- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 4 hours and 56 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Abridged
- Publisher: Random House Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: March 17, 2005
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00081MY1E
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend Audiobook – Abridged
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“…in the absence of hard evidence, too good to miss trumps too good to be true.” (Kindle Locations 1796-1797)
Narcissistic, self-delusional, and adorable: charismatic people are oftentimes their own worst enemies—more credulous than even their easiest marks—and, sometimes, a danger to themselves and to the community at large.
They're simply not like the rest of us. Which is probably why we find them so fascinating.
My all-time favorite charismatic, of fact or fantasy, is the irrepressible, fictional character, Professor Harold Hill, of Meredith Willson’s musical: The Music Man. It is in this tale that the crux of charisma is revealed, in a tender moment, when the purveyor of band instruments and band uniforms to the untalented high school sons of country rubes, dares to tell his local love interest, Marian, the librarian— “Somehow, I always believe there’s a band.”
After reading Mitchell Zuckoff’s interesting and compressive biographical tale, Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend, I am convinced that Charles Ponzi, too, always believed there was a band. That he could, that he would, find a way to make good on all his extraordinary delusions; somehow.
Ponzi, at least for now, tops the list of my favorite non-fictional charismatics.
Recommendation: An amazing story, about an amazing man, an amazing time, and a pretty amazing city. I highly recommend reading this one.
“In the remarkable seven months since it had opened for business, the Securities Exchange Company had amassed thirty thousand investors and $9.6 million. All Ponzi had to do to keep them satisfied was to pay them nearly $15 million in return.” (Kindle Locations 2743-2745)
“Of all the get-rich-quick magnates that have operated, Ponzi is the king.” (Kindle Locations 4183-4184)
Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 416 pages
Captivating and enlightening read. I would recommend the book to others.
Charles Ponzi, whose get rich promotion in Boston in 1920 was not the first such plan to rob Peter to pay Paul, nonetheless forever lent his name to such schemes. Ponzi's progeny have included in just the past year and a half or so Robert Madoff, and Allan Stanford's investment houses. These supposedly respectable firms were disclosed to be massive Ponzi schemes. Rothstein's $1.2 billion scam paled in comparison to Madoff and Stanford who drew in $65 billion and $8 billion respectively.
Ponzi, by contrast, was a relative piker. Even adjusted for inflation his take amounted to only $89,000,000 in 2009 dollars. What Ponzi had, besides a larcenous heart, was rock-steady nerve and a dramatic flair. Turned down for a loan to seed his business by the Hanover Trust, a small Boston bank, he bought controlling interest less than a year later and used its assets like a personal checkbook. Confronted with photographic proof that he was the same Charles Ponsi convicted in Montreal ten years earlier for forgery, he coolly denied it. As the press and authorities went after him, it only drove more prospective investors to his doors.
Books about financial crimes can be dead dry. Mitchell Zuckoff has largely avoided this fate by his keen focus on Ponzi's surrounding cast-corrupt politicians, crusading editors, savvy cons, and dishonest lawyers. 1920 was a time when it just seemed likely that an Italian immigrant could turn $100 into $150 in forty-five days using international postal reply coupons. Even in the fullness of time, such naiveté has been repeated over and over again. My bet is that it will go on as long as people have more money than brains.