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A Ponzi Nation

Eighty years after Charles Ponzi made the word Ponzi a household name by scamming investors out of more than $10 million, the same schemes continue to thrive today. In 2009, there were nearly four times as many Ponzi schemes uncovered in comparison to 2008. In total, more than 150 Ponzi scams occurred this year, with investors defrauded out of more than $16.5 billion, according to an Associated Press analysis of Ponzi scams in all 50 states. 

The dollar figure for 2009 didn’t include the $50 billion-plus Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernard Madoff, who was arrested in 2008 and pled guilty in 2009. 

Among the 2009 Ponzi statistics that the AP cites: 

  • The FBI has more than 2,100 corporate and securities fraud investigations pending across the country. Many of the cases involve losses exceeding $100 million and several have losses of more than $1 billion. That is up from 1,750 securities fraud cases in 2008.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) saw an 82% increase in the number of restraining orders issued against Ponzi schemes and other securities fraud-related cases in 2009 versus 2008.
  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed 31 civil actions in connection to Ponzi cases in 2009 – twice the amount filed in 2008.

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