Charles Ponzi

Boston Massachusetts, 1920 a brash and colorful Italian immigrant Charles Ponzi, promises investors that he can give them a 50% profit on their money in 45 days or double their money in 90 days. He explains his idea, an arbitrage in the foreign exchange markets that seems low risk and highly profitable and unlike most con men it appears that he may well have believed in his own scheme.

Over a period of slightly less than a year, Ponzi will cause financial calamity in Boston, resulting in multiple banks failing and his name going down in the history books as the most famous con man ever to have existed.

Today New York and London do battle to be the global center of finance, and Wall Street in New York is without a doubt the center of finance in the United States, but this was not always the case. Originally in the United States, Philadelphia was the financial center, but by 1920 it had slipped and it was a toss-up now between Boston and New York. Charles Ponzi arrived on the scene in Boston at the perfect time for a man like him, to his admirers he was a financial genius, and to his detractors, he was a fraud.

Ponzi was paying earlier investors using the investments of later investors. While this type of fraudulent investment scheme was not originally invented by Ponzi, it became so identified with him that it now is referred to as a “Ponzi scheme”. His scheme ran for just under a year before it collapsed, costing his “investors” $20 million.

Directed by: Patrick Boyle

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