|By DIANA B. HENRIQUES|
It was the first global Ponzi scheme — a slow-motion crime wave that began in the
Mr. Madoff’s fate was quickly settled. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a 150-year prison term, which he is serving in
These eligible victims can expect to collect at least
Most of the investors — including those who lost cash through an intermediary — will receive much less, if anything, and some may even be required to pay money to the trustee. Provided that they incurred a cash loss, they may be eligible for a separate
Some victims, meanwhile, are edging into the light, recovering some savings, however slowly, and rebuilding satisfying if simpler lives. In recent interviews, a sample of Madoff investors cited some common lessons that emerged from their differing struggles: Diversify your savings. Focus on what really matters. And don’t give up, or give in to rage or frustration.
Beyond the Country Club
Today, the Meerows — he is 75, she is 66 — have settled into a new life in
“When your life gets altered overnight, you realize you don’t have to keep doing everything you’ve been doing,”
After Mr. Madoff’s arrest, they promptly sold their
But Mrs. Meerow — who concedes that “Burt is a ‘glass-half-full’ kind of guy, and I’m a ‘glass-half-empty’ kind of girl” — says she feels “stuck” by their reduced finances. Their new home is too far from
The Meerows have no idea whether, or when, they will recover any of the principal they lost. As indirect investors, they are not eligible for the cash being distributed by the trustee.
Still, the Meerows say they feel lucky. Their losses did not affect the health or safety of loved ones, and they are not facing a clawback claim. They volunteer as hosts at their local ski resort and enjoy free skiing, discounted lift tickets for their family and half-price golf at the local course.
A recent visit to their old country club for a wedding underscored that its society — “all about things and jewelry and all that silly stuff” — was no longer congenial, Mrs. Meerow said. “That’s not who we are anymore.”
“Besides,” she added, “if I had never walked into that club, I never would have heard the name ‘Bernie Madoff.’ ”
That Looming Lawsuit
“I had built up the account to around
Fortunately, they had other assets, and didn’t lose everything to the Madoff fraud, but the crime still “changed our life totally,”
“I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but to treat me and lots of other people like me as if we are criminals — that is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with financially,” he said. “I thought a claw-back suit was something they filed against those who knew what was going on. I never dreamed they’d be interested in me.”
The morning after Mr. Madoff’s arrest,
That did not happen — in fact, the vacation home has become the Iselins’ salvation, he said. They rent it out as much of the year as possible to generate income. “It is how we have survived,” he added.
‘We Live Year by Year’
The Madoff calamity cast doubt on whether it would survive to see its 70th anniversary, which was to be marked by a star-filled fund-raising gala at Carnegie Hall in
“Every school came through. Every artist agreed,”
The foundation has broadened its donor base and is carefully rebuilding. “We haven’t fully recovered, not by a long shot,”
The 2010 gala was held at Carnegie Hall, as planned, and was a turning point. At the event, the
The claw back lawsuit remains a constant worry, and he says the foundation can’t really move forward until it is resolved. The amount being sought by the trustee is still under negotiation, he said. “Our legal team is confident,” he added. “But it’s something that has to be discussed at every board meeting. It is very clear that we live year by year.”
Lost and Found
“I think our friend just took pity on us because of what had happened,” she said. And despite what happened next, they remain friends.
Ms. Roth, an author of best-selling books on eating disorders, was stunned. She turned to the woman who had been her spiritual teacher for many years, who, Ms. Roth said, replied with New Age serenity that “nothing of any value” had been lost.
“I was furious,” Ms. Roth said. “I told her: ‘I have lost all my money! This is not the time to be spiritual!’”
Nonetheless, Ms. Roth, who is now 62, continued writing. Her book “Women Food and God,” which came out in
Then she turned her Madoff experience into another book, called “Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money” (Viking, 2011). In that book, she described how her insecurities about money echoed her unhealthy feelings about food.
“You can feel stuffed and full after bingeing on food,” she said. “But there seems to be no amount of money at which people feel full.”
She added, “Anorexics who think they are fat are no different from those who have money for all their basic needs but still worry that they don’t have enough.”
As Ms. Roth sees it, she is largely to blame for her financial calamity because she steadfastly refused to take personal responsibility for her financial affairs. She acknowledged that her conclusion might upset many Madoff investors, who might see her as “blaming the victims” rather than
“I don’t feel that my part in this was not being able to see through him,” she explained. “But I do feel my part in this was my own lack of consciousness about money.” She lost that blithe disregard the day of Mr. Madoff’s arrest, she said, adding that she feels richer for it.
“The Madoff loss changed me in ways I am so grateful for,” Ms. Roth concluded. “Would I like to get that money back? Yes. But do I feel that what I’ve gotten since losing it has given me more wealth, in a way, than anything I had before? Yes.”
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|Source:||New York Times Digital|