A Ponzi hat trick

Three new and intriguing books about Ponzi schemes have been published lately. The most recent is Tamar Frankel’s The Ponzi Scheme Puzzle: A History and Analysis of Con Artists and Victims, which offers psychological portraits of the players on either side of the con. Frankel was recently interviewed in the New York Times by Diana B. Henriques, author of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust. Geoffrey C. Ward has written a narrative history of his great-grandfather, Ferdinand Ward, the man who bankrupted Ulysses S. Grant long before Charles Ponzi was born, in A Disposition to be Rich: How a Small-Town Pastor’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States. I haven’t read any of them yet, but I’m liking the mini-wave of interest in the con. One thing I know for certain: despite Frankel’s promise of a surprising new way to stop Ponzi schemes, no amount of persuasive words by gifted communicators will dissuade future investors from giving their money away to swindlers. The con never dies.

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