Bernard Lawrence Madoff (/ˈmeɪdɔːf/ MAY-doff; April 29, 1938 – April 14, 2021) was an American market maker, investment advisor, financier, and convicted fraudster who served a federal prison sentence for offenses related to a massive Ponzi scheme.
He was at one time non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, before being revealed as and later confessing to having been the operator of the largest Ponzi scheme in world history, and the largest financial fraud in U.S. history. Prosecutors estimated the fraud to be worth $64.8 billion based on the amounts in the accounts of Madoff’s 4,800 clients as of November 30, 2008.
Those charged with recovering the missing money believe that the investment operation may never have been legitimate. The amount missing from client accounts was almost $65 billion, including fabricated gains. The Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) trustee estimated actual losses to investors of $18 billion. On June 29, 2009, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison, the maximum allowed. Madoff died in April 2021 while serving out his sentence.
Madoff founded a penny stock brokerage in 1960, which eventually grew into Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. He served as its chairman until his arrest on December 11, 2008. The firm was one of the top market maker businesses on Wall Street, which bypassed “specialist” firms by directly executing orders over the counter from retail brokers.