Friday, March 20, 2009

It was good to work for Bernie

Some excerpts:

His description of how the legitimate arms of Madoff Securities were run sounds like a skit out of Monty Python. “The three managers who ran parts of the businesses were getting $500,000 to $750,000 a year and they didn’t even know anything about modern computerized trading,” the employee said. They knew only the antiquated methods of talking to clients and trading in the stock market by phone. They mostly socialized, read the news. They would have been unemployable on the outside.”

The employee learned the salaries of his colleagues when he secretly obtained a document listing them. “A senior computer programmer would make $350,000, where in most comparable firms they would be getting $200,000 to $250,000. The customer-relations people, who just handled complaints from clients, were making six figures. There wasn’t anyone who wasn’t paid in the hundreds of thousands,” he said, adding: “There were twice as many people as were needed and there was rampant inefficiency.

The salaries, said the employee, also in hindsight, were so large because Madoff wanted to keep people happy; he wanted allies in case they found out what was really happening. “Nobody left because they could never get another job that paid as well as this one. Some people, after his arrest, speculated that it was kind of like hush money; nobody asked any questions because the Madoffs were nice, protective, generous...

He learned that those who staffed the 17th floor were less than knowledgeable, often uneducated, often appeared incompetent. “There was this one guy, who had worked there his whole life who generated the statements but he would often not get them out on time.”

“Shana Madoff , the compliance legal counsel, Peter’s daughter who was married to an SEC compliance officer, only spent half time in the office. When she was here, she seemed to work on human resources rather than compliance.”

Ruth was the firm’s bookkeeper: “But I only saw her walk through once or twice,” Some friends of the employee, in hindsight, have said that Andrew and Mark must have known or suspected that things were not kosher. “They were educated guys, one of them had gone to Wharton, I think. They saw the balance sheets. We were making no money, some years losing it, and the brothers, I heard, were getting $4 million annually. That just didn’t track.”

“But I don’t want to believe that they knew or were involved,” the employee said. “I believe they're innocent. They were really nice guys, they looked very straight. They treated me well even though as a computer programmer, I didn’t command the respect the hotshot traders did. When I told them I wanted to leave, Andrew tried to persuade me to stay and when I declined, he let me work only four days a week so I could start up my computer business.

“We all joked that the motto of the place was that ‘it was good to work for Bernie.

No comments: