Like Nocera (and as a rather conservative investor myself) I find it hard to be too sympathetic with Madoff’s victims. Certainly not sympathetic enough to want to write them a check.
… [After Madoff’s guilty plea], the TV cameras surrounded a woman named Sharon Lissauer. She had not been wealthy, she said, but she’s lost everything. She didn’t know what she was going to do. She was weeping. It was hard not to feel sad for her — indeed, for all the victims of Mr. Madoff’s evil-doing. But one also has to wonder: what were they thinking?
At a panel a month ago, put together by Portfolio magazine, Mr. Wiesel expressed, better than I’ve ever heard it, why people gave Mr. Madoff their money. “I remember that it was a myth that he created around him,” Mr. Wiesel said, “that everything was so special, so unique, that it had to be secret. It was like a mystical mythology that nobody could understand.” Mr. Wiesel added: “He gave the impression that maybe 100 people belonged to the club. Now we know thousands of them were cheated by him.”
And yet, just about anybody who actually took the time to kick the tires of Mr. Madoff’s operation tended to run in the other direction. …
via Brad DeLong