Video: Madoff: ‘I’m not a horrible person’

  1. Transcript of: Madoff: ‘I’m not a horrible person’

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Convicted swindler Bernie Madoff is serving 150 years in prison for cheating investors out of some $65 billion. And now he's revealing new details about his infamous Ponzi scheme in a wide-ranging cover story in this week's New York Magazine . NBC 's Peter Alexander has details on that. Peter , good morning.

    PETER ALEXANDER reporting: Matt , good morning to you. Welcome back.

    LAUER: Thank you.

    ALEXANDER: This is the first time that we're getting to hear Bernie Madoff , as you noted, in his own voice about that epic scandal. It's a series of tape recorded phone conversations between Madoff and a writer for New York Magazine where Madoff really speaks about everything from how he started this Ponzi scheme to how he broke the news to his family that this business was a lie. The tapes are frank, they are candid, but they're going to do very little to satisfy his former clients.

    Mr. BERNIE MADOFF: You know, I'm not a horrible person.

    ALEXANDER: He's been described as the epitome of evil. Bernie Madoff , the Wall Street insider convicted of swindling $65 billion from investors. For the first time since his scam imploded Madoff has been speaking to the media, defending himself in a series of interviews. In a taped conversation with New York Magazine Madoff says he was a victim, too, burdened by the lie he created and claims he kept secret from his beloved wife of 51 years.

    Mr. MADOFF: It was a nightmare for me, yes, of course, only for me. I was able to explain it to Ruth . She's still unhappy about it. She's still embarrassed. There's -- nothing was going to change that. But she feels -- she feels sorry for me to a certain extent.

    ALEXANDER: Madoff again insists that banks and hedge funds were complicit and guilty of what he calls willful blindness, as they continued to work with him without asking questions. While many investors were robbed of their life savings, Madoff says some of them had to know his business was a fraud and that they shouldn't be complaining now.

    Mr. MADOFF: All of my friends, all of my -- most of my clients, the individual clients all are not net losers. It was the people that came in very late in the game that got hurt.

    Mr. STEVE FISHMAN (Contributing Editor, New York Magazine): Right.

    Mr. MADOFF: So did I make a lot of money for people? Yeah. I made a lot of money for people.

    Mr. FISHMAN: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. MADOFF: You know, did people lose profits that they thought they made? Yes. You know, but did they lose capital, I'm sure, I'm confident that when this thing is all finished, very few people, if any, will lose their principal.

    ALEXANDER: How did Madoff 's Ponzi scheme begin? He says it was almost by accident in 1992 after several years of legitimate success. And up until the last minute, Madoff always hoped he could escape his financial mess.

    Mr. MADOFF: I kept on, you know, sort of telling myself, you know, that some, you know, some miracle was going to happen or that I was going to be able to work my out of it, OK. I just didn't know -- I just didn't know what that -- what that was.

    ALEXANDER: New York Magazine describes a family now shattered. Son, Mark , dead by suicide. Son, Andrew , and wife Ruth no longer speaking to Madoff or to one another. And Ruth forbidden from seeing her own grandchildren and turned away at Mark 's funeral. Madoff says he will never forget the day he finally confessed to Andrew and Mark .

    Mr. MADOFF: Everybody was like stunned. You know, I was crying...

    Mr. FISHMAN: Right.

    Mr. MADOFF: ..and Andy I remember took me in his arms. You know, he just felt sorry for me at that stage.

    Mr. FISHMAN: Yeah.

    Mr. MADOFF: And -- so I don't think that it totally sunk into everybody. Mark was standing there in shock. And I said, 'Look, you know, I just -- you know, I don't know what else to tell you.'

    ALEXANDER: Bernie Madoff on Bernie Madoff . He also spoke about his son Mark 's suicide. And during that interview, Matt , Madoff became pretty emotional when asked about his son, Mark , saying, quote, " Not a day goes by that I don't suffer."

updated 2/28/2011 1:15:11 PM ET 2011-02-28T18:15:11

Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff said in a magazine interview published Sunday that new regulatory reform enacted after the recent national financial crisis is laughable and that the federal government is a Ponzi scheme.

"The whole new regulatory reform is a joke," Madoff said during a telephone interview with New York magazine in which he discussed his disdain for the financial industry and for its regulators.

The interview was published on the magazine's website Sunday night.

Madoff did an earlier New York Times interview in which he accused banks and hedge funds of being "complicit" in his Ponzi scheme to fleece people out of billions of dollars. He said they failed to scrutinize the discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information.

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He said in the New York magazine interview the Securities and Exchange Commission "looks terrible in this thing," and he said the "whole government is a Ponzi scheme."

A Ponzi, or pyramid, scheme is a scam in which people are persuaded to invest through promises of unusually high returns, with early investors paid their returns out of money put in by later investors.

A court-appointed trustee seeking to recover money on behalf of the victims of Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme has filed a lawsuit against his primary banker, JPMorgan Chase, alleging the bank had suspected something wrong in his operation for years. The bank has denied any wrongdoing.

Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence in Butner, North Carolina, after pleading guilty in 2009 to fraud charges.

In the New York magazine interview, Madoff, 72, also said he was devastated by his son Mark Madoff's death and laments the pain he wrought on his family, especially his wife.

"She's angry at me," Madoff said. "I mean, you know, I destroyed our family."

Mark Madoff, 46, hanged himself with a dog leash in his Manhattan apartment on the second anniversary of his father's arrest. He left behind a wife and four children, ages 2 to 18.

At the time of his suicide, federal investigators had been trying to determine if he, his brother and an uncle participated in or knew about the fraud. The relatives, who held management positions at the family investment firm, denied any wrongdoing.

Bernard Madoff has maintained that his family didn't know about his Ponzi scheme.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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