Kevin Connolly on the psychology of the Madoff fraud
From the BBC
If something sounds too good to be true, I keep reading, that must be because it is too good to be true.
It is good advice as far as it goes and it raises the question of why so many wealthy, sophisticated savers were apparently conned into believing that Mr Madoff had come up with an investment strategy that allowed him to pay handsome returns even when the stock market was falling.
I asked a very senior regulator about this, a man who has been involved in formulating public policy for many years, and he said the answer was depressingly simple.
People are prone to believe what they want to believe, he said, and in rising markets a kind of irrational euphoria takes hold in which we are not inclined to ask difficult questions…
…I asked the regulator if the world would learn a lesson from the Madoff case and, depressingly, he was doubtful that it would.
These kind of schemes are only possible in a rising market and the next time the market is rising strongly – as it surely will one day – that old feeling of irrational euphoria will take over.
The reason we are easy to fool in the end, is because we are so good at fooling ourselves.