David Kirkpatrick

January 8, 2009

10 financial frauds

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:15 pm

Interesting article, and yes, Enron comes in at number two.

From the link, here’s the mother of all financial fraud:

1. Charles Ponzi was one of the biggest swindlers in US history, and gave his name to the Ponzi “pyramid” scheme allegedly used by Bernard Madoff on Wall Street. Orchestrated after the First World War, Ponzi’s fraud centred on “international postal reply coupons”, designed to allow mail to be sent internationally. By acquiring these coupons abroad and exchanging them for higher value postage stamps in the US (essentially a form of arbitrage), Ponzi was able to make around a 400 per cent profit. Though this was not illegal, Ponzi advertised for investors to his scheme, promising them fantastic returns. He paid handsome windfalls to a handful of investors, which brought people flocking to his newly-formed Securities Exchange Company [SEC]. People mortgaged their homes and poured their savings into the company, which was accumulating colossal liabilities. Existing investors were paid off with the money of new investors. At the peak of his fraudulent scheme in 1920, Ponzi was making around $250,000 per day, an enormous sum for the time. The authorities slowly came to realise that, in order to cover all the investments made in the SEC, there would have to be 160,000,000 postal coupons in circulation. There were in reality only 27,000. Ponzi was indicted on 86 counts of mail fraud and sentenced to five years in prison in 1920.

I chose this one because Ponzi and Ponzi Schemes are all over the news in regards to the Madoff business.  Figured anyone who wasn’t familiar with the details would enjoy the history.