Charles Ponzi perpetrated his infamous scheme almost a hundred years ago. But his method of using new investments to pay existing investors and finance a highflying lifestyle is alive and well: just as much money is lost in the United States today from Ponzi schemes as from shoplifting. Somehow, con artists are able to dazzle wealthy, educated individuals and sophisticated institutions and convince them to hand over huge sums of money. How?
In The Ponzi Scheme Puzzle, renowned legal scholar Tamar Frankel explores these con artists' fascinating power of persuasion and deception, uncovering the subtle signals that mimic truth and honesty. After years of close study of hundreds of cases, Frankel explains the striking patterns that emerge and the common characteristics of the con artists and their victims. She offers clear yet comprehensive descriptions of the various designs of Ponzi schemers' attractive offers and flags the ways in which they mask their deception through specialized methods of advertising and selling. She then constructs lucid profiles of the con artists and their victims, exposing the core nature of the people at the heart of the schemes and showing how over time the lines between predator and prey are blurred. There are indeed many lessons to learn from these stories, and Frankel brings them to light through the insightful results of her research. She shows how peoples' attitudes are ambivalent and uncertain toward con artists, perhaps because their behavior is so seemingly honest, because they act like the social leaders with whom they are likely to mingle, or perhaps because their actions are thought to shake up a complacent society. Frankel concludes by offering a surprising solution on how to prevent charming, dangerous con artists from perpetuating the enduring, disastrous legacy of Charles Ponzi.
Tamar Frankel is Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law. She is the author of Trust and Honesty: America's Business Culture at a Crossroad.