TPM: The striking similarities between Richard Whitney and Bernard Madeoff

Roundup: Media's Take

Certainly many details differ. But, as TPM Reader EG notes, the story of Richard Whitney (an overview of whose life I've copied from his wikipedia entry) was at least broadly reminiscent of the unfolding story of Bernard Madoff ...

Richard Whitney (August 1, 1888 - December 5, 1974), was an American financier, president of the New York Stock Exchange 1930-1935, and a convicted embezzler....

At the same time that Richard Whitney was achieving great success, his brother George had also prospered at Morgan bank and by 1930 had been anointed as the likely successor to bank president, Thomas W. Lamont. While Richard Whitney was assumed to be a brilliant financier, he in fact had personally been involved with speculative investments in a variety of businesses and had sustained considerable losses. To stay afloat, he began borrowing heavily from his brother George as well as other wealthy friends. After obtaining loans from as many people as he could, Richard Whitney turned to embezzlement to cover his mounting business losses and to maintain his extravagant lifestyle. He stole funds from the New York Stock Exchange Gratuity Fund as well as from the New York Yacht Club where he served as the Treasurer. In addition, he stole $800,000 worth of bonds from his father-in-law's estate.

Having retired as President of the NYSE in 1935, Whitney remained on the board of governors but in early March 1938 his past began to catch up to him when the comptroller for the NYSE reported to his superiors that he had established absolute proof that Richard Whitney was an embezzler and that his company was insolvent. Within days, events snowballed and Whitney and his company would both declare bankruptcy. An astonished public learned of his misdeeds when on March 10 he was officially charged with embezzlement by New York County District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey. Following his indictment by a Grand Jury, Richard Whitney was arrested, and eventually pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to a term of five to ten years in Sing Sing prison. On April 12, 1938, six thousand people turned up at Grand Central Station to watch as a scion of the Wall Street Establishment was escorted in handcuffs by armed guards onto a train that delivered him to prison.

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