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

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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.
Wow!
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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It has been several years since this book was published. In it is the shattered history of ordinary people who did nothing to deserve their financial destruction. I often re-read it to not only remind myself that I was lucky enough to have invested with a major American bank, but also to remind myself that this can quite easily happen to highly sophisticated investors. I started out with my own Investment Advisor when were both young. He has never led me astray. Obviously everything that's supposed to be there still is. We need to remember that Madoff was an "accredited star" of the financial industry!

It is also helpful to remember that nothing like this could have happened to Morningstar, Fidelity, Vanguard, Wells Fargo Advisors or a number of other very familiar names of the industry. Investors whose paper was held by these companies would never fear a Ponzi scheme. (They might indeed "fear" loss of value of their holdings, but never that the holding didn't exist.)

I think it is time for an update on the lives of these survivors. It's not our business to know exactly how much (if any) restitution they were able to accomplish, but historically, it IS important to get an idea about it.

Over the years we have read about various settlements and refunds. I'm sure they were nowhere near the original value of the final "statement" from Madoff, but I still feel it is important to know about it. I think it is also very important to review a summary of any improvements or statutory changes that have occurred as a result of this crime of the century.

I am not naïve. I know that the directed efforts of the victims' groups led to many of these achievements. I hope that they can lay claim to what they have accomplished for the rest of us. They deserve our applause as well as our sympathy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a devastating book to read. In one story after another, we learn about the lives of Madoff investors who haven't gotten the same media attention as the more high-profile investors. These are everyday people, working and saving, and thinking they were making wise investments.

To those who have written "blame the victim" reviews, remember this: con artists are incredibly clever. The attraction of these investments was that they appeared to be modest and safe. The reason this scheme was so successful was because Madoff was very, very good at what he did. It's heartbreaking to comprehend someone losing their life savings.
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I could not put this book down. These people lost their life savings but their spirit survived. And in more ways than one as bad as it sounds they came out on top by learning the real meaning of happiness is not the dollar. A must read .
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I chose it because one of my friends was a Madoff victim. I liked it because it exposed not only the horrendous greed & arrogance of a family who lived such greedy lives without any concern for others, but also how our government was just as greedy & really unconcerned about helping these victims. And then Congress wonders why they have such a poor image from the American people? This is just one example why the U.S. government should never be trusted. Also, I felt such despair for those who had worked so hard their entire lives only to be duped by Madoff but also by their own government.
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Format: Paperback
The Club that No One Wanted to Join was edited by Erin Arvelund and compiled by Alexandra Roth. It is great collection of the Madoff victims or as some of them call themselves, the Madoff survivors.

Why do this? Why collect the stories of the experiences of so many who were cheated out a lot of money, in many cases, their retirement money or their life savings. Weren't the people who invested in Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme just greedy? NO!! And this book shows why.

They weren't just swindled by Bernie Madoff, former head of Nasdaq, they were let down or ignored by several regulators. Read the book to see the failures of the regulators to protect the investors. Often, they were referred to the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC by trusted friends, by father and mothers and by financial advisors.

How this could have been prevented? I never want to be in their position, the simplest solution that I can think of is to diversify. Many of the people in the book did a reasonable amount of checking but they got the wrong answers. Also, there needs to be some more laws to protect the investors. They did not know that it was a ponzi scheme; they thought their money was going into investments. Ok, that is my short aside.

It is very troubling to read about people living on very little so that they can feel secure in their retirement and find out that it was all a big trick. Then, those who had houses had to sell them, those with medical bills couldn't pay them and to top it all off, people call them "greedy". That's not fair, not fair at all.

I recommend this book to everyone worried about their financial future (which should be everyone that I know).
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