Annette Bongiorno (Bernard Madoff’s former secretary) is the main subject in this article [http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/28/news/companies/bongiorno-madoff-trial/ ]. Since reading it a few days ago I have been in a state of suspended disbelief. I want your thoughts. No. I need your thoughts – because I’m truly stumped.
What do YOU believe – based on your opinions and your personal experiences?
Do you think she’s telling the truth or is she making Pinocchio look like the stalwart of truth? Could it be a mix of the two?
Here are my thoughts:
1) TRUE: I can believe some of Ms. Bongiorno’s points. For example, where she says that she was only doing “data entry” and “typing”, and that she did whatever her boss told her to do. She worked for Madoff for 46 years – and as she is now 65 – we calculate that she started working for him back in 1968 at the age of..19. The workforce (and the world in general) was a very different place back then (AAkk!! No internet! No computers!)
I can also believe that she didn’t read the Wall Street Journal as she probably didn’t need this tool to do her daily functions. Also, as dishonest as Madoff was – based on Ms. Bongiorno’s recollections – he seemed to treat his employees well. Very well. Do you know of ANY employers that will pay for your honeymoon or that will help your elderly, stroke-ridden mother get a room in a nursing home?
2) FALSE: I don’t believe Ms. Bongiorno’s statement of “not knowing what the S&P 500″ was. The S&P 500 was created back in 1957 - relatively new at the time when Ms. Bongiorno started working for Madoff. I would think that she would have had SOME form of exposure to it, SOME form of understanding or comprehension even if she was just following his instructions, typing documents and performing admin work.
In her chosen field – it would be hard to avoid being exposed to certain industry “staples” such as the S&P 500, and I would imagine, that even with limited exposure – one tends to have SOME form of awareness of systems and functions and indexes/guides/markets/rules in one’s field – even if there were a few degrees of separation outside of their immediate role. There is no way that Madoff didn’t at SOME point say something like, ”Hooray!, the S&P is doing great! Dinner’s on me!” or “Booo! I lost lot’s of money today because the S&P tanked. ” And so, are you really going to tell me that in response, she just stared at him with a blank look in her eyes with NO idea of what he was talking about? For 46 years? hmm… I don’t believe that.
Now, I also think that most people in the workforce have peers, colleagues, friends, mentors (whether at their firm or at other firms). Many people will chit-chat, make small talk, share stories. So, tell me – In 46 years – how did she not realize at SOME point that what she was making in terms of salary / was able to own was a little… different from what others had? For example… the BENTLEY? TWO MERCEDES? TWO HOMES? MAKING PLANS FOR EARLY RETIREMENT? (who does that anymore??), the $6.5 MILLION DOLLAR Florida condo?? Oh.. and let’s not forget the $50 MILLION DOLLARS IN HER INVESTMENT ACCOUNT. Didn’t she think that was somewhat of an anomaly? Her peers and/or friends couldn’t have been making the same. Unless she thought she had somehow really super-duper lucked out – I don’t understand how she could have thought that what she had was NORMAL at any point in time. She is not “dumb as a doorknob”, or else she couldn’t have done the work. This can only mean two possible things: 1) She must have been completely deluded into thinking her exemplary daily work and years of employment gave her these benefits; or, 2) She’s lying.
There is also no way she can say that she doesn’t understand financial terms as she had a personal brokerage account. She was utilizing Bloomberg to input trades such as short sells, for her own personal account. I would think that someone that doesn’t understand financial terms related to trading would be somewhat intimidated (by the unknown) and therefore not have a stock account. Why on earth would you have something under your name – that utilizes your salary/money – and not know a single thing about it? Nope, sorry – I call BS.
She also must have realized she was doing SOMETHING shifty when she was told to backdate Lehman trades – only for Madoff, herself, and for her family Hhhmm…did she do this for anyone else then? Wouldn’t you think she’d question WHY ?
So for me, I’m stumped. I say it’s a mixture of truth and lies. What do you think?