Many who lost their life savings to Bernie Madoff may have been relieved when they heard the news of his death in April 2021 at 82 years old. Though he suffered with kidney disease at the end of his life, those whom Madoff scammed out of a total of nearly $65 billion likely had little sympathy for him.
Madoff was arrested in December 2008 and pleaded guilty to 11 federal felony counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury, securities fraud, and money laundering. In 2009, he was convicted of massive fraud through the largest Ponzi scheme in history.
As punishment, Madoff forfeited $170 billion and received a sentence of 150 years in prison. The New York Times reported that due to the $170 billion forfeiture, “Mr. Madoff leaves nothing of his former wealth behind.” So, what was Bernie Madoff's net worth at the time of his death?
Madoff’s massive scam places his net worth in the negative.
In 1960, Madoff began his company Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC at the age of 22. By the late 1980s, he was reportedly making around $100 million annually. Madoff also served as the Nasdaq chairman in 1990, 1991, and 1993.
Madoff reportedly began by defrauding acquaintances and relatives in Manhattan and Long Island. He claimed to be using split-strike conversion to generate large returns on investments, but in reality was only depositing funds into one bank account. Funds from that were used to pay clients if they decided to cash out.
The late Hofstra University alum managed to continually fund redemptions (when clients wanted to withdraw their investment) through capital from new investors. He claimed the fraud began in the 1990s, though prosecutors and others believed it may be started much earlier.
In 2008, following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, many hedge fund managers and other institutional investors made large withdrawals from their Madoff accounts. Madoff confessed his fraudulent dealings to his two sons when he couldn’t fulfill all of the redemption orders. They turned him in to the authorities.
Among those who lost massive amounts of money to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme were institutional investors, wealthy families, universities, and charitable organizations. In December 2020, the Department of Justice announced a sixth installment of funds totaling $488 million to victims.
That newest amount would result in a total of $3.2 billion restored through the Madoff Victim Fund.
Stock broker and investment adviser
Net worth: -$17 million
Bernie Madoff is best known for pulling off one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history. Because he "made off" with roughly $64.8 billion, he'll go down in history as an American fraudster, or "the monster of Wall Street."
Birthdate: April 29, 1938
Died: April 14, 2021
Birthplace: New York City, N.Y.
Spouse: Ruth Madoff
Kids: Andrew Madoff and Mark Madoff (both deceased)
What is a Ponzi scheme?
In a Ponzi scheme, fraud is committed by organizers who promise to invest money and generate high returns. Instead, they fund returns to existing investors through funds collected from new investors. Essentially, the only way for any investor to make money is if more investors are continually recruited.
Ponzi schemes got their name from Charles Ponzi, who ran a postage-stamp scam in the 1920s. Madoff, as other Ponzi scheme frontrunners, had to continuously scout out new investors to keep up the appearance of a successful investment firm.
Madoff managed to hold the fraud together for decades thanks to “elaborate account statements and a deep reservoir of trust from his investors and regulators,” according to The New York Times.
Neflix is the latest to document Bernie Madoff's elaborate scheme in a TV mini series.
Netflix released its docuseries Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street on Jan. 4, 2023. The mini TV series details the rise and fall of Madoff, and dives deep into steps he took to become filthy rich, and cover his tracks in the process. If any of the other documentaries left you with lingering questions, perhaps Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street, directed by Joe Berlinger, will provide you with some answers.