Recommended Books

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Episode 1 of The Ponzi Files. New York investors of 1889 discovered the hottest financial opportunity in the United States thanks to William Miller, a twenty-one year old man struggling to support his sick wife and baby. Follow the story of the 21-year-old man who defrauded 13,000 people of a total exceeding $1 million dollars in 1899. The full story behind this classic Ponzi scheme might never have been known if it weren’t for the persuasive skills of a single district attorney who visited William Miller’s jail cell and managed to penetrate his wall of silence. Although many people credit Carlo “Charles” Ponzi with inventing the Ponzi scheme, William “520 per cent” Miller and his Franklin Syndicate scam predated Ponzi’s postage coupon scam by 20 years – and may have provided Ponzi with the inspiration for his own fraud.

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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 three months, the dapper, charming Ponzi raised the “rob Peter to pay Paul” scam to an art form. At the peak of his success, Ponzi was raking in more than $2 million a week at his office in downtown Boston. Then his house of cards came crashing down–thanks in large part to the relentless investigative reporting of Richard Grozier’s Boston Post. A classic American tale of immigrant life and the dream of success, Ponzi’s Scheme is the amazing story of the magnetic scoundrel who launched the most successful scheme of financial alchemy in modern history.

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While technology may make it easier to track down criminals, cyberspace has spawned a skyrocketing number of ways to commit crime, much of it untraceable. In fact, punishment for fraud, much less recovery of stolen funds, is a rare occurrence. Prevention is the best form of protection.

Frank W. Abagnale, former con artist and best-selling author of Catch Me If You Can, reveals the mind-boggling tricks of the scam trade with advice that has made him one of America’s most sought after fraud-prevention experts. Drawn from his twenty-five-year career on the other side of the law,The Art of the Steal provides eye-opening stories of true scams with tips on how they could have been avoided.

Learn more about Frank Abagnale

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Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, who teaches at Duke University, is known as one of the most original designers of experiments in social science. Not surprisingly, the best-selling author’s creativity is evident throughout his latest book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. A lively tour through the impulses that cause many of us to cheat, the book offers especially keen insights into the ways in which we cut corners while still thinking of ourselves as moral people. (Time Business)


Behavioural economist Dan Ariely shines a light on the shadowy process of human rationalization. Drawing from his numerous peer-reviewed studies involving tens of thousands of people, Ariely’s determination to ask questions about human honesty and put his ideas to the test with tens of thousands of people has created valuable insights that can be used everywhere from the board room to the bedroom.

Ariely’s frankness and humor make this book an extremely readable and fascinating journey that illuminates the mental processes around cheating, and offers insight into how organizations and individuals can encourage honesty and ethical behaviour.


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Harry Markopolos may have been the first person to officially point to Bernard L. Madoff as a fraudster. This is a very interesting read, and an illuminating vision of the difficulties of reporting a high-profile fraudster. No one wanted to believe that “the emperor has no clothes.”

No One Would Listen is the thrilling story of how the Harry Markopolos, a little-known number cruncher from a Boston equity derivatives firm, and his investigative team uncovered Bernie Madoff’s scam years before it made headlines, and how they desperately tried to warn the government, the industry, and the financial press.

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For anyone wanting to track the events of the Bernard L. Madoff fraud with authoritative content as they unfolded in the news, this New York Times compilation of NYT articles about Bernard L. Madoff is a must-read. It chronicles events from his arrest in December 2008 to his long-term secretary’s sentencing hearing in December 2014). It’s available only in eBook editions, but at significantly less than $5 it’s a bargain.

Many of the articles carry Diana B. Henriques byline. This New York Times investigative reporter has been reporting Bernie Madoff’s fraud case from the beginning in 2008, and has recently released her own book, The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust.

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If you’re looking for a readable, intelligent, and authoritative book about Bernard L. Madoff and the massive Ponzi scheme he perpetuated with his exclusive “hedge fund”, this book should be your source. Diana B. Henriques presents Madoff’s story through the eyes of solid investigative reporting, skillfully weaving the facts together while never forgetting the impact on human lives.

In the words of the publisher, The New York Times…

In The Wizard of Lies, Diana B. Henriques of The New York Times — who has led the papers coverage of the Madoff scandal since the day the story broke — has written the definitive book on the man and his scheme, drawing on unprecedented access and more than one hundred interviews with people at all levels and on all sides of the crime, including Madoff’s first interviews for publication since his arrest.

A true-life financial thriller, The Wizard of Lies contrasts Madoff’s remarkable rise on Wall Street, where he became one of the country’s most trusted and respected traders, with dramatic scenes from his accelerating slide toward self-destruction.

It is also the most complete account of the heartbreaking personal disasters and landmark legal battles triggered by Madoff’s downfall — the suicides, business failures, fractured families, shuttered charities — and the clear lessons this timeless scandal offers to Washington, Wall Street, and Main Street.

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Inside the Nudge Unit is David Halpern’s first-hand account of the Behavioural Insights Team (or Nudge Unit as we quickly became known). The book explores the results of the team as it set out to translate psychological theory and an experimental approach into everyday policy.

What makes Inside the Nudge Unit different from BIT’s policy publications, though, are David’s personal reflections of the trials and tribulations along the way. You’ll learn how the team was created, and how BIT managed to overcome some of the early skepticism that it faced from policymakers and the media. The book also reflects on deeper and wider issues such as: how we can ensure that markets work for citizens; can behavioural approaches boost well-being; the rise of experimental government; and key question of who should nudge the nudgers?

You’ll also meet many of the characters in the story of the Behavioural Insights Team. That includes the members of the Team itself, and some of the public servants and academics that BIT has collaborated with through the years. (from The Behavioural Insights Team)

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I recommend this book is an excellent source for anyone wanting to make a serious study of the inside workings of the Bernard L. Madoff fraud.  The book draws together numerous scholarly articles the author has written on the subject. I’ve highly recommended Lionel Lewis’s case analyses to my students.

From the Publisher – Book Description…

Bernard Madoff’s financial fraud was global, an enormous amount of money was involved, and thousands of people and hundreds of institutions were swindled. Madoff’s con game was a Ponzi scheme—an investment that pays returns to early investors from money acquired from subsequent investors.

This case study of the Madoff scheme looks at the effects of his crimes on the victims. Elements from a theoretical framework put forward by Erving Goffman provide a perspective for understanding the development and the aftermath of Madoff’s con. For example, as Goffman would have put it, Madoff’s “marks were not cooled out.” Many did not accept the fact that they were victims of a con game and publicly clamored for sympathy, restitution, and for public officials to share their perspective.

Inside men, ropers, outside men, and victims are at the core of con games. Lionel S. Lewis emphasizes that it is important to understand a con game’s characteristics so as to grasp how it operates. The Madoff fraud includes elements of a variety of con games. For a comprehensive study of this economic crime, the “case study” must be seen as part of the broader social system. Considerably more is known about the dynamics of con games than about Ponzi schemes, and this fact frames this book’s approach. To better understand what Madoff did, who was central in keeping his scheme alive, whom he defrauded, and how they reacted, this work is as invaluable as it is illuminating. (from the publisher)

Lionel S. Lewis (Author)

Lionel S. Lewis is professor emeritus of sociology and adjunct professor of higher education at SUNY/Buffalo. He has written more than one hundred fifty research articles, essays, and reviews. He is the author of Cold War on Campus: A Study of the Politics of Organizational Control and Academic Governance: The Lattimore Case at Johns Hopkins.