Skip to main content

Behind the Scenes of Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street

Key Takeaways

Bernie Madoff died not long into his 150-year sentence for securities fraud, but he’s still drawing attention. Steve and Catherine dig into the Netflix series Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street with Ali Levin and Jim Campbell, two of the people behind the docuseries.


Show Notes:

The Netflix docuseries Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street was directed by Joe Berlinger.

Jim Campbell is the author of Madoff Talks: Uncovering the Untold Story Behind the Most Notorious Ponzi Scheme in History and was co-executive producer of Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street. He is also assistant news director at WCGH-AM.

Ali Levin, a co-producer of Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street, is also a comedian, impressionist, actor, writer, singer, and film producer.

Season 4, Episode 20: Behind the Scenes of "Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street" | Transcript

Jim Campbell: The level of betrayal is unbelievable. I predict 100 years from now, this will still be an interesting story. 

Ali Levin: Yeah, I would completely agree with Jim, and I think that there's something about Bernie's character too, that, you know, he feels very familial or charismatic. 

Catherine Tsai: Hello, and welcome to Off the Books, where we surf the uncharted waters of accounting, finance, risk, and wherever else the waves take us. This episode is brought to you by Workiva, the one platform that brings together financial reporting, ESG, audit, and risk teams for one sweet office party in the cloud. My name is Catherine Tsai, professional asker of questions and lover of venti soy chais. I'm looking forward to debiting a great conversation, and I'm happy to have you with us. I'm also happy to have Steve Soter joining me. Steve, would you like to introduce yourself? 

Steve Soter: Happy to, Catherine. Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Soter, accounting enthusiast and Diet Coke aficionado. Really looking forward and excited about today's conversation. 

Catherine: And today we are welcoming two people behind the Netflix docuseries Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street, which follows the rise and fall of quite possibly the most famous Ponzi schemer, Bernie Madoff. Steve, I'm sure you know him well. 

Steve: I do. So maybe to tee it up, I guess for those who don't know what a Ponzi scheme is. The basic plan for a Ponzi scheme would be to take money from one investor, get a new investor, and then use that new investor's money to pay fake returns to the original investor. And I guess in theory, as long as you can continue to attract new investors, supposedly that works at least in perpetuity. Bernie Madoff actually had a legitimate business as a market maker, but definitely a Wall Street outsider, I'd say, at least until he started developing computer-assisted trading capabilities. And he eventually became the chair of the Nasdaq in the 1990s. All the while, though, of course, he was running this Ponzi scheme, which eventually imploded after the 2008 financial crisis. And all of this, the documentary on Netflix breaks down very, very well. 

(Docuseries trailer): The folks that gave him the money, they weren't asking questions, right? Because they liked the money they were getting out of it every month. 

(Docuseries trailer): It became such a golden handcuff that hedge fund managers were unwilling to challenge Bernie for his lack of disclosure, for his refusal to cooperate with due diligence, for all of the things that normally would have been red flags waving high and wide. 

(Docuseries trailer): Where's the money? Where's the assets? Who's holding that? Is it in the bank? Where is it? Who's your auditor? Who's looking at your books? 

(Docuseries trailer): It scares me to no end that these questions are not being asked. But the sad part is it doesn't surprise me at all. They have a 100% fiduciary responsibility to their clients. But how many times have we seen people on Wall Street who have a duty to somebody else, but in the end, who do they think their real duty is to? To themselves. 

Catherine: Yes. And so joining us today are comedian and writer Ali Levin, who is one of the producers of the series, and Jim Campbell, author of the book Madoff Talks: Uncovering the Untold Story Behind the Most Notorious Ponzi Scheme in History. He is a co-executive producer of the Netflix series and appeared in it as well. He also hosts the radio shows Business Talk with Jim Campbell and his crime show, Forensic Talk with Jim Campbell. So welcome, Ali. Welcome, Jim. 

Jim: Great to be here. And I've never met an accounting enthusiast, so it's an honor. It's also an honor to be with Ali, and I'll learn about what went on behind the scenes too. 

