the madoff affair

Discussion Questions


Note to Teachers: You may wish to give these questions to students prior to watching the film and invite them to supply answers as they watch, stopping the tape as needed.


  • What is a Ponzi scheme?
  • What is a feeder fund?
  • How did Fairfield Greenwich make its money?
    • Is it customary for a feeder fund to be able to keep all client fees?
    • What effect did this fee arrangement with Madoff Securities have on other fund managers around the world?
  • How did the Fairfield Greenwich fund “take Madoff global”?
  • What was the condition Mr. Madoff imposed on people marketing his investments? Why do you think he did this?
  • When investors received their statements, what responsibility did they have to review and understand them? What signs could they have picked up on to alert them to potential problems?
  • What kind of “due diligence” did the feeder funds, such as Fairfield Greenwich, do? What didn’t they do? Why are they being sued by their clients?
  • Starting in 2001, whistleblower Harry Markopolos alerted the SEC three times to the likelihood that Bernard Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. Why do you think the SEC didn’t act on this information until 2006?
  • After the SEC cleared Bernard Madoff in its 2006 investigation, Harry Markopolos took his evidence to The Wall Street Journal, which did not publish it. What reasons can you think of as to why?
  • To what extent do you think the SEC did or did not do its job?
  • What was the final straw that uncovered the Madoff Ponzi scheme?
  • Ultimately, who do you think was responsible for the losses incurred by investors?
  • Do you think the U.S. government should offset the losses incurred by investors with Madoff? Explain.
  • What actions should the U.S. government take to minimize chances of other Ponzi schemes taking place?
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