Steve Fishman in NY Magazine: Final Act - Ezra Merkin after the fall

Every staged tragic drama has its final act where the curtain comes down and the audience applauds and then files out of the theater. Sometimes the stage is littered with dead bodies and the tragic figure is left standing, or he is led off in chains, or he too groans and staggers and falls to the ground, dead.

The Madoff-Merkin tragedy - in the version artfully written by Steve Fishman in NY Mag - does not end with a classic final curtain but with sort of a post-modern fade-out wherein one tragic actor ruminates about his fate after the sound and fury of the drama ends. Fishman paints for us Ezra Merkin, trying to visualize his life after the fall from the cosmic Eden which he inhabited.

The implications for Ezra are easily laid out by anyone who follows the story. He may be indicted for crimes. He won't be sitting on the bimah next to the rabbi. He will be whiling away the days in court or depositions or meeting with lawyers. He won't be known as the sage and wise genius and saint. He will be pointed at as the tricky and sly victimizer and pathetic victim rolled into one.

But we know that life is not a drama played out on a stage. In real life, Ezra will be doomed to live with himself. Every day Ezra will interrogate Ezra and ask how and why he failed to realize that he was not ever the sage and hero of the fictive narrative.

We were told in one of the news accounts that Ezra is a big baseball fan. So maybe it is apt to boil down his days after leaving the major leagues as follows.

Now because of his actions Merkin will never be eligible for the Hall of Fame. His records, whatever they may have been, will always be marked with a big bold asterisk.

The speculative end of Fishman's lengthy article...
Merkin is ruined

... Ezra Merkin is ruined. “His life as he knew it is over and not coming back,” says brother Sol, adding, “he doesn’t deserve this.” Ezra is winding down his funds. He’s been all but exiled from many of the communities he cared about. Andrew Cuomo, the New York State attorney general, is investigating whether Ezra misled the charities whose endowments he managed in order to enrich himself. He resigned as chairman of GMAC at the insistence of the U.S. government, one condition for bailing out the lender with $5 billion. For the moment, observant Ezra still sits on the bema every Saturday, in the spot designated for the synagogue president. Some in the congregation are scandalized, and some will sue him, it is almost certain. It’s not practical to sue Madoff. There are no assets left. And so they will take their turns with Ezra—who, as general partner, is personally liable. “He will spend the rest of his life in court,” says one attorney. Ironically, the sage will plead ignorance for the remainder of his days.

And yet, in another way, it’s not over. It’s just beginning. Ezra Merkin is fascinated—“extremely fascinated,” he sometimes tells friends—to know what will happen next in his life.

About Madoff’s victims, the ones whose funds Merkin was supposed to be safeguarding, he is matter-of-fact. He tells friends, “I lost a lot of people a lot of money.” There’s something slightly obtuse in this. Nearly every day brings accounts of shuttered charities, of retirements ruined, of houses suddenly put up for sale. Shouldn’t he be rending himself? But he was tricked like everyone else, he says, and tells himself he’s got to be resilient, show fortitude. And so he talks to himself about what he has. A loving wife, four devoted children—he is a much better father than Hermann. “I have to get through this,” he tells people, if one can. As for the future, he doesn’t know what the outcome is going to be. Ezra has lately been proclaiming himself free of the need for money and prestige, those things that shaped his life. He can start anew, reinvent himself. We’ll be all right, he thinks. Ezra understands as well as anyone the role his financial success played. Money has been central to his life. It put those breathtaking Rothkos on the wall and elevated him to society’s loftiest ranks. Things will change now. He’s begun to think along other lines. He says he might pursue something more on the contemplative side, reading or writing. Whatever this evolves into, “it doesn’t have to be a wealthy lifestyle for us to be happy,” Ezra tells friends, then adds, “I don’t think.”
Source: New York Magazine, "The Monster Mensch. What made Bernie Madoff, a man who helped revolutionize Wall Street and built a completely legal billion-dollar business, perpetrate the greatest fraud in history? And what led Ezra Merkin, born to immense privilege, to enable him?" by Steve Fishman, published Feb 22, 2009.

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