Avoiding Being Madoff'd
Bernie Madoff’s clients didn’t see his fraud scheme coming. But could they have? Let’s look at three key safety tips that would have prevented this from happening.
1.) Know what you own. Stick to stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds that are publicly traded and listed on major exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange. They are valued independently at least daily, if not minute-by-minute, while the exchange is open. You can check their reported returns against your own portfolio. If you can’t look up the prices and performance in the newspaper or on the Internet – that’s a red flag – ask a lot more questions.
2.) Use a custodian that is independent from your advisor. Madoff held his client assets, managed them, and priced them, too. See the conflicts of interest? Investment performance can look better if the prices reported to clients are manipulated, which is allegedly how Madoff showed winning year after winning year despite market turmoil.
3.) One final thought – if an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Reportedly Madoff claimed consistent annual returns of 10-12% with little volatility and no annual losses. Can you name any legitimate investor who can make that claim in recent years?
What Mr. Madoff did to his investors was unconscionable. It is a public tragedy for all investors and personal tragedy for many and my heart goes out to everyone affected. The only possible positive result will be if investors learn to avoid future disasters by remembering common sense and the above.