Ruth Madoff: 'What's a Ponzi Scheme?'

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Ruth and Andrew Madoff, the wife and son of famed fraudster Bernie Madoff, in a round of interviews to promote a tell-all memoir, claimed they knew nothing of the Ponzi scheme he ran for decades until the patriarch confessed to them shortly before the truth became public. Madoff appeared on 60 Minutes Sunday night and the Today show Monday morning with a print interview with The New York Times's Diana B. Henriques to boot. Ruth and Andrew describe the confession: 

Ruth: He called from the office and said, "I'm coming home with the boys, I have something to talk about." Came in, we went into a room, four of us, and he said, "I have a confession to make. I've been running a Ponzi scheme." He said, "$50 billion dollars."

Andrew: He said-- "Everything I've been doing is all a big lie." He said-- he said, "The business is-- is a Ponzi scheme, and it-- the firm is completely insolvent. And I'm broke." And then he just started sobbing. And I was-- I-- I was shocked. I-- it was-- I felt like my head exploded. I mean, I-- I don't think if he had told me he was an alien I could've been more surprised. He said that the firm had liabilities of $50 billion dollars. It never occurred to me that his business had anything like that under management. It was-- it was shocking.


The first thing Ruth Madoff reportedly asked her husband after his revelation was "What's a Ponzi scheme?" Ruth maintained her ignorance of the whole situation in her interview with The New York Times too: "I didn't know. Bernie went to great lengths to hide family, you know, not include the family in any of this, that was his biggest regret of anything is how we were hurt. Not so much that the clients lost so much money, but how much he hurt the family." The Times interview also sheds light on the tensions that developed within the Madoff family after Bernie's arrest. Ruth finally cut off ties with her husband last fall, telling him "You’re going to have to leave me alone and not call" and changing her phone number when he still called. And after Mark Madoff's suicide attempt, his brother Andrew delisted him as legal guardian for his children, "furious at what he saw as his brother’s abandonment of his family." (Mark did eventually kill himself in December 2010.)

News from the interviews that Bernie and Ruth attempted to commit suicide in the wake of the husband's arrest was leaked earlier this week. Video of the family's interview on 60 Minutes is above and their one of Today where they reiterate most of their claims is below. (Matt Lauer, for one, shows some skepticism about the Madoffs agreeing to be interviewed only when they have a book to promote.)


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