Being a financial blogger, I often receive requests for reviewing books. I usually ignore them but when I was offered No One Would Listen by Harry Markopolos, I took the offer because I’m fascinated by the story.
Harry Markopolos is the guy who sounded the alarm on Bernie Madoff’s giant Ponzi scheme. He submitted detailed evidence to the SEC several times over ten years, only to be ignored and deemed "not credible." After SEC finally conducted an investigation, they only asked Madoff to file some papers and register as an investment advisor. Madoff became more legit than he was ever before. He was able to claim he was examined and cleared by the SEC.
The most astonishing part of the story is that Madoff didn’t execute any trades in all those years. If only the SEC asked for trade tickets and double checked with the parties on the other side of the trade, the whole scheme could’ve been revealed very easily. SEC’s failure is bureaucracy and incompetence of the epic proportion.
Although the main story line is already well publicized in the press, the book provides a lot more details of the author’s saga with the SEC. I always prefer first-person accounts to third-person narration. Markopolos did a very good job. I gained a lot of respect for him, both for his intelligence and for his courage. You can watch his interview with 60 Minutes in these two videos.
From the book and the interview, I can tell Markopolos is mad at the SEC, and he ought to be. The entire book can be seen as a case study for how regulations based primarily on documentary compliance didn’t work. Such non-regulation gives investors a false sense of protection. It’s worse than no regulation.
After the Madoff fiasco, the SEC Office of Inspector General did a post-mortem and issued a 477-page report Investigation of Failure of the SEC To Uncover Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme. I read the 22-page Executive Summary. It corroborated with what Markopolos raised in the book.
[Except a review copy from the publisher’s PR firm, I received no monetary compensation for this review. Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links. Amazon pays me 4% – 6.5% if you make a purchase within 24 hours.]