Bernie Madoff's secretary (Eleanor Squillari)
Bernie Madoff was a sexist, egomaniacal, short-tempered control freak—yet everybody loved him. That is according to his secretary of more than 20 years, Eleanor Squillari, who co-authored a 9,000-word article in the June issue of Vanity Fair.
Politics and Power E-Mail Print RSS Share Yahoo! Buzz * Scandal Bernie Madoff's Secretary Spills His Secrets by Vanity Fair May 5, 2009, 11:59 PM Bernie Madoff was a sexist, egomaniacal, short-tempered control freak—yet everybody loved him. That is according to his secretary of more than 20 years, Eleanor Squillari, who co-authored a 9,000-word article in the June issue of Vanity Fair. After spending two months helping the F.B.I. gather evidence against her former boss, Squillari, a 59-year-old mother of two from Staten Island, returned a call from V.F.’s Mark Seal, who had contacted her in connection with the eye-opening Madoff story he wrote in the magazine’s April issue. Seal and Squillari ended up collaborating on a first-person account of Squillari’s time with Madoff, whom she knew as well as anyone outside his family.
The article, entitled “Hello, Madoff!,” is accompanied by more than a dozen intimate photos of Madoff and his family from as far back as the 1970s. Among the topics that Seal and Squillari cover are:
Bernie’s views on stealing:
Squillari recalls an unusually prescient conversation she had with Madoff years earlier, after a client’s secretary had been arrested for embezzlement. “You know, [he] has to take some responsibility for this,” Madoff told Squillari. “He should have been keeping an eye on his personal finances. That’s why I’ve always had Ruth watching the books. Nothing gets by Ruth.” Squillari says she was surprised when he added: “Well, you know what happens is, it starts out with you taking a little bit, maybe a few hundred, a few thousand. You get comfortable with that, and before you know it, it snowballs into something big.”
The way Madoff handled stress was “by saying something nasty: You look terrible. You’re gaining weight. You’re stupid. I never took anything he said to me personally, because I knew it wasn’t about me, it was about him.”
Madoff’s behavior changed drastically in the weeks before his arrest. “He seems to be in a coma,” Squillari told people who walked by his office and saw him staring off into space. He began taking his blood-pressure every 15 minutes, refused to look at his mail, and was constantly meeting with the heads of his feeder funds and Frank DiPascali, “the go-to guy for the investment-advisory business” (the vehicle for Madoff’s Ponzi scheme).
Bernie’s sleazy side
“Bernie was irresistible to women” and “had a roving eye.” Squillari once caught him perusing the escort ads in the back of a magazine, and he frequently visited massage parlors. “Once, I looked in his address book and found, under M, about a dozen phone numbers for his masseuses. ‘If you ever lose your address book and somebody finds it, they’re going to think you’re a pervert,’ I said.”
Madoff was flirtatious and had a habit of making sexually suggestive remarks: “‘Oh, you know you’re crazy about me,’ he would say to me. Sometimes when he came out of his bathroom, which was diagonal to my desk, he would still be zipping up his pants. If he saw me shaking my head disapprovingly, he would say, ‘Oh, you know it excites you.’ If a pretty young woman came in, he’d say, ‘Do you remember when you used to look like that?’ I’d tell him, ‘Knock it off, Bernie,’ and he’d go, ‘Ah, you still look good.’ Then he’d try to pat me on the ass.”
Bernie’s relationship with his wife
Bernie’s wife, Ruth, “wanted to be perfect for him. She would never allow herself to gain weight or have a hair out of place, and she always kept an eagle eye on him, especially when he was around young, attractive women.” However, “if Bernie said something to Ruth that annoyed her, she’d say, ‘Go fuck yourself,’ or ‘I don’t give a shit.’ That’s the way they talked to each other.”
The operations on the 17th floor, home to the Ponzi scheme
The staff on 17 “were mostly low-level, clerical women, many of them working mothers, who probably made no more than $40,000 a year. They were young and naïve, with no background in finance, so they weren’t able to connect the dots.” Squillari was friendly with two of those women and says, “Whenever I went downstairs, they were always busy doing paperwork while [their boss] Annette [Bongiorno] watched them like a hawk. Once, I remember, Annette had the phones removed from her employees’ desks after she became concerned that they were making personal calls. She treated them like children.”
The aftermath of Bernie’s arrest
In the days after her husband’s arrest, Ruth Madoff called Squillari multiple times and encouraged the secretary to provide her with certain information without notifying the bankruptcy trustees, which Squillari said she couldn’t do. “Instead, I told the F.B.I. what had just happened. I was working for them now, not for Ruth and Bernie Madoff.”
Looking back on things, Squillari believes Madoff meticulously planned out the particulars of his arrest. She believes he wanted the F.B.I. to find the appointment book he left on his desk, and he wanted his sons to find the $173 million in checks made out to certain employees and friends that prosecutors cited when trying to revoke his bail (he never actually intended to send them out, Squillari says).
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