Bernie Madoff was a legend on Wall Street. His clients were prominent figures such as Steven Spielberg and Elie Wiesel. However, the biggest Ponzi scheme in America's financial history — in which newer clients' money was used to pay longer-standing clients — was only uncovered when economic conditions deteriorated to a point where it was hard for Madoff and his associates to cover their tracks.
Perhaps Madoff's 150-year prison sentence on Monday gave some people a sense of justice. But many questions remain about the labyrinth of the scheme. The New York Times has reported that in the span of 20 years as a financier, Madoff's actions cost customers between $50 billion and $65 billion.
In addition, the Times said the government charged that Madoff had money transferred from his firm's London office "to purchase property and services for the personal use and benefit" of himself, his family members and his associates.
Congress castigated the Securities and Exchange Commission for not following up on complaints brought about several times by an associate of Madoff.
But who is to blame for such a crime? Is it government watchdogs such as the commission? Or should the victims of the Ponzi scheme be blamed for not asking enough questions about the source of their high returns on investments?