract

The Madoff saga, culminating in the man's imprisonment, seemed to provide public catharsis and closure despite the unaddressed systemic problems. Madoff offers his own thoughts about his punishment versus the apparent immunity of HSBC and international banks for their financial crimes. He reflects on his own sense of guilt and his experiences in prison.

6The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same?
chapter abstract

The concluding chapter addresses the longterm impact of the Madoff case on the economy, society, and culture. It argues that the anger about wealth disparities that the Madoff case brought to the forefront helped give rise to the Occupy Movement and the populist surges of the 2016 US election and Brexit. Nevertheless, the foundational capitalist ideology persists, and it continues to reward the excessive risk-taking that leads to Ponzi and other white collar crime, as Madoff testifies. The book exhorts researchers to discover the full import and impact of white collar crime on its victims, and offers suggestions for future research.

Colleen P. Eren is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, LaGuardia Community College.

Bernie Madoff and the Crisis<\i> is an engaging, insightful and thought-provoking book. Its theoretical lens and empirical design should inspire future research on social reactions to white-collar crime, also of the more mundane kind. The book will be appealing to a wide readership.”—Aleksandra Jordanoska, British Journal of Criminology<\i>

Bernie Madoff and the Crisis is a brief, engaging book that reminds readers about the complexity of social and economic problems and the mistake in simplifying them and thinking that criminal law alone can resolve them.”—David Schultz, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

"There is important primary data here and a creative analysis. Eren makes a notable contribution to the literature on financial crime, as well as our understanding of the role that the Madoff case played during an unfolding financial crisis."

Kitty Calavita
University of California, Irvine, author of Big Money Crime

"Eren uses massive amounts of media commentary and interviews—with journalists and Madoff himself—to reveal salient points about the contemporary economy, society, and its demonology. An easy read, and an informative one as we continue to sift through the ashes of the financial crisis and our societal stance on white collar crime."

Michael Levi
Cardiff University and author of The Phantom Capitalists and Regulating Fraud

"Eren provides the first investigation of why the crimes of Wall Street and Madoff—though economically and legally dissimilar—were culturally inseparable to the public. Steeped in the voices of reporters, regulators, and Bernie himself, this book is a major contribution to the study of white-collar crime."

Gregg Barak
Eastern Michigan University, author of Theft of a Nation: Wall Street Looting and Federal Regulatory Colluding

"Eren crafts a narrative of Bernie Madoff's crimes as a sweeping comment on our society at large, which created and upheld the kill-or-be-killed finance ethos, and thereby produced the twenty-first century version of a Wall Street serial killer."

Erin Arvedlund
author of Too Good to Be True: The Rise and Fall of Bernie Madoff