Nearly seven years after his arrest on a cold December morning in 2008, the Madoff name has achieved a level of contempt usually reserved for violent killers and depraved criminals. This is not particulary surprising, considering that the man masterminded the largest Ponzi scheme in history and directly disrupted the lives of thousands and thousands of victims who blindly trusted the Wall Street veteran to manage their wealth. Yet Madoff, unlike the vast majority of his brethren currently serving sentences for the same namesake crime, has not receded into darkness. Rather, Madoff's current profile is arguably larger than ever - a situation the deeply-private Madoff very likely would have eschewed before his arrest - and the future is even brighter as the conman's story is set to play out in several high-profile television projects.
Madoff's arrest in December 2008 sent shockwaves worldwide and gave the first glimpse at just how extensive the scheme was. His victim list read as a "Who's Who" of finance, sports, and entertainment circles, and a Spanish law firm estimated that there could be as many as 3 million direct and indirect victims worldwide. A court-appointed bankruptcy trustee ultimately allowed approximately 2,500 claims out of nearly 17,000 claims received, rejecting the majority due to the indirect nature of their association with Madoff. Through Madoff's membership in an industry-funded group and the efforts of the court-appointed trustee, it is likely that victims with approved claims will likely recoup most or all of their losses.
As the owner of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Madoff was intensely private. While his reputation grew following several high-profile stints with regulatory agencies, including as non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, Madoff increasingly shunned taking new investors into his exclusive club. Ironically, many were rebuffed and could never get Madoff to take their money. Yet despite the size of his firm, which would have ranked him among the top money managers, Madoff enjoyed a life of relative secrecy outside of his devotion to his charitable causes.
Yet while many assumed that Madoff (and the resulting media coverage) would simply fade away with the passage of time, various factors ensured that Madoff remained a consistent news topic. One was trustee Irving Picard's efforts to collect assets to be distributed to Madoff's victims, including largely-unsuccessful suits against big banks, largely successful suits to recover "false profits" from Madoff's more fortunate investors, and efforts to recoup the riches paid to the Madoff family. Madoff himself also played a role, as he began to communicate with various journalists intermittently that invariably saw wide coverage. Whether it was a Christmas letter decrying the pervasiveness of insider trading, an email touting his sons' innocence, or an email that his fraud wasn't so bad, Madoff remained a topic of conversation.
In addition to the constant news coverage, the sheer reach of Madoff's fraud has also inspired other more lasting works. A 2010 play by playwright Deb Margolin called "Imaging Madoff" was well-received for its depiction of a fictional conversation between Madoff and an unfortunate victim. At least thirteen books have been written about the scandal, including the well-reviewed book by veteran New York Times reporter Diana B. Henriques that featured the first in-person interview granted by Madoff.
Recently, both ABC and HBO announced plans to develop projects chronicling Madoff's rise and fall. ABC has commissioned a two-part miniseries starring Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner playing the role of the conman and his wife. The series is based on The Madoff Chronices, written by Brian Ross, and will focus on Madoff's scheme and the impact and role of his family.
Meanwhile, HBO has been at work at a film version based in part on Diana Henriques' Madoff book, with an impressive cast that includes Robert De Niro playing Madoff, Michaelle Pfeiffer cast as Ruth Madoff, and Hank Azaria as Madoff right-hand man Frank DiPasquali. Henriques even lands a role as herself. The film is being directed by Barry Levinson, who is perhaps best known for his Oscar-winning directing of Rain Man. It appears that ABC's mini-series will be the first-to-tv, as ABC has scheduled the project to air on February 3 and 4, 2016. While HBO has been mum on a release date, the film is expected to be released sometime in 2016. The film will be released solely on HBO and will not be in theaters.
Madoff is not scheduled to be released until November 14, 2139.