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Whistle Blower

Madoff whistle-blower Harry Markopolos to share insights during lecture

• The Department of Mathematical Sciences presents a special lecture this Wednesday, Sept. 30, with guest Harry Markopolos, an independent financial whistleblower who is credited with uncovering Bernie Madoff’s multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme.

September 29, 2015
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Markopolos detailed his work and the SEC failures that allowed Madoff’s scheme to happen in No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller. The lecture will run from 2 to 4 p.m. in Atwater Kent, Room 116.

Markopolos will discuss his career uncovering fraud among some top-level management and industry leaders, including Madoff. Markopolos comes to WPI at the invitation of Barry Posterro, an assistant professor in mathematical sciences.

Posterro, who doesn’t know Markopolos personally, says he simply asked if he would be interested in speaking at WPI because he thought Markopolos would offer valuable insight to the students. Knowing Markopolos is a Massachusetts resident with similar industry contacts, and knowing the topic of how Markopolos untwisted complex mathematical and financial trails to uncover Ponzi schemes, energy pricing fraud, and securities fraud would hit the mark with the WPI community in general, Posterro gave it a shot. Not only did Markopolos agree to come speak, but he offered to speak for twice as long as Posterro initially hoped.

Madoff was a 10-year ordeal. It took a lot of drive to keep going when people told him to let go.” – Prof. Barry Posterro on visiting lecturer Harry Markopolos

The lecture is geared toward students in the financial math graduate program and undergraduate math majors who are focusing on actuarial math, because those are the disciplines most closely aligned with the pensions and fraud schemes. “The things he has looked at have touched both of those,” says Posterro. “But I thought it would be great to have him talk here. This is the application of all the things the students are learning. And it’s a lesson in ethics.”

The lecture appeals to more than just math majors because of the overarching content of the fraud cases. The cases are a good lesson in professional morals, the downfalls of listening to your boss without asking questions, and persistence, says Posterro.

COPS AND ROBBERS

He is a passionate and powerful speaker,” says Posterro. Hardcore math students will thrill over the numbers and the math Markopolos will present, but students from other disciplines will still get a great take away, he said. “They will pick up a little math knowledge,” says Posterro, “but these are also interesting business stories. It’s like cops and robbers.”

A lot of fraud is laundering money, so many of the people populating the stories Markopolos will tell aren’t exactly highstanding members of society. “Some involve drug cartels and that craziness,” says Posterro.

Markopolos might not be a typical household name, but for math people, he is well known and admired. One student, familiar with Markopolos’ work, mentioned that she wants to become a forensic accountant to do similar work. “To her, it’s like the Beatles are coming,” says Posterro.

Students can learn a lot just listening to someone with such tenacity to right a wrong. “What he did took a lot of commitment,” says Posterro. “Madoff was a 10-year ordeal. It took a lot of drive to keep going when people told him to let go.”

Although there is no formal meet-and-greet or book signing, Posterro says he thinks students who bring copies of Markopolos’ book could get them signed.

– BY JULIA QUINN-SZCESUIL