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Madoff Madness: Frazzled Investors

Frazzled investors are asking one another about Bernie Madoff. The Ponzi scheme he allegedly orchestrated has caused a lot of angst on the Street.

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"The guy was 70 years old. Could he have done it himself? And how did no one notice $50 billion?

People just can’t grasp how something of this magnitude can happen.

“Think of this as financial terrorism,” says Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University. Like terrorism he thinks it’s the randomness that’s causing investors so much distress.

And investors have questions. A lot of questions.

For example, the computer systems would have needed to be extensive. Supposedly, he was selling puts, buying puts, selling calls, buying stocks. Somebody had to sit there and buy stocks. Where are these people?"

They're all valid questions. In fact they're some of the same questions federal investigators are still in the early stages of trying to answer as they decipher Madoff's operation.

It normally takes a team of accountants, stock brokers, lawyers and more to operate the kind of multibillion-dollar investment fund that Madoff ran from the 17th floor of his Park Avenue headquarters.

The firm had clients around the globe. Simply generating the detailed financial statements investors got in the mail every month would have been a monumental effort for just one person, observers say, even if those reports were pure fantasy.

“This shows us a single individual who wants to create severe damage in the stock market can do it,” says Dan Ariely.

Tell us what you think. Answer the Charles Schwab Question of the Day!

To hear more about behavioral economics Dan Ariely please watch the video.


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Trader disclosure: On Dec. 19th, 2008, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s Fast Money were owned by the Fast Money traders; Seygem Asset Management Owns (EEM): Seymour Owns (AAPL), (BAC), (F), (MER), (DXO): Karabell Owns (AAPL), (GLD), (GOOG), (JPM), (UYG); Pete Najarian Owns (UYG)

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