Ali: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Jim, it's great to see you as well. 

Catherine: So maybe we should start with that. From a big picture perspective, why do you think people are still so interested in Madoff's story? 

Jim: Well, you know, first off, it's timeless when there is a huge grifter. It's kind of like the American story, which he was. The second thing, obviously, is the scope is unbelievable: $65 billion is what investors thought they had. And that is just massive. When I was writing the book, that would have been the 55th biggest country in the world that he managed to wipe out. The other thing is that this is really Shakespearean. I mean, you're talking about a guy within the Jewish faith who was so trusted that he was referred to as the Jewish T-Bill. And I'm not Jewish, but to betray fellow Jewish folks financially is a sacrilege. And he had this loving family. They were really close, and the level of betrayal is unbelievable. I mean, Andrew Madoff, who I got close to, when his father confessed and they went to turn him in immediately, Andy never said another word to his father for the rest of his life. It was that level of betrayal. Ruth had been with him since she was 13 years old and had cult-like devotion. So it's got all those components. I predict 100 years from now, this will still be an interesting story. 

Ali: Yeah, I would completely agree with Jim, and I think that there's something about Bernie's character too, that, you know, he feels like very familial or charismatic. I know it's a strange word to use familial, but I think there was this kind of charm about him. There was this feeling of like, relatability, like he was almost this Jewish father of sorts, you know. And I am Jewish. And, you know, a big part of my job was actually to be in touch with so many of these victims and survivors of this Ponzi. And, you know, when I spoke to them, so much about what was devastating, and I think in some ways compelling about Bernie as a figure and the whole story, is that people put so much blind trust in him. And I think as human beings, we're interested in the ways in which we connect with people. There's just something related to the sense of trust and betrayal as Jim said, and in a Shakespearean way. And I think people projected, you know, almost like their own family members onto him. And so how could somebody like this do this to people of his own faith and of his own? 

Jim: Let me add one thing to this, because it's also very Americana to believe "too good to be true." A lot of people knew that you couldn't deliver equity returns always going up, but they want to believe it. And even when it becomes more obvious that it couldn't work, there's always a desire to believe in what somebody is selling and someone that promises you guaranteed returns, which is inherently impossible in the market and, by the way, typical of a Ponzi scheme. 

Steve: Well, let's talk about that for a second, because this was not a sophisticated scheme at all. And, you know, Madoff is a thief, but presumably he was no dummy. So do you think he at first saw a potential way to kind of dig himself out and actually have actual returns paying these investors and maybe it just got too big? I mean, again, as I watched the documentary, I just kept thinking to myself, this guy's got to know that this thing is going to not go on forever. 

Jim: Yeah, you know, you raise a good point. And this is where I give Joe Berlinger a lot of credit too. Berlinger. He corrected me on that. Is that he wanted to recreate the 17th and 19th floors, right? The 19th being legitimate, the 17th being the illegitimate. And it matches Bernie's brain, which is entirely compartmentalized. Because that business was legitimate 100%. And you would think like a gambler, "Something went wrong, I lost some money and make the classic gambler's mistake, I'll double down on it, we'll get it back, and no one will ever notice." And that's what Bernie told me. And he hadn't told publicly really. But it's not true at all. He actually was building both businesses at the same time over the same period. And it has to do with his psychology. He had to be the go-to guy. He had to be prideful. He could never admit that he couldn't deliver. And so the legitimate business fit that perfectly. Trading, commissions, whether the market's up or down, you put in leading-edge technology, you hire really brilliant people, and you run it. The other business, though, he found he could lose money on trades. He could not accept that. He couldn't deal with it. And rather than have the moral courage to stop it, he couldn't. And kept getting so much money thrown at him, he had to keep going. And you raise a good point. Why couldn't he find a softer landing, right? And that, again, gets back to the fact that he was unable to admit he couldn't deliver. So it blew out of the, you know, out of all proportion. And he couldn't get out by then. He was hoping, by the way, the exit strategy was he would die at some point and then nobody would, you know, it'd be done. 

