Ruth Madoff ’60 Minutes’ Interview: Suicide, Ponzi Scheme, and More Shocking Bits

Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff’s wife and son gave their first interview to 60 Minutes. From a botched suicide attempt to his son’s suicide, read more revelations.

Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

Bernie’s Confession On Dec. 10, 2008, Bernie told his family about the $50 billion Ponzi scheme. According to Andrew, Ruth’s first question was “What’s a Ponzi scheme?” Andrew called the confession “the most shocking and terrible moment” of his life. Ruth said, “I was as stunned as they. I was kind of paralyzed.” After delivering the news, Bernie returned to his office. Later that night, Bernie and Ruth attended the office Christmas party, but Bernie was arrested the following morning.

Bernie and Ruth Attempted Suicide On Christmas Eve 2008, Bernie and Ruth Madoff tried to kill themselves. Ruth said, “It was so horrendous what was happening. We had terrible phone calls, hate mail…And I said, ‘I can’t—I just can’t go on anymore.’” They both took Ambien, but woke up the next morning. She regrets the decision now, adding, “It was very impulsive and I’m glad we woke up.”

Mark’s Suicide In December 2010, Mark committed suicide. Ruth recalled, “I understood, I was going through those agonies of shame and it was terrible.” She regretted that she did not cut off contact with Bernie, as Mark had repeatedly requested. “I just wish, until my dying day, that I had done what he wanted. I don’t know if it would have made a difference or not, but if I could change things, at least if I had tried, I would have felt a little better. I don’t know if it would have mattered. It’s the most awful thing that could have happened to anybody,” she said.

How Bernie Kept the Secret Bernard L. Madoff Securities occupied floors of the Lipstick Building in New York City. The 19th floor of the building held a legitimate securities trading firm, which was where Mark and Andrew Madoff worked. Bernie ran the Ponzi scheme on the 17th floor. Whenever his sons asked about it, Bernie would say, “You guys have your business to worry about and let me worry about my business.” However, Andrew did eventually become suspicious because Bernie never discussed a succession plan. Andrew said, “His plan was that he had no plan. And he would say that when he dies, his end of the business dies. And again, it was always the—the same response, ‘That’s the way it is and it’s not going to change.’” Ruth Never Had Any Suspicions Ruth claims she never had any suspicions at all. She said, “I can’t explain it, I mean I trusted him. Why would it ever occur to me that it wasn’t legal? The business was—his reputation was almost legendary. Why would I ever think that there was something sinister going on?” Even Bernie’s request on Dec. 10, 2008, that Ruth transfer $10 million from her brokerage account into a personal checking account did not give her pause. “It wasn’t atypical for him to put money in an account and take it out. I didn’t think anything of it, actually,” she explained.