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I just finished reading a very informative book, "Tangled Web" written by a Pulitizer Prize winner, James B. Stewart.

In Tangled Webs Stewart explores the people at the top of their fields: Martha Stewart, Lewis Libby, Barry Bonds and Bernard Madoff. who all committed perjury when they were confronted with the evidence of their actions.

Stewart asks us to ponder the questions that remain unsolved. ‘Why would the billionaire Martha Stewart lie about a relatively small stock trade of $40,000 ?’
‘Why did Scooter Libby, the assistant to Vice President Dick Chaney, lie to Congress that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?

‘Home- run king Barry Bonds who was earning over $15 million a year was granted immunity from prosecution as long as he told the truth about his illegal steroid use in professional baseball that ended with him facing perjury charges.’

‘ How did disgraced financier Bernard Madoff keep a Ponzi scheme going for over 20 years, despite repeated investigation by regulators?’

Martha when she was given insider trading information that one of her many investments in Im Clone did not receive accreditation from the FDA sold her shares to save a few dollars. When the SEC Security Exchange Commission interviewed her under oath she categorically denied any knowledge claiming that she had an agreement to sell the 3000 shares at $60.00 a share.

The jury found her guilty of perjury when she lied to the grand jury and sentenced her to five months in prison, five months of house arrest, two years of probation a $40,000 fine, banned from serving on a publicly traded company for five years.

"Never enough" philosophy for Martha was her ultimate downfall from the social elite of society to sharing her prison cell with a convicted cocaine dealer.

Barry Bonds wanted to live up to the impossible expectations of his father and the fans to be better then his godfather Willie Mays, as the best baseball player ever. When his body was hurt he turned to steroids, human growth hormones as magic potions to help him heal faster hoping he would not get caught using banned substances.

It’s not really cheating if you believe that everyone else is doing it. Major League Baseball officials were aware of the allegations but when push came to shove putting the paying fans in the stands helped the bottom line.

Bernard Maddoff created a Ponzi scheme enticing willing investors to give him large sums of money with the promise that he could earn them a safe large rate of return on their money. After the technology bubble burst in 2000 triggered a collapse in stock prices and a recession, investors poured their money into anything that promised to protect them from the downturn. Maddoff deposited billions in the bank hoping that his clients would be content to earn the dividends and not ask that their investments to be redeemed.

No one from the SEC questioned the magic formula and Bernard lived the good life. Four yachts, private jet, penthouses in New York and magnificent private villa in the French Riviera. He drove no fewer then six luxury vehicles.

It all seemed ok until Harry Markopolos, a forensic accountant, who tried in vain to duplicate the Maddoff’s strategy. The more he learned the more he was convinced that Bernard was a fraud. At first he was looked on as a kook but he kept on persevering with the SEC all in vain.

Maddof had absolutely no scruples in scamming multi-millionaires, companies, charities, along with widows and simple pensioners who paid the price because the government did not taking the time to investigate.

Miriam Siegman, a sixty-five year old widow is living on food stamps expressed her sorrow."Victims became the product of his greed. We are devastated by the SEC failure to uncover Maddoff`s fraud over the decades of his crime."

Bernard at the age of 71 was sentenced to a term of 150 year in prison. His son Mark was very distressed about the lawsuits and two years later he committed suicide. Recently his remaining son, Adam, died of Cancer leaving behind his mother, Ruth, to grieve. Maddoff is idolized by his fellow inmates for defrauding the government.

We lionize those who win and turn a blind eye to cheating, We promote self-interest at the expense of others. The consequences are devastating.

Interesting that the inscription on the United States currency reads : "In God we trust".

My father warned me that: "Since man to man is so unjust, I hardly know which one to trust, so you can pay me cash to day and I will trust you to-morrow."

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com