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The Club No One Wanted to Join: Madoff Victims in Their Own Words Paperback – June 10, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


By Helen Davis Chaitman

This book is a must-read for Americans who mourn what America used to be. We are scandalized by politicians who pay for sex. Yet we tolerate the fact that our politicians sell their votes to the highest bidders. The contributors to this book understand the seriousness of this state of affairs.

These are honest Americans, of all walks of life, who worked hard, saved their money, and expected to retire in peace. Some were rich; some were poor. Some were young; some were old. These are people who only came together because America is broken.

It is easy to blame Madoff. But the Madoffs of the world are to be expected. That is why taxpayer dollars were used to fund the SEC. That is why taxpayer dollars were used to fund Congress which, in 1970 (before America was broken), enacted the Securities Investor Protection Act ("SIPA"), which created SIPC to establish a fund to insure victims of a broker's dishonesty.

We all know the story:

The SEC personnel accepted taxpayer-paid salaries and, instead of policing the securities industry, they sat at their computers watching pornographic movies until they put in enough time to earn themselves high-paying jobs on Wall Street.

FINRA, which was supposed to regulate the securities industry, became the protectors and perpetuators of corporate corruption.

SIPC, which was supposed to insure investors decided, instead, to provide free SIPC insurance to its members (a mere $150/year/firm) and to persecute investors whose funds were stolen by dishonest brokers.

Irving Picard, the SIPC trustee, who has a fiduciary duty to the investors, decided to sell his soul to SIPC for $1.4 million/week.

In sum, Madoff's victims were swindled by the system and the government. But the wonderful thing about this book is that its 29 contributors are not bitter. You cannot help but love these people when you read their stories. To take just a few:

“SM” grew up in a 1,200 square foot house surrounded by tomato fields. She went barefoot and never worried about clothes matching. She invested her total life savings -- $20,000 – in Madoff in 1992. It wasn’t a huge amount of money in 2008 but it was enough to keep her comfortable in her old age. She has lost her financial security but she is still kind, loving and so much more.

Mary Thomajan was looking forward to retirement in Santa Fe, focusing on funding a Center for Community and Courageous Change. She lost everything. But she learned that "none of the stuff was me-not my money, nor my home, nor my clothes, my jaguar, my sassy red hair, my identity." The truth she came to recognize is that "we don't own anything...We are just tenants here, little columns of energy." But she has learned from a wise teacher in India who answered the question: “What does a man have when he has lost everything?” The answer was “Freedom.”

You will love and admire Sarah Fisk. When she learned that friends of hers had lost money in Madoff, she felt sympathetic but superior – as if they must have done something wrong to have been so victimized. Then she learned that the fund in which she had put her life savings had invested all the money in Madoff. And she learned that the reaction of the press of finding fault with the victims is a totally human, but unfortunate reaction of people who would rather blame the victims than accept their own vulnerability.

You will weep with admiration for Emma De Vita, a woman born at the time of the Great Depression, from a working class background, who has turned her tragedy into political activism.

What all of these people have in common is that they have determined to try to fix America. For this we should all be very grateful because we need an awful lot of fixing.

About the Author

  1. These are the twenty nine authors who contributed to this book, all were Madoff investors:

    Maureen A. Ebel, Mary Thomajan, Richard M. Friedman, Cynthia Friedman, Stephanie Halio, Steven Norton, Emma De Vita, Michael De Vita, Joanne M., Stephanie E., Timothy Murray, NES, Ellen Bernfeld, Renee Rosen, Elisabetta Sandolo, Jeannene Langford, Joanna W., Sarah Fisk,Norma Hill, Lyn S., AKL, Robert Halio, LAS, Jackie S., SM, RV, Robin Jungreis Swernoff, Allan Goldstein,
    Alexandra Roth
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 229 pages
  • Publisher: The Doukathsan Press; 1st edition (June 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982250932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982250938
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ilene Kent on June 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book tells the story that the mainstream media forgot ... or didn't want ... to tell. These are the stories of everyday Americans ... entrepreneurs, such as Allen Goldsten, who worked hard his entire life, took the money from the sale of his business, and invested it with a man who, despite his glowing reputation as Chairman of Nasdaq, was a common crook.

