Bernard Madoff Biography

Bernard Madoff, a former American investment advisor and stockbroker, gained notoriety for orchestrating the largest financial fraud in U.S. history. Operating a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, Madoff swindled investors and ultimately faced the consequences of his actions. Despite founding his own firm on Wall Street and maintaining a prominent position in the industry, Madoff’s fraudulent activities were exposed during the global financial crisis of 2008. Following his arrest, Madoff pleaded guilty to federal felonies and was sentenced to 150 years in prison. This introduction provides a glimpse into the shocking downfall of a once-respected figure in the financial world.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Bernard Lawrence Madoff
  • Died At Age: 82
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Ruth Madoff (m. 1959)
    • Father: Ralph Madoff
    • Mother: Sylvia Madoff
    • Siblings: Peter Madoff, Sondra Madoff
    • Children: Andrew Madoff, Mark Madoff
  • Fraudsters
  • American Men
  • Died on: April 14, 2021
  • Place of death: Bahama, North Carolina, United States
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Madoff Charitable Foundation, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Cohmad Securities
  • More Facts
  • Education: University Of Alabama, Hofstra University, Far Rockaway High School

Childhood & Early Life

Bernard Madoff was born on April 29, 1938, in Queens, New York, to Ralph Madoff and Sylvia Muntner. He grew up in a Jewish family and had two siblings, Sondra Weiner and Peter Madoff. Madoff graduated from Far Rockaway High School in 1956 and went on to earn a B.A. in political science from Hofstra University in 1960. He briefly attended Brooklyn Law School but left to start his own investment firm using the money he had saved from working as a lifeguard.


In 1960, Madoff started Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC with his savings and a loan from his father-in-law, Saul Alpern. With Alpern’s support, Madoff began gathering investors for his firm. The company initially traded through the National Quotation Bureau’s Pink Sheets but later adopted innovative computer information technology to disseminate its quotes. This led to Madoff’s firm becoming the largest market maker at the NASDAQ and one of the top ten on Wall Street. By the 1980s, his firm was independently trading operations in the securities industry and handling over 5 percent of the trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

Madoff’s firm also had an investment management division that provided consultation and buy bids. However, this division was rarely publicized and later became the focus of investigation. The firm claimed that Madoff’s hedging strategy and trading would produce investment gains in most market conditions, attracting billions of dollars from investors, organizations, and pension funds.

Madoff was also involved in various philanthropic activities and served as a board member for several nonprofit institutions, including Yeshiva University, New York City Center, and the UJA Foundation.


There were several indications of Madoff’s unethical business practices. In 1992, complaints were made against his father-in-law’s business, but the case was closed by the SEC after the money was returned to investors. Financial analyst Harry Markopolos was one of the vocal critics of Madoff, trying to prove his charges from 1999 to 2007 but being ignored. Madoff’s wealth management division was successful, but many big names in the industry did not invest with him due to doubts about the accuracy of his numbers.

Madoff’s downfall began in 2004 when a lawyer at the SEC informed of discrepancies with his firm that required further investigation. However, her boss asked her to leave the case, and it was later revealed that he was engaged to Madoff’s niece. In December 2008, Madoff confessed to his sons that his business was a fraud and a giant Ponzi scheme. His sons reported him to the authorities, leading to his arrest and subsequent charges of fraud. Madoff admitted his guilt in March 2009 and was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

Personal Life & Legacy

Bernard Madoff married Ruth Alpern, his high-school sweetheart, in 1959. They had two sons, Mark and Andrew. Mark committed suicide after his father’s arrest, and Andrew died of lymphoma in 2014. Ruth claimed that she and her husband attempted suicide after the scandal was unveiled. Madoff owned multiple homes and a yacht, but they were all auctioned off in 2009. The HBO film “The Wizard of Lies” (2017) focused on the Madoff trial and the defrauding of the pyramid scheme.

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