Fraud and the Seven Stages of Grief

grief1

During my careers as a fraud investigator and financial counselor, I’ve made an observation.  Whether it’s a victim of a financial fraud or a client with massive debt, both individuals go through the Seven Stages of Grief. These stages are typically felt when losing a loved one to a terminal illness, but I also have seen people go through them when victimized by a con-man or battling bankruptcy.  The feelings of shock and denial are most pronounced, and these feelings typically contribute to the fraud’s progression.  Let’s take a look at a few historic examples to illustrate my point:

  1. In 2000, a man named Harry Markopolous warned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that well-respected money manager Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.  He made several more warnings, but the SEC ignored him. Madoff’s scheme finally collapsed in 2008.
  2. David Walsh, an Irish journalist, made countless claims over a decade that Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour De France seven times.  Armstrong went on the offensive, ridiculing Walsh and anyone else who opposed his narrative. Armstrong eventually admitted to Oprah and the world that he cheated during all of his races.
  3. Retired FBI Agent John O’Neil fought a ten year battle with the bureau over Usama Bin Ladin, but he couldn’t convince his superiors to take the terrorist threat seriously.  He left the FBI to become head of security at the World Trade Center and ultimately lost his life on 9/11. O’Neil’s story still teaches us the ultimate consequence of shock and denial.

As bad as these events were, they pale in comparison to the one that’s coming.  The biggest fraud taking place right now is being conducted by the Federal Reserve. Just like Markopolos, Walsh and O’Neil, several brave heroes are trying to warn the American public of an impending economic collapse. It should come as no surprise that they’re usually confronted with shock and denial.  The most outspoken hero is a man named Peter Schiff, and as you can expect, he receives the most ridicule and disdain by the mainstream news media.

Even an armchair student of history can see that humanity repeats the same mistakes over and over, and it is largely due to the first two steps in the Stages of Grief. America’s Greater Depression ahead is eventually going to leave many citizens angry and depressed, but we will all eventually reach acceptance. My hope is that we can help people reach that final stage before it’s too late.