Ep. 021 – The Wizard of Lies with Diana Henriques

Bernie Madoff is perhaps the most notorious name in the history of Wall Street.

By now we all know the story. Madoff conducted a Ponzi scheme that is considered to be the largest in U.S. history. Over the course of decades, Madoff stole billions of dollars from his clients and finally, amid the financial crisis of 2008, the crime came to a screeching halt.

How on earth was he able to pull it off for so long, when there were plenty of warning signs and whistleblowers who tried to alert regulators that something was amiss?

One of the journalists covering the scandal was Diana Henriques, then a staff reporter at The New York Times, who specialized in investigative reporting on white-collar crime, market regulation and corporate governance. Diana used her countless hours of work as the lead reporter on the story as a catalyst to write the bestselleing book, The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust.

Diana had incredible access, including the first interview with an imprisoned Madoff. I was fortunate enough to interview her in 2011, just as the book was becoming a bestseller. I remember thinking at the time that the tale of Bernie Madoff was not just a financial story, but a Shakespearean tragedy.

Robert De Niro was so drawn to the character of Bernie Madoff as Henriques depicted him, that he bought the film rights to “The Wizard of Lies.” Six years later, HBO films released the movie version of “The Wizard of Lies” – it debuted this past Sunday.

If you’ve yet to see “The Wizard of Lies,” go watch it. DVR it, stream it, whatever the method, just watch it. It’s incredibly well done and stars Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer as Ruth Madoff.

Diana is an amazing storyteller, from her dogged pursuit of the Madoff prison interview to her describing the phone call she got from Robert De Niro saying he wanted to play Madoff…just an incredible story. We wanted to give you as much of Diana as possible, so for this week only, we’re skipping the caller of the week…don’t freak out, it’ll return next week.

“Better Off” theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

For a recap of every episode, visit https://www.betterment.com/resources/topics/inside-betterment/better-off-podcast/.