JANUARY 2009 Black hole case study
by Alex Miller-Mignone
On December 11, 2008 Bernard Madoff was arrested on a charge of securities fraud, leading to the disclosure of investor losses of up to $50 billion, the largest such fraud ever perpetrated by a single individual. Much of the money was lost by charitable foundations, which were particularly hard hit. Madoff is rapidly becoming the poster boy for securities fraud, in much the way Jack Abramoff carried the banner for corrupt lobbyists in 2006.
Madoff founded his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, in 1960, with just $5000 in capital, and has managed the Wall Street hedge fund firm ever since. Noted for his philanthropic endeavors, Madoff was a respected businessman who also chaired the board of directors for the NASDAQ stock exchange. He and his wife Ruth managed the Madoff Family Foundation, a $19 million private charity supporting hospitals and theaters, as well as numerous Jewish educational, cultural, and health charities; he was also a major donor to the Democratic Party. Inconsistencies in investor payments following the national downturn in the economy this autumn created increased interest in Madoff’s business practices. Following an admission to senior executives on December 10 that the company was “basically a giant Ponzi scheme,” wherein money acquired from new investors was used to pay out profits to earlier investors, Madoff was reported to the FBI by his sons Andrew and Mark, and arrested the following day. The firm is now in receivership with its assets frozen, affecting financial institutions globally and causing the closure of at least one charity, the Lappin Foundation.
Madoff early overcame modest roots and now owns five homes, one in Manhattan, two on Long Island, one in Palm Beach, Florida, and one in France. Madoff reeled in many of his investors by working “the Jewish circuit” in exclusive country clubs in Long Island and Florida, but he was generally well connected over a broad range of philanthropic and business networks, and served on the board of directors for several prominent Jewish organizations, which increased his contacts further. While many Ponzi-based frauds are easily identified by the huge initial pay-outs, Madoff flew under the radar for decades by trimming investor profits to a modest but respectable 11-12% annually. It was not until November 2008, when Madoff Securities claimed 5.6% profits during a general market collapse that sent stocks tumbling 38%, that serious suspicion began to alight on Madoff’s methods.
But as early as a decade ago, industry insiders had approached the SEC with concerns about Madoff’s unrelenting record of success. Madoff Securities had posted only five “loss” months since 1996, something unheard of in the field of investment banking. Another indicator of trouble ahead came via the family’s charitable foundation, which in 2007 donated only $95,000 to worthy causes, compared with more than $1.2 million the year before. When nervous investors requested the return of nearly $7 billion in funds during the Wall Street panic in the autumn of 2008, Madoff could not come up with the money, at which point complaints to the SEC mounted. With his disclosure of unethical behavior to his company’s board, the FBI moved in and arrested Madoff on December 11. The same day he posted bail in the amount of $10 million, and if convicted, faces fines up to $5 million and twenty years’ imprisonment. Reportedly Madoff confessed to the FBI that his behavior lacked an “innocent explanation,” and declared he had attempted to pay investors “with money that wasn’t there.” Following the criminal charges came a wave of civil suits from wronged investors.
Born 29 April 1938 in New York City, Bernard Madoff has a nativity rife with galactic contacts which indicate the potential for huge reversal and controversy, as well as some interesting connections with the USA natal chart. The Sun at 8 Taurus conjoins a volatile, provocative Maser, a Deep Space anomaly noted for its tendency to elicit controversy and upset. The Sun also opposes a Black Hole at 6 Scorpio and squares another at 9 Leo, both indicators of dramatic reversal, as well as the ability to draw others into one’s orbit almost effortlessly, for good or ill. The acquisitive nature of Black Holes is clearly evidenced in the huge sums he took in, and also in the apparently ephemeral nature of that money—what exactly happened to it? Although Madoff’s lifestyle was reasonably affluent, it does not come close to accounting for $50 billion.
