Saturday, September 05, 2009

On Recession's Glitzy Offsprings - Bernie Madoff and Dina Wein Reis

In Mint Lakshmi Chaudhry writes about how the recession has produced colourful swindlers who led snazzy, high-profile lives tainted by the tawdry gliz of tinsel:

“Recession-lit’s most popular character is undoubtedly Bernie Madoff. The colourful, flamboyant [alleged] swindler-broker who conned not only his investors but all of Wall Street is an author’s dream come true. In Betrayal: The Life and Lies of Bernie Madoff, Andrew Kirtzman paints the picture of an insecure teenager “rejected by girls who deemed him mediocre”, spurring him to conceive “a spectacularly ambitious path to conquer Wall Street at an early age”. Low self-esteem leads to hunger for money by all means necessary, creating the requisite conditions for the inevitable fall. It’s melodramatic, predictable and Gatsby-esque. Why read Kirtzman when we have Fitzgerald?”

In another article I read about Dina Wein Reis another alleged swindler now facing charges, a tomboy in younger days, who had amassed USD 300 million worth by diverting good meant as free samples back into the consumer chain. How did she do it? It appears that she promised executives of large companies like Roche and Unilever jobs of CEOs in her fake companies and got them to sell her their products at huge discounts.

What’s common to both Bernie Madoff and Dina Wein Reis? Recession and a high-glitz lifestyle. Wein Reis’ Manhattan townhouse was featured in Architectural Digest and she owned artworks and rare collectibles (a pair of Louis XVI footstools, two Bugatti throne chairs, a pair of Empire sleigh beds, and a 1920s cast-iron vanity) worth over 30 million.

What? In this recession? Anthonybhai is away on vacation in Goa. But, a good friend that he be, he has SMS-ed me his reaction: “What men, these Americans as corrupt-birrupt as we beggers?”

"Yeah, men," I say.

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