From The Vaults (2001): How Is Madoff Able To Be So Consistent?

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Mention Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities to anyone working on Wall Street at any time over the last 40 years and you’re likely to get a look of immediate recognition.

After all, Madoff Securities, with its 600 major brokerage clients, is ranked as one of the top three market makers in Nasdaq stocks, cites itself as probably the largest source of order flow for New York Stock Exchange-listed securities, and remains a huge player in the trading of preferred, convertible and other specialized securities instruments.

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Beyond that, Madoff operates one of the most successful “third markets” for trading equities after regular exchange hours, and is an active market maker in the European and Asian equity markets. And with a group of partners, it is leading an effort and developing the technology for a new electronic auction market trading system called Primex.

But it’s a safe bet that relatively few Wall Street professionals are aware that Madoff Securities could be categorized as perhaps the best risk-adjusted hedge fund portfolio manager for the last dozen years. Its $6–7 billion in assets under management, provided primarily by three feeder funds, currently would put it in the number one or two spot in the Zurich (formerly MAR) database of more than 1,100 hedge funds, and would place it at or near the top of any well-known database in existence defined by assets.

More important, perhaps, most of those who are aware of Madoff’s status in the hedge fund world are baffled by the way the firm has obtained such consistent, nonvolatile returns month after month and year after year.

Madoff has reported positive returns for the last 11-plus years in assets managed on behalf of the feeder fund known as Fairfield Sentry, which in providing capital for the program since 1989 has been doing it longer than any of the other feeder funds. Those other funds have demonstrated equally positive track records using the same strategy for much of that period.

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