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Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend

3 Ratings: 2.7
2004 nonfiction book by Michael Zuckoff

ABOUT THIS BOOK It was a time when anything seemed possible–instant wealth, glittering fame, fabulous luxury–and for a run of magical weeks in the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi made it all come true. Promising to double investors' money in … see full wiki

Author: Mitchell Zuckoff
Genre: Criminals
Publisher: Random House
Date Published: January 10, 2006
1 review about Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial...

Learn all about the origins of the "Ponzi" scheme in this great new book!

  • Oct 4, 2009
  • by
The great P.T. Barnum once observed "There is a sucker born every minute".  Barnum knew human nature all too well.  Take a look around you.  How many times per day do you encounter those annoying radio ads, TV infomercials or bulk mailings that tout the latest way to get rich quick?  It is increasingly hard to avoid them.  You hear the stories and see the smiling faces of those who have allegedly made a killing by following some prescribed plan by a huckster with a book or DVD to sell.  I suppose that in most cases these schemes are perfectly legal but I always wonder about the morality of most of them.  You certainly never hear anything about those unfortunate souls who lose money in these deals.  Yet the quest for easy money is really nothing new in America. Throughout our history Americans have sought out and been victimized by these schemes.  It seems we never learn.  Perhaps the granddaddy of all these many schemes was foisted upon the unsuspecting public by an Italian immigrant named Charles Ponzi. In his colorful 2005 offering "Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of A Financial Legend" author Mitchell Zuckoff presents a portrait of a man with a plan.  It is a fascinating and entertaining read to say the least.

Charles Ponzi was truly a man for his time.  With a largely checkered past that he adroitly manages to camouflage Ponzi opened the Securities Exchange Company in Boston in 1920.  His offer was really quite simple and obviously too good to be true.  Ponzi promised his customers to return their initial investment plus fifty percent in just 90 days!  Now this was just the kind of fantastic deal that would appeal to many folks in the freewheeling decade of the 1920's.  Ponzi cleverly positioned himself as a friend to "everyman" and criticized the banking industry for hoarding all of the profits for themselves.  But what Ponzi's investors did not know or refused to believe was that the Securities Exchange Company was merely a front for a classic "rob Peter to pay Paul" scheme.  This deal really was too good to be true.  Nevertheless, tens of thousands would invest their hard earned money with Ponzi and when all was said and done many of them would lose a large percentage of their initial investment.  What makes Ponzi such a fascinating charactor to study is that he really was a very charming and likeable fellow.  Mitchell Zuckoff does a outstanding job of painting an intimate portrait of the man who would become a household name.  Zuckoff also introduces us to the interesting cast of charactors who would have roles to play in the investigation and ultimate conviction of Charles Ponzi.

In a strange sort of way Ponzi would attain the notoriety he set out to achieve.  In the late 1950's the Oxford English Dictionary actually added the term "Ponzi scheme" to its listing of words.  A "Ponzi scheme" would be defined as "a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a fictive enterprise is fostered by payment of quick returns to first investors from money invested by others."  It is really just that simple.   As I indicated earlier this is history more Americans should be aware of.  In fact, Michele Singletary, personal finance columnist for the Washington Post recently wrote a column urging her readers to read this book.  I would concur with her recommendation.  I found "Ponzi's Scheme:  The True Story of a Financial Legend" to be an extremely well written, informative and entertaining book.     Highly recommended!!
Charles Ponzi

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