Catherine: It's amazing how many people also, like, didn't want to ask questions. And the people who did try to ask questions got sort of rebuffed almost. 

Jim: I would say not only rebuffed, he bribed them not to ask questions. Remember—

Catherine: There you go. 

Jim: —the hedge funds, he passed all those fees back, which no money manager ever would do. I mean, a huge amount of money. But in return, they had to give up their only obligation, which is to do due diligence. 

Ali: And there was also that element of exclusivity in this way. Like, oh, no, we're not going to take your money. And I think he created an allure around him. But to Jim's point, I mean, it was that he just couldn't admit to it. And he couldn't, you know, he couldn't really. Like, he had to perpetuate that. At the end of the day, there was no way he was ever going to show his cards. 

Jim: And Ali raises a really, really good point there, which is that he—I called him, I said, "Bernie, the reason you were such a good con man is you were the anti-con con man." Because it was like, "I don't need your money. You're going to ask questions, you're not comfortable, I'll give it back, I won't take it." And he also had 14 banks in Europe. Each thought they had exclusive access to Bernie. And that was, "Oh, you can't get in, he's booked, but I can get you in." And it was like an anti-con, and it worked. 

Steve: Reverse psychology I teach my kids about? Apparently it can get you a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. Well, one of the things that I was wondering that fascinates me about this is the process whereby you take, you know, thousands of pages of court documents, hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of interviews, and distill that into a series. I'm actually a bit of an Enron junkie. I've read both of the major books, loved Smartest Guys in the Room. So I was pretty fascinated by that part of it. And part of what really excited me to talk to you all is how do you take all of that in and condense that down into a, you know, a four-part series that what runs about five-ish hours maybe? I mean, what's that even like? 

Jim: Ali? 

Ali: Well, so I just want to say I worked with an incredible team. I mean, I feel like everyone needs to be here. And we all sort of had very specific roles. I worked with four amazing, you know, supervising producers. And Joe Berlinger, obviously just really visionary in this realm. But I think what was important for us was to not get so in the weeds of these more complicated feeder fund stories, for example, or getting in the weeds of these drier financial elements that I think can sort of take away from—you know, there needs to be a level of entertainment and allure. I think we did a really good job at highlighting—there have been so many documentaries on Madoff, and there's so much research out there. Obviously, a big part of my job was to distill this research and find, you know, what is it that hasn't been expressed yet, or how are there some ways that we can really elevate this? And I think through the interviews that we booked, through the folks that we had, the incredible journalists like Jim and Diana Henriques and Erin Arvedlund, I think because we had these amazing storytellers, we were able to really capture the story and distill sort of what doesn't need to be explored in a four-part series for Netflix, which has a particular, I think, formula as well of producing these kinds of documentaries. You know, it was not an easy process. And we went through several conversations around coming together as a team to figure out, OK, this is the story that feels most interesting to us. And I think it was through our own instincts as storytellers, but also making sure that we're covering the main beats of this general story in the spine of the events that happen and not getting too carried away in the nitty gritty, although there's a lot of interesting kind of elements of Bernie's relationship with the 703 account and JPMorgan and their involvement and the complicit nature of the banks. I don't have to get so deep into that right now. I think we needed to sort of touch on these things, but know where to go deep and where to stay on the surface. 

Jim: Can I add something to this? In my book, McGraw-Hill thought the sex was the 400 pages with Bernie, right? But I knew that a lot of that ends up in lies and that the real story was the untold story, which is a complete failure of the regulatory system on Wall Street, his bank. And I always worried that that was much too much complicated architecture for Joe to be able to translate and his team. And the most amazing thing to me is how true they were to telling that whole story while keeping it entertaining. And let me tell you something. I flew back recently from Mexico, where I was in Acapulco to introduce the Spanish version of the book, and sitting next to me were a couple that had watched it. And for three hours, they grilled me. And you would not believe the details, the stories, the big four, the questions that they retained. I have never and I don't know how Berlinger did this, how you guys did it. I have never seen a documentary with so much in it that people have actually retained as well as the entertainment value. So that, of course, made me very happy. 

