2009-09-02 / Front Page

Markopolos Typifies Greek-American Honor, Integrity

Markopolos Typifies Greek-American Honor, Integrity

Harry Markopolos (l.) with the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos.

By Catherine Tsounis
“No one paid us, a four-man team, to uncover Bernard Madoff. We paid out of our pockets. We had to stand up and do this for free, for patriotism,” Harry Markopolos (in Greek, Markopoulos) said at the 2009 Sophocles and Louisa Zoullas Memorial Hellenic Lecture on the grounds of the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons. Markopolos is known for being the whistleblower for Madoff’s billion-dollar securities fraud.

 More than 400 people from throughout the tri-state area attended, including former U.S. Senator Alphonse D’Amato, Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Margo and John Catsimatidis and other prominent persons. A buffet cocktail hour preceded the lecture and a reception followed. Dr. Peter Michalos served as program moderator

The Zoullas Lecture series is an academic and religious event held twice a year, Michalos explained. "We have heard from prominent speakers such as Supreme Court Justice [Anthony] Kennedy; leading space scientist Prof. Stamatios M. “Tom” Krimigis, who sent space [vehicles] to Mars and Saturn, and Lieutenant Colonel Charles  Neimyer who spoke of America’s foreign war in 1805 with the Barbary pirates and the major role that Greeks played as the first Marines for the United States,” Michalos added. “Tonight, this event is about democracy and justice. Mr. Markopolos, who is of Chian background, is a teacher and educator. He explained to the United States Congress and the entire world what financial transparency is all about. The ancient Greek philosopher Isocrates said ‘the roots of education are often bitter, but the fruit is sweet’.”

Nicholas Zoullas, sponsor of the Sophocles and Louisa Zoullas Memorial Hellenic Lecture series.

Photos Catherine Tsounis

Bernard Madoff cost thousands of investors $65 billion, according to a recent report by Larry Neumeister of the Associated Press that noted many people were negligent in the Madoff fraud, including the government’s watchdog agencies. According to Neumeister, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Mary Shapiro has said the agency has been revamping itself, buttressing enforcement efforts and taking initiatives to protect investors following the Madoff scandal.

In his lecture, Markopolos explained that his documentation “was buried in the SEC and ignored. SEC had a negative attitude towards  [my] findings. The hedge fund industry must be more diligent to customers, revealing exactly what they are doing, and not in secret. This is a global tragedy. Research, non-profit institutions, endowments are now gone. The banking and security regulators were asleep, destroying the United States’ credibility.” Markopolos’ dry sense of humor kept everyone’s attention during the lecture. He described complex events in simple terms understandable to the average person.

“I know I am not a hero,” Markopolos added. “Nor am I brave. We were four men of four faiths who worked against an army of Bernard Madoff. We tried going to the press. The press thought we were crazy and did not print our findings. One may ask where did the Ponzi money go? Twelve percent went to victims and individual investments. Feeder funds and marketing agencies received four percent. Madoff received one percent.” A Ponzi scheme uses money from new clients to pay off old ones. According to a recent interview with Bernard Madoff in Neumeister’s article, “It might be in many different venues …because money was paid out to feeders.”
Markopolos believes the feeder agencies helped Madoff to succeed. “Greeks are tactless. I tell it like it is,” Markopolos added. “Madoff did not allow outside audits, taking money from organized crime and nations. Forty-nine nations were affected by this Ponzi scheme. We are now less trusting of financial institutions. What frightened our team of four persons was that the press could not take Madoff down. He was the president of NASDAQ. We were really worried about ourselves. I believed that if Madoff found out I turned him in, I would not be long for this world.”

Markopolos was born in Erie, Pennsylvania  to a tight knit Greek-American family. His 17-year military background in the Army National Guard and Reserve, where he rose from lieutenant to major, was revealed in his lecture by his describing his strategy against Madoff in military terms. His brilliance as a mathematician is legendary. Mary Karas, who attended the lecture, was the goddaughter of his grandmother. “We were good friends with his parents. Harry has a great personality, like the rest of his family,” she said.

Nicholas Zoullas funded the lecture series and made it free to the community for persons of all backgrounds. His generosity is enabling mainstream America to meet the top religious thinkers and prominent persons shaping the image of the 21st century Greek American. Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church Protopresbyter the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos and his community are commended for their efforts to enhance the quality of intellectual life on the East End of Long Island. Dimitrios Hatgistavrou is  the Parish Council president.


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