- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 9 hours and 58 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Books on Tape
- Audible.com Release Date: March 18, 2005
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00083FZ7C
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
Where this study becomes fascinating is in its exposition of the mindset of Mr. Ponzi who came very, very close to pulling it off. Mr. Zuckoff takes pains to point out that in writing this book he did not interpolate from extant facts and scrupulously notes his sources. Apparently Ponzi was of the type that just can't stomach the hard work of doing things the accepted way; however, ethics are ethics and regardless of his motive--Ponzi did commit fraud because he was not creating income with his depositors money. Yet, Ponzi's fraud was more of a "short cut" as he never really knew exactly what his liabilities were and was on the brink of figuring out a way to use his fund that would have produced profit; as he himself noted, he could have cut and run with the money but instead was trying to figure out a way to invest the funds. In fact, he did bank the money, so if he was guilty of anything it was overselling the returns. Really, Ponzi created a kind of liquid venture capital fund that just didn't ever get around to making investments. He could have pulled off his scheme and the way the book is written you are rooting for him to succeed.
Ponzi's public persona created such confidence that his fund was able to weather repeated attacks by the media. In fact, his strong public image and his ability to sway opinion actually stymied most of the law enforcement agencies whose responsibility it was to ferret out fraud. However, his past criminal record was his undoing. A sharp reporter figured out how to dent the public trust in Ponzi and a bank examiner unafraid to do his job managed to lock up Ponzi's remaining cash thereby forcing a default. In my opinion, but for Ponzi's past transgression, he would have ended up successful. There's a lesson.
The story is simple but the man was complex. His ability to appear completely unruffled in the face of the most dire of situations continually disarmed the media as well as the police, who were so accustomed to looking for signs of guilt that they let the guy go on repeated occasions. Even though you know what is going to happen it is fascinating to watch Ponzi continually evade detection and capture. There is a real lesson to legitimate business people regarding self-confidence and the power of dressing well.
And as a postscript: Anyone stupid enough to think we've progressed as an economy should turn on the TV after 11 PM and see ads for pills that either melt fat or grow a specific body part. Ponzi lives.