Speedy Gonzales

Reborn as an insect?

To be reborn as an insect?

What is a criminal’s rate of con?

How fast can a con artist cheat someone?

Prosecutors say Bernard Madoff was Ponzifying since the early 1980s, even the 1970s. By various estimates, he netted US$10 billion to US$20 billion (the US$65 billion cited in the guilty plea is adjusted for past distributions to clients). Yet the mind goes numb trying to grasp what the billions signify in these days of multi-trillion dollar bailouts.

Let’s measure the numbers on a human scale. Even estimating conservatively, Madoff stole more than US$1.6 million every workday of his criminal career. Based on the calculations of Alice Schroeder, author of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, Madoff’s bilking rate topped US$200,000 an hour, or almost 60 bucks a second. He may have been the most efficient thief in history.

Compare that with the most expensive lawyer in the United States, who, as of January billed at US$1,260 an hour. Even Tiger Woods, the world’s priciest athlete, is a piker by comparison, earning in recent years about US$60,000 an hour, based on 40-hour weeks. And Woods is no slacker, whereas Madoff was ripping off his clients while he did nothing.

Now, that’s something to think about!


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