NEW YORK—Following the arrest of disgraced Wall Street investor Bernard Madoff for his $50 million Ponzi scheme, millions of swindled investors and angry consumers flocked to Wikipedia to figure out what exactly a Ponzi scheme is.
“He was paying old investors with the money he got from new investors,” said Marsha Worthington of Dayton, Ohio, after reading the online encyclopedia’s entry on the scam that emptied her children’s college fund. “That’s illegal, apparently.”
Joe Brikowski of Des Moines, whose family’s life savings is most likely gone forever, said, “When I first heard it on the news, I thought they said ‘Fonzie’ scheme. You know, like putting all the money into a phony leather jacket company.” With a heavy sigh, he then snapped his fingers, pointed both thumbs in the air and said, “Aaay!”
In a Ponzi scheme, investors are promised high returns on non-specific investments such as hedge funds, when in fact, they are paid out with money paid in by later investors. Arthur Cogdill of Boulder, having learned his $10,000 investment vanished in just such a scheme, said, “I knew I should’ve bought in earlier.”
Since Madoff’s arrest, Wikipedia has reported a 500% increase in traffic to the Ponzi entry, as well as a 200% increase in user-generated article updates. Ralph Ludtener of Duluth, Minnesota was one of the millions who read up on the structure and execution of a Ponzi scheme. He noted, “That’s really slick. I could run an operation like that, no problem. People who live in Duluth are real suckers.”
Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox pointed out that the scale and modern methods employed in Madoff’s fraud may have earned it a classification of its own. “A ‘Madoff scheme,’ if you will,” Cox said. “You know, I started the Wikipedia page for the Madoff scheme. Check it out!” Cox vowed to friend all article contributors on MySpace.