All three major financial planets are galactically afflicted as well. Venus at 29 Taurus is just within orb of another volatile Maser at 27 Taurus, which has been creeping closer to Madoff’s natal Venus throughout his life, residing now just a degree away at 28 Taurus, signaling that in addition to being personally controversial (Sun/Maser), Madoff’s particular venue of controversy was likely to be financially-based (Venus/Maser). This Venus also squares natal Jupiter at 28 Aquarius, itself conjunct the Black Hole at 27 Aquarius in the nativity, which transited to exactly conjoin Jupiter in the late ‘70s. Venus square Jupiter is often a significator of financial excess, and the nature of the Black Hole is to exaggerate this tendency, creating larger-than-life circumstances which often set records or are noteworthy for their size and impact. These points form a Galactic T-Square with the Quasar at 28 Scorpio, in the Sign which rules investment banking and shared resources, indicating the specific arena for Madoff’s excesses, as well as the phenomenal success which he enjoyed in attracting investors, as Quasars promote success and visibility. The magnitude both of his fall and his status as the sole perpetrator of the single largest investment fraud in US history is further evidence of the powerful combination of Quasar and Black Hole energies, which can act to set up the native with early successes leading to a dramatic reversal of fortune and devastating loss.
Pluto at 27 Cancer is also conjoined a Black Hole at 28 Cancer, further reinforcing the bent toward investment banking (which Pluto governs as ruler of both Scorpio and vast wealth), as well as the subsequent scandal. Pluto also squares natal Mercury at 26 Aries retrograde, itself exactly conjoined a Black Hole, indicating the lying and subterfuge routinely practiced by Madoff for decades.
Neptune at 18 Virgo exactly squares a Black Hole at 18 Sagittarius, showing Madoff as a consummate actor and deceiver, one who traded in confidence as much as securities. That this Neptune closely conjoins the USA’s own at 22 Virgo shows the jolt to the US economy which this may provoke, with public confidence in financial institutions further eroded. Ultimately, the current crisis is not so much one of valuation as of confidence, and the actions of Madoff and unscrupulous persons like him can only deepen it. Madoff’s Pluto at 27 Cancer exactly opposes the USA’s own at 27 Capricorn, another indicator of the possible impact Madoff’s collapse may have on the fragile network of shared resources which is the national economy, providing the base of our global power.
At the time of his arrest on December 11, the transit Sun and Mars were united at 20 and 18 Sagittarius respectively, conjunct the Black Holes at 18 and 19 Sagittarius and both in square to Madoff’s natal Neptune, which was also exactly opposed by transit Uranus at 18 Pisces. The shocking revelation (Uranus) and sudden (also Uranus) fall (Mars) of the fraud (Neptune) provoked considerable anger and outrage (Mars) from investors and the public in general. Transit Saturn at 21 Virgo had recently conjoined natal Neptune as well, bringing the sting of harsh reality (Saturn) to the illusions and fantasy world (both Neptune) Madoff had created, as well as alerting the authorities (also Saturn) to potential deception (Neptune) within his firm. Transit Jupiter at 24 Capricorn was moving to oppose Madoff’s natal Pluto at 27 Cancer at the same time, indicating the magnitude (Jupiter) of the scandal (Pluto) and the vast sums involved.
Madoff’s offenses, while egregious, are but a tiny, spotlighted portion of the overall financial crisis encouraged by unethical practices and excessive greed which have become endemic in the banking and investments world. With poorly managed companies failing right and left, government bail-outs, and questionable business decisions the norm, it is obvious that the US and global economies are in for major “corrections,” not to say collapse. That this much of the scandal, corruption and malfeasance of worldwide banking and business structures has been exposed mere months into Pluto’s transformative and cleansing passage of their ruling sign of Capricorn, does not augur well for the first half of this transit, wherein old forms and structures are broken down to be replaced by new ones. Just as Pluto’s sojourn in Sagittarius brought to light the inherent corruption and dysfunction of the areas of religion, education, professional sports and ideological fanaticism which Sagittarius rules, so, too, will its scouring of Capricorn evoke a karmic comeuppance of the institutions of government and business which it governs, when they no longer serve the people or the purpose for which they were devised.
Ultimately, this is a useful and worthwhile, even necessary, endeavor. But it may not be pleasant to watch, and for many, will be painful to endure.
Alex Miller-Mignone is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.
His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at firstname.lastname@example.org.