Bernard Madoff and $50 billion. His name and that number have become inseparable in describing the enormity of what has been called the largest white-collar fraud in history. Investigators claim Madoff himself told them that he stole $50 billion, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the number may be as fictitious as the sprawling fraud he allegedly ran.
A growing number of people involved in the case are saying that the actual loss to investors could be far less than the mind-boggling total often treated as fact. The actual number is not known at this point, but some believe it's less than $20 billion. The president of the Securities Investor Protection Corp. said he believes the $50 billion estimate is unreliable because it "includes entirely fictitious profits" that Madoff said he brought investors over the years.