Final Word from Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In "No One Would Listen," Harry Markopolos wrote that by 2007, there were morered flags around Bernard Madoff than in the Soviet Union. A clear sign that Madoffwas getting desperate came in June of that year, he wrote, when the Wickford feederfund was launched by Prospect Capital and, for the first time, Madoff began acceptingleveraged capital (at the rate of two borrowed dollars for every one put up by theinvestor). Madoff's Ponzi scheme collapsed 18 months later. Perhaps Europe's politicaland economic leaders should read Markopolos's book. The OECD called on theseleaders yesterday to "provide credible and large enough firepower" to halt the sell-offin the European sovereign debt market, or risk a severe recession. In other words,the OECD wants Europe to leverage-up in Madoff style. A desperate Germany andFrance are apparently planning to do just this. It might buy us another 18 months.

Glossary of difficult words

firepower - the destructive capacity of guns, missiles or a military force; in this context, the amount of financial resources available for achieving a stated goal; 

red flag - a red flag as a warning sign of danger or a problem; 

feeder fund - a fund that conducts almost all of its investment through another fund; 

leveraged capital - borrowed money used to increase one's speculative capacity and to increase the rate of return from an investment; 

sovereign debt - government bonds; 

to leverage-up - to increase the amount of debt.

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