The news that former chairman of Nasdaq Bernard Madoff's $50 billion fraud has hit the investor/401(k) class as nothing else. That one man could run such a gigantic fraud for decades is unbelievable. One man alone could not have done the work of inventing and cranking out thousands of statements every month, not to mention keeping track of the comings and goings of billions of dollars. Madoff has confederates.
If the former chairman of Nasdaq is a crook, whom do you trust? Madoff has sown the seeds of suspicion everywhere. He has caused us to doubt men and women with whom we have done business with for years. There is no way of knowing if someone is a con artist. The presumption of trust is gone.
Business depends on trust, trust of all kinds. Trust that when you place an order with a broker he or she will get you the best price, trust that your investment or retirement adviser is not getting an under-the-table kickback to put your old age money into a shoddy annuity.
Trust is the indispensable element in all businesses. Contractors depend on subcontractors to get the job done when they say they will; retailers depend on distributors to deliver on time; lawyers are trusted to meet filing deadlines, steel fabricators are expected to get gigantic trusses to the building site exactly when they are needed. Doctors are expected to put patients' interests above money considerations; parts manufacturers are relied on to deliver on time to the factory. Business runs on trust, and Bernard Madoff has busted it.
[Excerpt of an article by Nicholas von Hoffman, The Nation]