Life As We Know It: April 1, 2013

         I HAVE something that belongs to Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street crook whose investment fraud bilked thousands of people out of billions of dollars. At least it belonged to Madoff a long time ago.
We were strolling through an antique mall north of Findlay when I spotted a bin full of old stock certificates. One right on top caught my eye. It was a certificate for 100 shares of Pan American World Airways, Inc., sold in October, 1976, in New York City to Bernard L. Madoff.

         Madoff’s name is printed on the front. The back is stamped and signed by the principals in the transaction and bears Madoff’s personal signature.

         The certificate, one of many Pan Am certificates in the bin, was the only one made out to an individual. They were available for purchase for $6.50. I bought Madoff’s, although I’m not sure why. A piece of history, I guess. Plus, though he could probably use the cash to buy candy bars at the prison store, none of the $6.50 goes to him.

         Madoff was convicted three years ago today, March 12, 2009, of running the largest Ponzi scheme in history and was subsequently sentenced to 150 years in prison. That’s three down, 147 to go.
It’s projected by the Federal Bureau of Prisons that he could get out of jail in 2139 or so, assuming he earns time off for good behavior. He’ll be 201. Great sense of humor, those feds. I’m betting he falls a little short.

         I checked with a couple of antique appraisers who told me my Pan-Am certificate could be worth several hundred dollars. They didn’t offer, but I put it in a safe deposit box anyway. Ironically I recently spotted an eBay auction for another Bernie Madoff stock certificate for which the seller wanted $50,000! It wasn’t even Pan-Am stock. I sure hope he got it; I could use the money.

         Inasmuch as Madoff was banned from the securities business for life a month before his sentencing, perhaps I should send the certificate to him. He could hang it on the wall of his cell or something. You know, a little nostalgic touch of the good old days when the mayor returned his calls and Broadway was at his feet.
It makes sense that Madoff might have found Pan-Am attractive as an investment option. Both he and Pan Am were riding high in the 1970s. Both were icons, one in commercial aviation and the other in the world of finance and investment.

         Also, Pan Am had been victimized in the late 1960s by a phony from within, pretend-pilot Frank Abagnale, Jr., whose exploits were chronicled in the 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio movie “Catch Me If You Can,” and Madoff’s clients were victimized by the greed of Wall Street’s biggest con man.

         Today, Pan-Am and Bernie Madoff still have something in common. They’ve both gone away.