Ali: Yeah. And I just want to add to that. I think the way in which Joe and obviously our cinematographer, Jeff Hutchens, and the way in which they merged the re-creations which were done in a cinematic way that really took you into the story, I think like the visuals of this actual documentary really captured you and distilled these more complicated subjects. It really, I think it allowed a viewer to really sort of be in that world in a way that I think other documentaries haven't accomplished. And I'm really proud of that for our team. I was just very delighted by the series itself, even though I was so in the weeds of that. 

Catherine: I'm glad you mentioned that because I was interested in seeing how you blended the actors, but also the actual interviews and even the deposition with Madoff. 

Ali: Well, the deposition with Madoff, that was a big part of my job was actually going through hours of that and scrubbing through these moments. I remember, we didn't put this in the documentary, but there was one moment where he was having a slice of pizza and just kind of like laughing with the lawyers at one point. And, you know, my comedic sensibility was like we should put this in and figure out a way to make this interesting. It goes back to this like colorful flair with him. He has this kind of charismatic personality. And there are so many elements to him that are behind the scenes that you're not really seeing publicly that are so fascinating. But in terms of the deposition and the interviews, I think having that deposition and weaving that in and really being able to see Bernie in this place, like in jail, later in life after he was caught, but still with like machismo and charisma and confidence, knowing that he devastated so many lives. He completely ruined his family. You know, the level of tragedy that he went through and perpetuated, and yet he's having a slice of pizza and just like laughing with people. There's this disconnection. That, along with the interviews, and then, of course, our compelling, amazing scenes that we mapped out, I think that really, we had a lot to work with. I think we had a lot to to be able to, like I said, I think it was about bringing the audience in, into that world so, so specifically, that really helped.

Jim: I'll say one thing, too. We've talked about Ali distilling everything. I turned over alone 40,000 documents. 

Ali: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm sorry, Jim. I mean, your whole your book— 

Jim: I didn't mean it that way. 

Ali: I know. I'm just saying it was such a big part of our process was going through and being able to have that. I mean, I don't really think we would have been able to make the documentary if it weren't for Jim, truly. And Joe. 

Jim: I asked Joe when all this stuff was going. I said, "How the hell are you going to integrate all this? How do you get this to four hours?" You know, it is amazing, and it's compelling as heck. 

Catherine: We have a lot more questions for you two, but we're going to take a quick commercial break. 

Commercial: Wait! Before you skip ahead, check out something that will help you save time pulling together variance reports so you have more time to soak in knowledge from the guests on Off the Books. It's called Workiva, the top accounting and finance team's secret weapon. Build your credibility with numbers you can trust. Learn how the Workiva platform helps you tell your story faster with trusted data at 

Steve: And we are back with Ali Levin and Jim Campbell of the Netflix docuseries Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street. As we were having that previous discussion and you were talking about all the things that you had to do to condense this down, I wanted to ask, do you feel like now in retrospect that there was anything you left on the table that maybe given the opportunity you would want to incorporate into the documentary in a way that you didn't as it stands now? 

Ali: Yes. So I'm glad that you asked that. I do feel that if we had more time and if there was a way to have that, you know, a fifth episode, I would have loved to go have a deeper dive into the nature of the banks, JPMorgan's involvement. I know we had looked into actually interviewing former bankers and folks that were affiliated with that organization. Nobody was willing to speak with us, but that was an arena that I was interested in specifically in going deeper into. And I think just based on the story as a whole, it was something that would have taken a pivot and taken the viewers out of the story that we were ultimately trying to tell, which was about Bernie and more about the trust and the betrayal and not as much about the regulatory systems in place, although I think, as Jim said earlier, we did do a great job with hitting that to a certain degree. But it was very challenging. And I think my team, they did a wonderful job to still make note of that, but also not let that divert the attention of the viewer. 