The victims in this book were let down on multiple occasions -- first by Madoff himself, then by the SEC who did not do its job, and finally, by the SIPC whose logo on the statements assured many that their funds were insured for up to $500,000. Then, of course, there are the thousands whose IRAs and Pension Plans were with Madoff, and many did not even know they'd lost the funds until days, or even weeks, after Madoff's arrest. The laws that the victims thought were there to protect them are actually being used against them.

With Ponzi schemes and other frauds being discovered at the rate of several a week, this is a must-read for anyone who has a brokerage account and thinks it cannot happen to them.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By L. Hallick on June 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Twenty-nine stories of loss beyond comprehension. Financial ruination, bankruptcy, physical toll on health, depression, suicidal thoughts, loss of trust and then compassion, righteous anger, advocacy, political awakening and life after.
If you give any of your money to any institution (even one with SIPC guarantee and approved by the SEC)Your money is NOT Safe, you are NOT insured. The only people getting any money from SIPC are the ones keeping it from the investor by playing "blame the investor".
You must read this and act: call your representatives and tell them, "never again"
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. on June 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
At the outset, I will state that I did not finish this book. After reading a number of investors' stories, I grew tired of the book, and then skimmed the rest. It was a disappointing purchase. The stories are stories of a select group of investors that worked hard, were honest, lost everything, and were victimized. But it only tells a small part of the story. It is not insightful.

Here's what's missing. There is no insight on:

Why do investors want to be part of a special "club"? Why was Madoff so effective at creating an illusion of exclusivity and celebrity?

Why would anyone invest given the obvious signs of something being wrong?

How did greed play into the equation?

Why do people invest in things that they can't comprehend?

Were all of Madoff's investors hard working, lower middle class, unsophisticated folks? What percentage were rich, greedy, and just wanted in on a potentially unethical investment -- like if Madoff was an inside trader?

Do any of these investors think they should take any responsibility in investing stupidly without diversification?

The book even goes so far as to state that the returns from Madoff were not an indicator of impropriety, and that equity funds can deliver 11%. Sorry, that is self-serving and ridiculous -- equity funds go up and down in value -- they do not make money when the market crashes -- they do not give consistent returns.

The book attempts to place all of the blame on others. Nobody takes any responsibility. That is not to say that I don't feel sorry for these folks. But someone has to take some responsibility and stop blaming others for not saving them. Even a little responsibility?

If you want to read a book that tells the story of only a small subset of Madoff's investors and attempts to convince you that this subset is a major contingent, this is the book that will fool you.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dominic Ambrosino on July 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading this amazing book. I know many of the authors and knew much of their history before reading the book. I opened the first page with no expectations.

The rest of the reading was incredible. I hate to use the word riveting because it seems so trite, but the book WAS riveting. The heartfelt words of each author were genuine and compelling.

It's not an old story. It's an ongoing story-one of initial devastation followed by self discovery of strength and fortitude for each person. The transformation process is evident in each chapter.

The theme, along with personal growth and a new found realization of humanity from support offered by their friends, family, fellow victims and even strangers, includes the depiction of the inept negligence and avoidance of our government.

This makes the story current and ongoing. As victims, we see these people recovering. The government, however has not found that same growth process. In fact, they are retreating from their responsibilities to us and all investors.

Until that changes, this is a current events story.

I feel the book could be used as a means to help those who don't understand the devastation, the government's role and the reality of losing your financial security to a man who was trusted and condoned by the regulators to see how we were affected and how all investors are affected.

I would suggest that every member of the House and Senatorial Finance, Banking and Judicial committees read this book. SIPC, the agency that Congress created more than 30 years to protect investors, is instead continuing to add to their devastation. SIPC is failing in it's duty to ensure safety from investment fraud.
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