Opinion

In the English language, sometimes a name becomes a synonym for the actions of that person. In Shakespeare, Shylock has evolved into a word for someone loaning money at usurious rates. Chauvinism comes from the French Soldier in Napoleon's Army. He was a fanatical patriot and ultra believer in race and sex. Casanova equals male flirtation.

During World War II, under the Nazi occupation of Norway, Vidkun Quisling collaborated with the enemy. The term quisling today means a traitor.

In the 1930s, Charles Ponzi established a criminal scheme, which today still bears his name. Briefly, it is taking a person's money and promising high interest. Others, hearing of the lucrative gain, place their money with the thief. He pays off the older clients with the fresh money that comes in from the newer suckers. It all falls apart when the new, fresh money stops arriving and people demand their payments.

Ponzi schemes have been in the headlines quite recently. Charles Ponzi was in the millions of dollars but today's crooks deal in billions. Bernard Madoff ran a $50 billion scheme that failed when the American economy softened and no new money came in to pay the original clients. He had thousands of people and institutions begging him to take their money and make them wealthy. He had three floors of offices in the Lipstick building in Manhattan. His circle was country clubs in Roslyn, Montauk, Palm Beach and other habitats of the wealthy.

He had no feelings or empathy for the lives he was ruining and the destruction he was causing. To date, his day in court has not come. The results will be interesting. Many lives have been shattered.

Another Ponzi schemer is Sir Robert Allen Stanford from St. John's, Antigua. He ran an offshore Stanford International Bank that attracted billions of dollars from clients in Venezuela and other Latin American countries seeking a haven for their wealth. He has been charged with a huge fraud that bilked investors of $8 billion. He controls finances on the isle of Antigua.

Am I mistaken, or is this the era of Ponzi? Do people expect huge profits from sleazy salesmen without doing "due diligence" in their investigations of these manipulators? Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) should be the watchword of today's investors.

The name Ponzi has entered the English language.

These are not happy times for many investors.


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