Jim: I'll say that, first off, talking about JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon called the day after it premiered, and he's the CEO of JPMorgan. And I got to tell you, I was really impressed because obviously he wanted to get across his message. And after about a minute, literally, he figured out I knew more about it than he did, which, you know, I'd studied it, and it was 14 years ago in his life. And he stopped and started asking me questions. And we got into this whole HSBC scandal. They were the custodian bank for the fund in Europe, Thema, and how they hid that they turned the custodianship back to Bernie under the table. You know, a complete violation. The only thing I would say from my perspective is maybe a little bit more on the psychology of Bernie, because it's so fascinating. And I'm not sure that we were able to get deep enough. On the other hand, SIPC, for example. You talk about the regulatory stuff being boring. It's the FDIC equivalent and the scandalous nature that they victimized the victims again, have no money, which they're supposed to have, took 2 billion put it, you know, is just so outrageous that I can't tell you how many times I threw that in Joe's face. And I kept getting the impression, "OK, Jim, but we can't. You know, we don't have time to put that in." And he got it in. So, you know, I am just amazed how true to the whole story they were able to get it and keep it so interesting. So I actually have a lot less complaints on that than you'd expect. 

Steve: If I could ask, what was the interaction like with the SEC? I mentioned I'm an accounting enthusiast. Jim, you said you'd never met one. At least part of me being an accounting enthusiast is watching the SEC pretty closely. I think today's SEC is quite a bit different than the one that existed in the time of Madoff. But what was that like? Because I'm not a cinematographer either, but the shakes of the heads, right? Like from person to person at the SEC. Like, no, we didn't ask, or no, we didn't do anything. I actually thought that was really compelling storytelling. And I wondered to myself as I was watching it, did the SEC respond? Did they cooperate? I mean, somebody appeared to have been talking, but not everybody, at least who I'm assuming you had reached out to was willing to talk. 

Jim: Let me say, first off, I love forensic accounting. I find that fascinating. 

Steve: Oh, perfect. You're an accounting enthusiast. 

Jim: And secondly, the SEC, you know, they completely bungled it. And the reason that you appear to see SEC cooperation is the inspector general's report was outstanding. And the IG, while he's in the SEC, is an independent guy, and they did not censor his report at all. What they did do was they released it on Friday night of Labor Day weekend at 6:00 p.m. to try to bury it. And I don't know if you know this. A grand total of four people were demoted lower level at the SEC. So a complete failure. By the way, Gensler's SEC chair right now, and you say it's different now. He's much more aggressive. But he even uses words. The SEC says we're a cop on the beat. They are still not a cop on the beat. This book came out two years ago, and I said, SPACs and crypto were going to blow up at some point. Two years ago. Obvious. And this documentary came out one month before FTX blew up, similar to Madoff in scale. So I don't see that things have changed. They do know how to find Ponzi schemes now. 

Steve: But at least they got that figured out. Interesting. 

Catherine: How hard is it to get people to agree to be on camera for this series? 

Ali: I will say that the journalists that we had in the series and most of the folks that we had, you know, those were my senior producers, I think, really led the charge in that way. So I can't speak to them. But I will say that for the rabbi that we had on, I had a big part in securing that booking. And I think it was very challenging. I mean, even though I wasn't directly affiliated with the booking of our major journalists, I think there was a level of specificity and integrity and a real trust that needed to be built. And I think with any documentary, you really need to have—Joe has such a great reputation, and I think people really trust him in this industry and admire him. And so they were willing to say, OK, we're going to move forward with this. But with a story like this, it was incredibly sensitive, particularly for the victims that we were able to secure and the people that were willing to speak. It was massively challenging to really to get them finally to the place where, OK, cameras are on. We're rolling. This is happening. I mean, it took months and months of developing a relationship and really working with someone to meet them where they're at. I mean, I spent weeks going through a database of folks that we were interested and hoping to hear from and to bring them on. And I made calls. And people, you know, they're like, why would you even call me and ask me about something like this? Why would you even broach me? And it's sad because it puts you in this place of like, from an ethical standpoint, you know, and a human standpoint, I don't want to sort of retraumatize someone. But I also think it's important for folks to offer up the other side of being a part of something like this. And I think that that perspective is really important. And I was so grateful too that we had Rabbi Leonid Feldman in our series, because he was able to speak to the Jewish perspective and also talk about that element of faith and bringing that into this documentary. Particularly for me as a member of the Jewish community, that was really important to have that represented because I think there's a lot of anti-Semitism right now, and it's very easy to just be like, oh, another monster of a Jewish man. 

