Idiots Guide: Worst Financial Crooks in Recent Memory

This motley crew of ‘white collar’ financial bandits leave very little room for empathy or forgiveness, especially from the perspective of their tens of thousands of victims. The sheer volume of money involved is mind-boggling. The emotional and financial fallout left in it’s wake is profoundly sobering. Each of these men, and sadly others not listed here, share a contemptible combination of Audacity, Hubris, and extraordinary Greed. These men are a different breed of criminal, their violations so damaging, that they are (arguably) analogous to their violent criminal counterparts. It all depends on who you might ask. This is a list that highlights some of the most egregiously audacious offenders, others exist to be sure, however these notably sinister men, are listed for your review.


#10. Ken Lay / Fraud: $2 Billion in Employee Pensions / Deceased 7/5/06

Ken Lay

It could be argued that Kenneth Lay beared a strong resemblance to a ‘White Collar’ criminal straight form the halls of central casting. Before his untimely death in July of 2006 Mr. Lay managed to get himself indicted on eleven (11) counts of Securities Fraud, and convicted on six (6) counts stemming from the loss over 200,000 employees life savings and investments, a sum totaling several billion dollars. In short Ken Lay was the ring leader of the Enron scandal which at the time was the biggest corporate bankruptcy in United States history. The irony of this case was that his conviction  was vacated after he died from a heart attack while out awaiting his sentencing, and before his appeals were exhausted.

#9. Scott Rothstein / Ponzi Losses:  $1.2 Billion / 50 Years

Scott Rothstein

By all accounts Scott Rothstein is a gregarious man with extravagant taste. He is also a disbarred attorney, convicted felon, and architect of a $1.2 billion dollar ‘Ponzi Scheme‘. His now-defunct ‘Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, Adler law firm was at dead center of a federal ‘RICO’ indictment. He managed to steal tens of millions from duped investors, and somewhere out there is a list containing over 250 persons and/or corporate entities awaiting a payout of over $250 million in victim restitution. Those records are currently sealed by the courts. Mr. Rothstein has 50 years to think about his victims, where he went wrong, or how big his cot in Hell will be.

#8. Samuel Israel / Ponzi Losses: $450 Million / 22 Years

Samuel Israel

The son of a prominent Jewish family from the Bayou region of Louisiana, Samuel Israel headed the ‘Bayou Hedge Fund Group’, which successfully fleeced $450 million dollars from investors. In true ‘Ponzi Scheme‘ fashion, Samuel misappropriated investor money to facilitate his lavish lifestyle. The thought of losing that lifestyle was probably behind his apparent attempt to fake his own death during the manhunt for him. He has over twenty (20) years in the ‘Hoosegow‘ to contemplate his shortcomings.

#7. Bernie Ebbers / Fraud Losses: $6.13 Billion / 25 Years

Bernie Ebbers

Canada’s own, Bernard”Bernie” Ebbers is a co-founder and CEO of the notorious, and now-defunct telecommunications company ‘WorldCom‘. His 2005 conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges came as a result of dubious, and quite fictional financial reporting. At the time, the ‘WorldCom’ scandal was among the largest cases of corporate financial malfeasance, in history. How large? There were some 830,000 individual investors, and other institutions that lost over $6 billion dollars due largely to Mr. Ebbers’s illegal financial shenanigans. 25 years in the box.

#6. Allen Stanford / Ponzi Losses: $7 Billion / 110 Years $5.9 Billion fine

Allen Stanford

At 65 years of age Robert Allen Stanford, the former financier and, you guessed it, ‘Ponzi Schemer‘, is currently serving a 110-year sentence in the ‘Luxurious Gray Bar Hotel‘. Mr. Stanford was convicted on a mind-numbing array of fraud charges, stemming from an estimated $7 billion in investor losses due to a ‘massive’ Ponzi fraud. By all accounts Robert was a crooked player having his hand in many companies that were “rumored to engage in bribery, money laundering, falsifying bank records, and political manipulation”. Quite a colorful list of criminal activities for a candidate to the ‘Ponzi Scheme’ Hall of Fame. The orange jumpsuit fits nicely, no?

#5. Marc Dreier / Money Laundering & Fraud: $700 Million / 20 Years


Marc Dreier is another graduate of ‘Ponzi’ university. A disgraced attorney, Mr. Dreier  plead guilty to eight charges of fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and wire fraud. Oh, there’s also the scheme to sell $700 million in fictitious promissory notes to unknowing investment victims. To date there are over 200 creditors claiming more than $450 million in stolen money. Marc, who has since filed for bankruptcy, is currently serving a 20 year sentence in ‘Bad Boy University‘.

#4. Jerome Kerviel / Losses: $6.7 Billion / 5 Years $5 Billion fine

Jerome Kerviel

Jérôme Kerviel is a deviously clever French trader, convicted in 2008 on breach of trust, forgery, and unauthorized use of banking computers charges. These charges resulting in losses valued at over 4.9 billion euros, or $7 billion (USD).  In layman’s terms Jérôme was involved in fake trading of equity derivatives, and cash equity movements, on an epic scale. In October 2010, Mr. Kerviel was sentenced to five years in the ‘Stoney Lonesome‘, and must repay restitution to the tune of $6.7 billion in investor losses. Frankly, this man’s punishment resembles the proverbial ‘slap on the wrist’ scenario that has unfortunately, become fabled.

#3. Ivan Boesky / Insider Trading $200 Million / 3.5 Years 100 Million fine

Ivan Boesky

The 1980’s were famous for a great many things, among them was the notable ‘Insider Trading‘ scandal that pervaded Wall Street, and the front pages of newspapers. It would be impossible to discuss those days without Ivan Boesky‘s name being mentioned among the most notorious. Long story very short, Mr. Boesky plea bargained his way into a paltry 3.5 years in prison, and fined $100 million dollars. Why? Because he helped prosecutors and the SEC snag dozens of other Insider Trading co-conspirators, including the next man on this list, Michael Milken…


#2. Michael Milken / Insider Trading $1.1 Billion / 10 Years 200 Million fine


In the 1980’s Michael Robert Milken was renowned for his work in the development of high-yield bonds, commonly known as “Junk Bonds”.     In March of 1989, a federal grand jury indicted Michael Milken on 98 separate counts of racketeering, fraud, and for basically being a world class cheat. How massive? He was ordered to repay $1.1 billion in restitution to victimized investors. That along with a 10 year mandatory reservation at ‘Club Fed‘ which was later reduced to 2 years, of which he served just 22 months. Justice? We’ll leave that for you to decide.

#1. Bernard ‘Bernie’ Madoff /  Estimated Losses: $19.4 Billion / 150 Years.

bernie madoff 2

To a very unfortunate many, Bernie Madoff is the ‘Prince of Darkness’, especially in terms of financial malfeasance. Then again, when you swindle close to $20 Billion (with a ‘B’) of investor wealth, it becomes a difficult label to defend. Bernie, as he was formally affectionally referred to, was at the head of the largest ‘Ponzi Scheme’ (Sound familiar?) in the history of the world. He allegedly confessed to his two sons that the asset management branch of his firm was “one big lie”. No kidding?  On March 12, 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal financial related felonies that cost his investors the aforementioned $20 billion dollars.    At least one of his investors committed suicide as part of the fallout, as well as the thousands of others whose lives and financial security were obliterated. His 150 year sentence in the ‘Crowbar Hotel‘ seems to be appropriate for a man who caused so much pain and anguish. He has the rest of his natural life to contemplate the vast ruination that his transgressions caused to many lives. It might be just enough. Maybe.



Posted In