Madoff Daughter-in-Law Tells Her Story

Stephanie Madoff Mack opens up to MORE.COM about her relationship with Ruth, her theories about Bernie and why she decided to set the record straight in her new book, The End of Normal: A Wife’s Anguish, a Widow’s New Life.

by Nanette Varian • Editor
bernie madoff stephanie and mark madoff images
Left: Bernard Madoff; Right: Stephanie and Mark Madoff
Photograph: Left: ZUMA Press/Newscom; Right: Courtesy Blue Rider Press

Do you hope that she’ll read your book?
Yes, I do. I think it’s a wonderful tribute to her son. And I don’t know if I’ll hear from her. I’ve been honest in the book about my feelings about Ruth. She was vilified for no reason. She’s lost a son. As a mother myself I feel terrible for her and for that loss. But Ruth has made some disastrous choices. In time, who knows? But that’s how I’m feeling right now. My husband’s last correspondence to her, which was two days before he died, was that he just wasn’t ready to see her yet [because at the time she refused his request to sever contact with her husband]. And I’m honoring that right now.

There have been reports that Ruth finally did what Mark wanted and stopped visiting Bernie Madoff in prison and may even be filing for divorce. Do you know anything about that?
I don’t know anything about that. At this point it makes no difference to me if she speaks to Bernie or if she divorces him. It’s a little too late right now.

Given the psychological training you’ve had while working toward your master’s degree, and all you’ve seen being part of the family, is there anything you can think of that would explain or shed any light on why Bernie did what he did?
Noooooo! I mean, he duped everyone. I thought Bernie Madoff was such a sweet guy. And he was quirky, but his quirkiness was sort of endearing, and, no. I mean, not at all.

What was one of his endearing quirks?
Just the way he would line up his shoes or neatly place his clothes. It was sort of funny. But endearing too, because I always thought Bernie was this guy who came from nothing and made himself this successful man. And I was proud of him, and happy for him. So I thought it was really nice that here he was, this quote-unquote millionaire, or whatever, taking care of his things. Because he had--I thought he had worked really hard for them.

Everybody’s fascinated by the psychology of this. Was there some insecurity that drove him, maybe? Or do you think some people are inherently evil?
I think he lived, and still lives, in a delusional reality. Thinking that he still has some control over the situation. Being able to believe his own lies. But no, there were no signs [that he was a criminal]. No. Never in a million years. I thought he was such a nice person. I felt lucky to have him as my father-in-law. He was my emergency contact number!

Lily Tomlin played a Ruth Madoff-like role on the TV series Damages, and there’s a character on the new sitcom 2 Broke Girls who’s the daughter of a Madoff-like swindler. Have you seen any of these shows?
I started to watch the first episode of 2 Broke Girls, and when I saw that it was based on [laughs, then pauses]. I mean, I don’t know. I just—honestly, I haven’t watched Damages and I’ve never gotten through an episode of 2 Broke Girls.

You prefer not to?
Umm, I’m a big TV watcher [laughs], and my DVR is full. It’s hard for me to keep adding shows, I guess!

In the book you talk about the financial and legal mess that Bernie’s behavior created for you and your husband, and how that’s continuing now even with the estate. Have things gotten any better?
I know as little as I did nearly three years ago. The legal matters, they are just so complicated and I truly do not understand them. But I do look forward to the day when these lawyers can all come to some sort of resolution and I can move on and focus on what’s really important in my life, which is my two children.

You write about how, because of the civil suits, the government monitored your finances and required you to “turn in regular accounts of every dime we had spent.” Do you still need to do this?
I have no comment on that.

First Published October 21, 2011

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