March 3, 2012


house of ponziIn a Ponzi scheme, money from one set of investors gets paid to another set of investors. That’s illegal because participants are getting duped about the source of the money.

Former lawyer Scott Rothstein has been jailed for 50 years for his $1.2 billion scam in Florida. You'll find details on Wikipedia.

Fooling people is easier when you've got credible parties involved. Accountants. Lawyers. Banks.


TD Bank has set aside $255,000,000 to deal with their role in the Rothstein Ponzi scam.  In January, a jury ordered TD to pay $67,000,000 to Coquina Investments. This week. TD agreed to pay the Razorback Group an estimated $170,000,000.

This post isn't about a particular bank but big financial institutions in general. One bank seems like another. There’s no solid reason to think that a different bank would have acted differently.


Imagine if financial institutions became advocates for the victims and set things right quickly. Imagine if they told us what went wrong and the new precautions they are now taking.

That wouldn't be good for business. Or would it?

Warren Buffett admits his mistakes (Forbes). In this video he confesses to a $200 billion blunder.

Imagine if such candor were common.

Employee Fraud

Large institutions have vast resources, sophisticated systems and other safeguards. Their employees still manage to commit fraud — sometimes for years. Here are examples from a quick web search:
Employee fraud may be a much bigger problem than a rare external Ponzi scheme.


There’s a region between advocacy and fraud. What’s legal may not be quite right. Look at the Rogers/Bell attack ads. That’s big business versus big business. What about big business versus you?

When large institutions are selling to you (say investments or insurance), who is safeguarding your interests? If problems arise, what can you do? If there's a big problem that also affects other clients, the media may become interested. If the activities were illegal, the courts can step in.

In real life, what happens if you alone have a dispute with a large institution? Who's looking out for you then?


Podcast 158

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PS Are you concerned more about Ponzi scams or employee fraud?

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