Published on townhall.com
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, was set up to combat fraudulent practices. The SEC's website explains that "Ponzi schemes are a type of illegal pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who duped thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme back in the 1920s." It goes on to say, "Decades later, the Ponzi scheme continues to work on the 'rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul' principle, as money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme collapses." That is how the SEC described the recent Bernard Madoff $50 billion Ponzi scheme, "a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions."
A Ponzi scheme does not generate any wealth whatsoever; that is why it ultimately collapses. As Circuit Judge Anderson said in the 1922 Lowell v. Brown case, the Ponzi scheme was "simply the old fraud of paying the earlier comers out of the contributions of the later comers." So long as the number of late comers – you might call them suckers – grows, the fraudulent scheme has life.