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FRONTLINE: The Madoff Affair

Bernard Madoff is taken into custody by law enforcement officials, 2008
Hiroko Masuike/2009 Getty Images
Bernard Madoff is taken into custody by law enforcement officials, 2008

Airs Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

In the mid-1960s, Bernard Madoff tapped money from Jewish businessmen at exclusive country clubs with the promise of steady guaranteed returns on their investments. He then set his sights on Europe and Latin America, brokering deals with powerful hedge fund managers and feeder funds from Buenos Aires to Geneva. Billions of dollars were channeled to Madoff’s investment firm, and his feeders became fabulously wealthy.

The competition wondered how the man could produce such steady returns in good times and bad. There were allegations that Madoff was “front-running” or operating a Ponzi scheme, which the SEC investigated several times over the last two decades. Madoff remained untouched until December 11, 2008, when he admitted it was all “one big lie.”

In "The Madoff Affair," FRONTLINE producers Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria unravel the story behind the world’s first truly global Ponzi scheme — a deception that lasted longer, reached wider and cut deeper than any other business scandal in history.


Explore a timeline of markers in Madoff's four-decade career and vast deception, as well as investor's stories.

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The Madoff Affair: Exclusive Interview: Michael Bienes