Why Scams Happen and Why They Happen Again and Again

Why do scams like the Ponzi schemes perpetrated by Bernard Madoff and Celso De Los Angeles’ Legacy Group happen with sickening regularity, particularly in the Philippines ? There are undoubtedly bad guys out there, pathological crooks who get their cash and kicks from ruining people’s lives by defrauding them. They are the financial equivalent of serial criminals, according to the New York Times in an article on Madoff, heartless killers who will cut your still-beating heart out and have it for breakfast:

“Some of the characteristics you see in psychopaths are lying, manipulation, the ability to deceive, feelings of grandiosity and callousness toward their victims,” says Gregg O. McCrary, a former special agent with the F.B.I. who spent years constructing criminal behavioral profiles.

Mr. McCrary xxx says Mr. Madoff appears to share many of the destructive traits typically seen in a psychopath. That is why, he says, so many who came into contact with Mr. Madoff have been left reeling and in confusion about his motives.

“People like him become sort of like chameleons. They are very good at impression management,” Mr. McCrary says.

But other factors are at play. Like all predators, they actively seek their prey. The sad thing is that their victims oftentimes come to them, like bugs to a Venus fly trap. Continue reading “Why Scams Happen and Why They Happen Again and Again”


Scams Galore: From Madoff to Legacy

Bernard Madoff from cityfile.com

Celso De Los Angeles from the website of Sto. Domingo, Albay.

I haven’t blogged in almost two weeks and I miss it. Unfortunately, the demands of adjusting to a new work environment has kept me busy and too mentally exhausted to keep up with the news. I literally haven’t seen a weekday sunset for the past month.

In an effort to catch up, I checked out Manolo Quezon’s blog. The shock of seeing all the crisis situations which unfolded over the past week or so was like a kick in the balls. Between the tanking economy and retrenched jobs, to a spate of bank failures, the perennial problem of corruption in high places, to the specter of narcopolitics, my anxiety level shot through the roof. I wanted to draw the blinds and crawl back to my La-Z-Boy. I get the feeling that the worst is yet to come.

As we lurch from one economic catastrophe to another, we can take cold comfort in the fact that financial scams are not unique to us. In terms of scope, nothing can beat the con perpetuated by Bernard Madoff, until recently a lion in Wall Street, who turned out to be a rat. With apologies to the intrepid New York City rats. In yet another variation on the time-worn Ponzi scheme, Madoff scammed an estimated U.S.$ 50 billion from various institutional and individual investors spanning the globe. Madoff defrauded Jewish charities, European royalty, prominent politicians and celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Larry King, even Arab banks. According to the criminal complaint filed against him, Madoff “deceived investors by operating a securities business in which he traded and lost investor money, and then paid certain investors purported returns on investment with the principal received from other, different investors, which resulted in losses of approximately billions of dollars.” Basically, as he himself admitted, he ran a Ponzi scheme on a large, complicated and transnational scale. But like any Ponzi scheme, it was a fraudulent set-up where investors are paid out of money taken from subsequent investors instead of real business profits. Bamboozling Pedro to pay Juan, and so on. At some point, all Ponzi schemes are bound to collapse like the proverbial house of cards.

Major banks worldwide which were affected include the Spanish bank Grupo Santander SA, at least four French banks including BNP Paribas and Societe Generale, Britain’s HSBC Holdings PLC and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, and Japan’s Nomura Holdings. Even financial powerhouse J.P. Morgan almost got burned but managed to pull out a few months before Madoff was arrested, under suspicious circumstances and without informing its clients who remained exposed to the risks of Madoff’s spurious hedge funds. Not a few Morgan investors who lost their shirts are now contemplating a lawsuit against the bank. Continue reading “Scams Galore: From Madoff to Legacy”


Something Fishy in the Sale by GSIS of Meralco Shares to San Miguel

It must have been gratifying for the Lopezes to see GSIS head honcho Winston Garcia retreat with his tail between his legs.

Garcia, after all the sound and fury generated by the GSIS bid to take over Meralco, which led to all sorts of mischief and even dragged the judiciary down, sheepishly explained to the press that the government pension fund decided to sell out after all. The GSIS has entered into an agreement with San Miguel Coproration for the sale of the former’s 27% stake in Meralco for around P30 billion. SMC agreed to pay P90 per share for Meralco, more than double the utility company’s closing price of P44.50 at the start of the week.

Which is very odd indeed.

In a bear market, with stock prices tanking, why would SMC pay more than a 100% premium for a stake in Meralco ? Granted that it’s a block sale, but still, San Miguel could have gotten a better deal, and helped the stock market index rise, by buying over the counter. It would have given the market, and the economy as a whole, a boost at a time when it most needs it.

Many are skeptical, and see a political and financial motive behind the sudden sellout by the GSIS. Continue reading “Something Fishy in the Sale by GSIS of Meralco Shares to San Miguel”