Madoff fallout: How could it happen?

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How could large charitable foundations, Hollywood celebrities, hedge funds and international banks get taken by Bernie Madoff, who is accused of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme?

Allan Ehrlich, who, at age 70, says he lost his entire savings to Madoff after 20 years of investing, tells Consumers Digest that his confidence in the “fund” was rooted in the fact that the fund always sent checks for withdrawals immediately and in the fund’s above-average long-term performance and reputation in the tightly knit Jewish community.

Plus, Madoff wasn’t someone whom an investor typically would question. He was, at one time, a chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange, he sat on Securities and Exchange Commission advisory committees, and he reportedly was a longstanding member of the prestigious Palm Beach Country Club, which reportedly admits only philanthropists as members.

There was at least one red flag—a relatively steady performance. The market fluctuates, and no money manager realistically can hit it right all of the time.