How a true crime filmmaker came to view Bernie Madoff as a ‘financial serial killer’

Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison (Getty)

At first glance, there is no particular reason for a four-part documentary about Bernie Madoff to come out in 2023. The fraudster and financier has been dead for two years. His Ponzi scheme unraveled 14 years ago. Efforts to repay victims of his fraud are ongoing. Why revisit this particular saga now?

Three days before Joe Berlinger, the director of Netflix’s new documentary Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street, and I are scheduled to talk, the news cycle provides the perfect answer. Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old founder and CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is arrested in the Bahamas. The next day, he is indicted on eight criminal counts, on charges including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

Unlike Madoff, Bankman-Fried hasn’t been accused of running a Ponzi scheme. But following his arrest, multiple news outlets have drawn comparisons between the two. Bankman-Fried allegedly ran a “wide-ranging scheme” to “misappropriate billions of dollars of customer funds” and “mislead investors”, per the Department of Justice. The scope of the alleged fraud is reminiscent of Madoff’s own operation, as is the mystique that once surrounded both men. Bankman-Fried, The New York Times noted, “was once described as a modern-day John Pierpont Morgan, and became a darling of big investors in Silicon Valley.” Madoff, meanwhile, had earned…

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