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Frauds, Old and New

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Frauds, Old and New

Courtesy of Michael Panzner at Financial Armageddon

Newfound transparency in the wake of the unfolding financial crisis will expose a scale of prior fraud, corruption, and self-dealing that many will find almost impossible to comprehend. Day in and day out, reports will surface about hidden losses, false accounting, inflated appraisals, sizable off-balance-sheet obligations, valuation discrepancies, unregulated offshore entities, phantom profits, insider trading, and businesses bled dry to enrich a few individuals at the expense of employees, investors, bankers, and bondholders. Other revelations will reinforce the idea that companies, governments, and individuals are in far worse shape than people had assumed only a few years earlier.
-- Financial Armageddon

financial fraudWhen I wrote those words three years ago, I didn’t have any specific knowledge about Bernie Madoff’s massive fraud or the alleged house of cards put together by Allen Standford. But it didn’t matter. History and the extraordinary excesses of the go-go years meant such scams were bound to be out there, just waiting to be uncovered. In "Economic Downturn Accelerates Collapse of Ponzi Schemes," the Washington Post reveals the breathtaking extent to which one type of crime managed to worm its way into the economic landscape.

The great recession has decimated many industries; home builders, automakers and bankers are obvious casualties.

Now, add Ponzi schemers to the list.

Ravaged by the same fiscal turbulence pounding the nation’s legitimate businesses, Ponzi operations have been collapsing at a record clip, exposing prolific, rampant and colossal frauds that have bilked investors of billions of dollars.

The FBI, which is handling about 20 such cases in the Washington region, has almost 500 open Ponzi investigations nationwide — up from about 300 in 2006, bureau officials said. Law enforcement officials with other agencies have noticed similar trends, and authorities said they expect to turn up many more cases in coming months.

Poniz Scheme"We have more open Ponzi scheme cases than at any time in FBI history," said Special Agent David G. Nanz, chief of the FBI’s economic crimes unit. "We anticipated a spike, but the numbers we are seeing are even greater than expected. . . . There is an old saying, though: ‘When the tide goes out, you can see


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