Writer, director, producer Jeff Prosserman’s “Chasing Madoff”, based on Harry Markopolis’s true financial thriller “No One Would Listen”, is a tense documentary of the dangerous, frustrating life of whistleblower Harry Markopolis, who spent over a decade trying to convince the SCC and members of the financial community and press that Bernard Madoff (then serving as Chairman of Nasdaq) was running the world’s largest Ponzi scheme.
Like “Inside Job” and “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” “Chasing Madoff” performs an autopsy on the unconscionable Financial Services industry that has lead the world to the brink of financial collapse.
Prosserman’s engrossing tale, a stylized post Errol Morris blend of arty music and sound design, features a black and white neo-noir reenactment sequence and other Morrisian tropes, without Morris’ sophisticated ironic ambiguity. Suited up as sharply as cast members of “Mad Men”, Markopolis, Frank Casey and Neil Cielo play themselves, dramatizing and recreating moments of their decades’ long intelligence gathering.
Markopolis’s team identified a worldwide chain of predatory co-conspirators, “feeder banks’ and hedge funds, all on the take, and none of them, to date, ever prosecuted. The book and film reveal the “banksters” who continue to feed on the public, the amorality of the financial services sector, and the complete lack of government regulatory oversight.
His 2005 report to the SEC, “The World’s Largest Hedge Fund Is A Fraud,” was ignored. Stories planned to run in Forbes and other magazines were pulled at the last minute. Suspicious industry insiders were afraid to rock Madoff’s boat. Despite all of the team’s intelligence efforts, Madoff was brought down by the economic meltdown, Madoff turned himself in (in Markopolis’s words) at the time and place of his choosing. Prosserman cuts in intersticial images to underline the suicide of feeder-fund tout, aristocratic Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, who sold various Madoff products to European royalty.
Madoff’s victims, identified by their account numbers, detail their wrecked lives. One seemingly stoic guy is overcome and can’t go on. These interviews give a face to the horror of Madoff’s crimes, but the film lacks a logic to the intercuts. The case began in 2000, when Markopolis, (then an equity derivatives portfolio manager) and buddies Frank Casey and Neil Cielo were working at Rampart Investment Management Company in Boston, Massachusetts.
Studying to create a financial product that could outperform Madoff’s Hedge fund lead Casey and Markopolis to the truth. After five minutes, math whiz Markopolis saw through the scheme, but, to his horror, ten years of investigative whistle blowing couldn’t bring Madoff down. Disciplined Markopolis, an ex Major in the Maryland Army National Guard and Army Reserve, persisted, crusading against a man he termed a “domestic terrorist.”
He began his attempt to expose Madoff when he was a young married. As the decade dragged on, he was forced to secure his home, carry a gun and severely hamper the life style of his growing family. But Markopilis, amazed and disbelieving, soldiered on. In 2002, Markopolis was promoted to Chief Investment Officer at Rampart. In 2004, he left to pursue fraud investigations full-time against Madoff and other Fortune 500 companies in the financial services and health care industries.
In a filmed coda, Markopolis receives the Association Of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) 2009 “Certified Fraud Examiner of the Year” award. Ironically, as Markopolis is being honored as a “true American Hero, he considers himself a failure, for failing to stop Madoff.