Jim: You know, it's very personal amongst the Jewish. I did an interview last week. The host was Jewish, right. And she says, "Jim, I have such shame about this." Now think about it. Honest. Has nothing to do with Madoff, you know. Yet there's this feeling of associated shame.

Ali: Right. And like the ties too between the Jewish community, you know, our history of money lending. I mean, I was so glad that we touched on that briefly, because that actually comes from a point of persecution. It was not out of this desire of greed and needing to control. I think that's not really reflected or spoken about publicly in our culture because it's easier to be more hateful. But I think that's an important part. The Jewish community went into money lending as a way to create a sense of belonging. And that was really the only thing they were able to do. 

Catherine: I appreciated those interviews because those people could be our neighbors, co-workers, friends. So it brings the story home. 

Ali: Yeah, absolutely. 

Catherine: Jim, you earned the Madoff family's trust, and in your book, you mention that maybe Bernie Madoff saw you as a way to tell his side of the story. What do you think he would have thought about the docuseries? 

Jim: The same thing he would have thought about my book ultimately. You know, I mentioned earlier that he didn't allow independent custodians, right. I think he thought that I was going to be a controlled custodian of his legacy. On the other hand, you remember Ruth and Andrew and Catherine Hooper, who was Andrew's partner, trusted me with their legacy. Did not know me and did not know what conclusion I was going to reach until they saw it on CBS Sunday Morning, including Catherine saying if I did find Andrew knew, she'd accept it. She didn't believe to the depth of her soul. So why did they all talk to me? To be honest, I don't really know. And I didn't know them. They didn't know me, and they trusted me completely. Bernie trusted me. It didn't come out the way he thought it would. But remember, he's used to conning people in a way. So he thought that basically, I assume, he thought that he could snow me. And he was charismatic, brilliant, great recall. We enjoyed each other a lot. I enjoyed talking with him. And he was just so focused on the legitimate stuff he did in his life. The remorse was not appropriate. I mean, he told me one point, "Jim, my lawyers tell me I have to express remorse," which is not really a good way to express remorse.

Ali: Oh my god. That's so fascinating, Jim. I can imagine why you're saying you maybe yearn for a little more in the psychological breakdown of Bernie, because you were so in the midst of that relationship with him, and you had that personal relationship with him. But that is pretty pathetic for him to say that as well. Quite sad. 

Steve: Have either of you heard from Ruth after all of this? Jim, do you ever talk to her or have heard any feedback? 

Jim: Well, you know, we got pretty close. So we texted each other all the time. We had the interim meals and stuff, the lunches. She, by the way, kept the book going when the warden at Butner tried to stop our relationship. So she was dedicated to the book, but she reached a point where she said, I'm not talking anymore. I'm guessing it was related to them trying to get early release of Bernie for his help. So she has not talked since then. I do know that she has—I signed a book for her thanking her and all that. And I know that she got that, and she's dyed her hair, so she's unrecognizable now. She was very attractive, intelligent, character-oriented person. But I really want closure with her. So it's been painful that I can't get through. Now Joe wanted to go with me and basically ambush her, right. Because he's very confident in his ability to get people to feel comfortable, too. I didn't really feel comfortable doing this, and her team had made it clear that they would view that as a huge betrayal if I tried to, you know, set her up. Netflix wanted it in my contract that I would have her in the documentary. And I said, you have to take that out. Now, I think it would have been great for her to have it in because I think people would have seen that she's a sympathetic figure. But she's very private. I'm not giving up, by the way, on getting closure. 

Catherine: We'll have to watch the epilogue then if it ever happens.

