Netflix's true crime king Joe Berlinger is back with his latest documentary, although instead of serial killers and murderers, the director is looking into Bernie Madoff – the financier behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.


The $64 billion scheme, which ruined lives across the world, came crashing down in 2008 after Madoff confessed to the company being "all just one big lie".

While he was sent to prison, this four-part Netflix documentary traces his rise and decline "through an innovative visual approach and an entertaining, edge-of-your-seat financial thriller tone", according to its official synopsis.

Here's everything you need to know about the true story behind Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street and what happened to Bernie Madoff.

Who is Bernie Madoff?

Bernie Madoff was a financier who admitted to turning his wealth management business into a Ponzi scheme – a type of fraud which uses money from recent investors to pay earlier investors and passes them off as profits from a legitimate business.

He is considered to have been behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, defruading thousands of investors out of billions of dollars – including the likes of John Malkovich and Kevin Bacon.

Madoff founded his penny stock brokerage, Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities LLC, in 1960, which worked as a third market trading business and became one of the largest market-makers.

The financier went on to become the chairman of the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ) Stock Market.

Madoff was also a frequent political donor, contributing almost $240,000 to federal candidates, parties and committees between 1991 and 2009, according to the New York Times, with 88 per cent going to the Democrats.

The New York-born businessman also enlisted family members to work for him, with his brother Peter Madoff becoming senior managing director and chief compliance officer, his niece Shana Madoff being the rules and compliance officer and his two sons, Mark Madoff and Andrew Madoff, taking on roles in the company as well.

What did Bernie Madoff do?

Bernie Madoff in prison in 2017.
Bernie Madoff in prison in 2017. Netflix

In December 2008, Madoff's business began to suffer due to the global financial crisis, with investors asking for their money back. This resulted in him confessing to his sons that the company was "all just one big lie" and that it was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme".

His sons alerted the FBI, which sent agents to investigate whether there was "an innocent explanation", to which Madoff said that there was "no innocent explanation" and that he "paid investors with money that wasn't there", according to Reuters.

He admitted to the business being insolvent for years, losing over $50 billion and paying investors out of principal from other investors.

On 11th December 2008, Madoff was arrested and charged with securities fraud and pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies, which included securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, perjury, theft from an employee benefit plan, making false filings with the SEC and making false statements.

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During his plea allocution, Madoff admitted that the fraud began in the early 1990s and that he had never invested any of the funds received by the company in the securities as promised.

"Instead, those funds were deposited in a bank account at Chase Manhattan Bank," he said. "When clients wished to receive the profits they believed they had earned with me or to redeem their principal, I used the money in the Chase Manhattan bank account that belonged to them or other clients to pay the requested funds."

In June 2009, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in federal prison – the maximum sentence – with Judge Denny Chin labelling the fraud as "extraordinarily evil", "unprecedented" and "staggering".

In a statement after his sentencing, Madoff said: "I live in a tormented state now, knowing of all the pain and suffering that I have created. I have left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren."

Where is Bernie Madoff now?

Madoff was imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution Butner Medium facility in North Carolina, with his projected release date being 31st January 2137.

In February 2020, Madoff requested compassionate release, claiming that he only had 18 months to live due to chronic kidney failure. His request was denied.

Madoff died of natural causes on 14th April 2021 in prison. He was survived by his wife Ruth Madoff, who had been stripped of all money except $1-2 million by the government and Irving Picard, the trustee of her husband's firm.

Their son Mark died in 2010, having taken his own life on the second anniversary of his father's arrest, while their son Andrew died in 2014 after suffering with lymphoma.

Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street is available to stream on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix or the best movies on Netflix.


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