This episode of the FRONTLINE series investigates Bernie Madoff's massive, global Ponzi scheme that rocked the financial world in 2009.
In the mid-1960s, Bernard Madoff tapped money from Jewish businessmen at exclusive country clubs with the promise of steady guaranteed returns on their investments. He then set his sights on Europe and Latin America, brokering deals with powerful hedge fund managers and feeder funds from Buenos Aires to Geneva. Billions of dollars were channeled to Madoff's investment firm, and his feeders became fabulously wealthy. The competition wondered how the man could produce such steady returns in good times and bad. There were allegations that Madoff was “front-running” or operating a Ponzi scheme, which the SEC investigated several times over the last two decades. But Madoff remained untouched until December 11, 2008, when he admitted it was all “one big lie.” FRONTLINE producers Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria unravel the story behind the world's first truly global Ponzi scheme—a deception that lasted longer, reached wider, and cut deeper than any other business scandal in history.