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Here’s how Madoff got his billions

Michael Bienes

Frontline, the well-regarded PBS documentary series, has released this fascinating interview with investment advisor Michael Bienes.

His firm, Avellino & Bienes, promised clients returns of 15% to 18% a year, and made good on that pledge by investing their money in Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

When Madoff regularly “earned” 20% with their clients’ money, Avellino & Bienes got to pocket the difference. “By the mid-80s, their cut was reaching upwards of $10 million a year,” Frontline reports.

Bienes acknowledges that it was “easy” money. “I never worked hard,” Bienes says, and he never asked Madoff how he earned such huge returns year after year.

The full documentary, “The Madoff Affair,” premieres May 12th at

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Comments (2)
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2 Existing Comments
  1. Gotitrite said:
    on May 11th at 10:17 am

    These people must have thought Bernie Madoff was the smartest guy in the world to earn these kinds of returns year after year after year. Or they thought he was investing in dishonest, or immoral, things they were happy to profit from — or didn’t want to know about it.

  2. Janet Huber said:
    on May 12th at 03:16 pm

    Agree. Bernie Madoff’s clients were only the very wealthy. Most had average to above average intelligence. They had to suspect at the very least that Madoff was investing their money dishonestly. They just wanted the high returns, no questions asked. They had the $$ and resources to check his operation out extensively but didn’t. Now they want the government to cover their losses. No one has ever covered my losses or your losses b/c we’re not super-wealthy. I’m surprised more people aren’t implicated. Sure, Madoff was crunching all the #’s for the portfolios by himself and sending out the client statements as well for the last 20 years. Right. And no one at his firm asked or suspected? Madoff’s wife and sons should be in a cell next to his, they had to know what he was doing.