Following the announcement that Bernie Madoff had died in prison, 12 years into a 150-year prison sentence for cheating tens of thousands out of their life savings, social media users naturally had thoughts on the news.
While Madoff is remembered for swindling a number of celebrities with his decades-long Ponzi scheme, many were quick to remember the more ordinary investors who were among his victims. Some went from being comfortably wealthy to being close to destitute overnight.
“I know two (then-elderly) people completely defrauded by Bernie Madoff. One lost all the money he had allocated to a cancer research organization,” tweeted advocate and activist Julie Roginsky.
“The other, a widow, didn’t even know her broker had invested all her retirement savings with Madoff. Today, I am thinking of them.”
YouTuber BrooklynDad Defiant! posted: “Bernie Madoff ruined people’s lives when he ripped off thousands of people for many millions of dollars, and now he’s dead. Good riddance.”
Actress Rosanna Arquette recalled: “Many people I know lost everything they had to Bernie Madoff.”
“I know some folks who must have felt a bit uplifted when they heard that Bernie Madoff had finally died,” wrote novelist Peter Straub.
“Bernie Madoff is dead,” wrote singer Richard Marx. “Thoughts and prayers. To his victims, that is.”
A reply to his post read: “One of whom was [Holocaust survivor] Elie Wiesel, he should go to the special hell just for that.”
“Mr Ponzi is dead. Small recompense for all the people Bernie Madoff stole from,” tweeted Sebastian Gorka, former White House adviser to president Donald Trump.
“Caveat Emptor,” he added, Latin for “buyer beware”.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio tried to set a different mood when he said: “A very sad episode in the history of this city, and a lot of people, unfortunately, were hurt. The day someone passes is not a time to dance on a grave.”
He added: “Let’s just be honest: Many, many people were hurt by his actions. It’s time to hopefully turn the page and move forward.”
On the financial news front, MSNBC anchor and business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle, a former investment banker, noted: “The gift of running a private biz ... it’s much easier to hide wrongdoing. If Madoff’s biz was public, the scrutiny would have been significant.”
In the decade prior to the scandal breaking, there were repeated attempts to flag the Madoff scheme to the US Securities and Exchange Commission by analyst Harry Markopolos, and Wall Street firms were said to find the returns he claimed to not be credible. However, the wheels only came off the Madoff scheme during the global financial crisis.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, CNBC anchor, and author of Too Big to Fail, an account of the financial crisis, recalled: “In 2016, I met with Bernie Madoff in prison, twice, for over six hours. I went to persuade him to be interviewed on television. He agreed but the prison refused to allow cameras inside. I wish the public could have seen him have to directly answer questions about his conduct.”
Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, currently running for New York City comptroller, tweeted: “I broke the news about Bernie Madoff’s arrest [on] CNBC. The 2008 financial crisis exposed his Ponzi Scheme just as the Covid crisis exposed what many of us were already seeing: too many New Yorkers being left behind.”
Ms Caruso-Cabrera included a clip from CNBC on the day the news broke to a stunned Wall Street.
A popular theme online was that Madoff was only punished because the victims of his crimes were other rich people. In one tweet he was described as “the only white-collar criminal to ever face real consequences”.
“The only reason Bernie Madoff faced justice is because his crimes were against other rich people,” tweeted cartoonist Pat Bagley. “If he’d ripped off ordinary people he’d have died peacefully on his yacht surrounded by his loved assets.
Jon Schwarz, writer at The Intercept, quipped: “People claim there are no consequences in America for rich people who commit crimes. That’s completely untrue, both Bernie Madoff and Elizabeth Holmes show there are severe consequences for rich people who steal from other rich people.”
“Well, well, well, Bernie Madoff, the time has come to pay the piper, with investment funds from more recent pipers, unbeknownst to the aforementioned piper,” joked comedian Dan Gurewitch.
“Bernie Madoff is in hell. The devil will be broke in 18 months,” said a post on the Twitter account TheTweetofGod.
Finally, writer and music critic David Wild wrote: “The thing a LOT of people are to miss about Bernie Madoff is their money.”