Steve: Yeah, definitely. Well, it's a shame to have to begin to wrap up this conversation. Again, just been absolutely fascinating. We typically end with somewhat of a light-hearted question at the end of each episode. And so with that, we'll get to our closing question of this episode. Question is, what's another infamous figure you'd like to make a documentary about? And Jim, maybe, maybe we'll start with you. 

Jim: OK. I have to say that I have been completely fascinated by SBF, Samuel Bankman-Fried of the FTX thing, because the similarities superficially are amazing because Bernie was total trust, right? This guy was in his shorts preaching altruism. Bernie, no remorse. This guy, "the dog ate my homework" is basically his story, and I didn't really know what was going on, I owned the whole thing. And you look under the hood, this is one hell of a smart dog, because not only did they take customer money, which is what Bernie did and which is completely illegal on Wall Street, but the dog programmed monies such that for instance 1.3 billion of that 9 billion was allowed to be collateral directly for SBF's investment, right? They programmed the system not to charge him interest. Now, if you know a dog that can do that. And it goes on and on. There's market manipulation evidence. There's using customer money for this 90 million bucks they gave the politicians. And it's also a highly complicated story, right? There's 100 entities. It's more like Enron in that sense, because Bernie only had two. And the fact is, so this guy snowed everybody, doesn't have the remorse, and appears allegedly to have been even more profoundly illegal maneuvering than Bernie. Not the same amount of money. It was $32 billion here of market value. I find this kind of thing, this complicated finance and incredible psychology, to be really fascinating. So I'd be interested in that. Joe has already said that's "been there, done that" for him. 

Editor's note: Read the SBF indictment and the SEC's civil complaint.

Catherine: Dang, I was hoping that the three of you would collaborate on another documentary about him. 

Jim: He did tell me to bring my next book to him. 

Ali: Yeah. I actually I wrote down him as well. I know that there's a few production companies already that have claimed the rights to his story. People are after this. I mean, they're all over it. And just from a character perspective, he's a really fascinating and sort of comical figure. He kind of had like, you know, just got a mop of a head of hair. I think his interpersonal relationships are fascinating to explore, as well as his parents kind of coming from I believe they're both professors, and I'd sort of love to get the deep dive on their interactions. And also that he's quite young. But I actually I want to kind of stay away from these monstrous figures in our culture. And I'm sort of feeling this desire to, you know, maybe make an epic documentary about Barbra Streisand, for example. Maybe you all didn't expect that, but I was thinking about all of them. Like, let me bring in something light here and a figure that, although she might not have anything to do with the financial system, I do think she has this bold, powerful story. So I hope to work on something like that in my next project. 

Steve: That's a terrific answer. Yeah. Catherine, how about you?

Catherine: I was going to say the same thing as what Jim said, but maybe Elon Musk. I don't know. 

Ali: Oh yeah. 

Steve: Interesting. Well, for my part, I would do a documentary on Ibrahim Dimson, who allegedly stole secrets, including formulas from the Coca-Cola Company, to try to sell them to Pepsi. Actually, and I say that somewhat in jest because I love Diet Coke, but it's actually a really fascinating, fascinating story. So, don't have to get into it here, but that could be the one. 

Ali: Well, that is interesting.

Steve: Well, again, just huge thanks to Ali Levin and Jim Campbell of the docuseries Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street. Thank you both so much for joining us.

Ali: Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much.

Jim: Our honor to be here. 

Catherine: And thank you, dear listener, for surfing along with us. I'm Catherine Tsai. You heard Steve Soter. This has been Off the Books presented by Workiva. Please subscribe. Leave a review. Tell your buddies if you like the show. If you're watching this on YouTube, leave us a note in the comments, or feel free to drop us a line at Surf's up, and we'll see you on the next wave. 


Off the Books Season 4, Episode 20: Behind the Scenes of “Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street” with Ali Levin and Jim Campbell


37 minutes


Steve Soter, Catherine Tsai, Ali Levin, Jim Campbell

You May Also Like

Online registration is currently unavailable.

Please email events@workiva to register for this event.

Our forms are currently down.

Please contact us at

Our forms are currently down.

Please contact us at