Riding against a tidal wave of rumors and accusations, Diana B. Henriques, whose biography of Bernard Madoff hit stands last week said she believes the disgraced financier's wife and sons had no knowledge of the billions-dollar ponzi scheme he was conducting.
After sorting through endless court documents and speaking to over a hundred sources close to the Madoff family, including the first-ever interview with Madoff himself behind bars, Henriques claimed the media was wrong to point fingers at Ruth, Mark and Andrew.
There was an astonishing display of libel-proof journalism, Henriques said, following the release of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust. It was heartbreaking to see.
Speaking to journalism students at Columbia University on Tuesday, the seasoned New York Times business reporter said that in her first interview with Madoff last year he seemed collected, in control and in total state of denial of the enormous human pain and personal tragedy he caused.
But on her second visit, in February, Madoff was a changed man, she said. He was barely recognizable – a result, she believed, of his sons death from suicide last December.
Madoff was completely blindsided by the accusations of guilt and totally unprepared for the destruction of his family, Henriques said. When he spoke about Ruth, tears inevitably came to his eyes.
Ruths decision to stay with her husband after his arrest tore the family in half, Henriques added. The sons refused to have any contact with her and tried to resume their lives in total estrangement from their parents. But Mark was unable to carry on. In February, on the second anniversary of the frauds massive unraveling, he hanged himself in the living room of his Manhattan apartment.
In claiming that Madoffs wife and sons were unaware of his fraudulent actions, Henriques pointed not only to Marks suicide but also to the fact that he and his brother had hired the same criminal lawyer to represent them. Had they been involved in any aspect of their fathers wrongdoing, she said, they would have each sought separate representation – to insure protection in case the other brother decided to confess.
Im saying definitively: I dont believe they knew, Henriques concluded.
Madoff is now in the process of reading her book, she was told, and he sent her an email complaining about its title. He was disappointed, Henriques said. He felt that it was highly sensationalized.