Bowdoin/Madoff Comparison: Is It Fair?

andybowdoinartLast night we received a note from a reader who had a bone to pick: He advised us, seemingly politely, that ASD was not an “autosurf.”  Rather, he said, it was a “manual surf.”

There was a whiff of passive-aggressiveness in the note: He informed us that he did not desire to “address your blog” with the exception of informing us of the differences between a manual surf and an autosurf.

Because we received this note shortly after publishing a graphic showing Andy Bowdoin, Bernard Madoff and Arthur Nadel in the same image, we wondered if the reader actually had a bigger bone to pick but didn’t want to acknowledge it. He didn’t want to “address your blog,” after all. (View the graphic.)

We have received many such notes since August. Lots of them have been passive-aggressive in nature — poison arrows and bitter sarcasm delivered with a smile — and some were just plain aggressive. Virtually all of them tried to change the subject in some way and deflect from the core issues. We’ve been told that our “little blog” was universally reviled, told that we had “no right” to write about ASD because we weren’t members and, in the next breath, told that people who really understand how the world works recognize the ASD case for what it is: an attempt by the government to trample on people’s rights.

‘Win-At-All-Costs’ Strategy Backfired: ASD Members Destroyed Firm’s Already-Fleeting Credibility

If you were the owner of an Internet program in almost unimaginable trouble with the government — so much trouble that prosecutors wanted to seize your property and sell it at auction — would you want members trying to “help” your case by insulting or trying to intimidate prosecutors, federal judges and other people who had the power to make a difference?

Would you want Kool-Aid campaigns to Bill O’Reilly or petition drives aimed at getting politicians to endorse Ponzi schemes during an election year that coincided with an economic crisis? (Talk about a mixed message.) Would you want members trying to influence public opinion by sending chain letters to reporters? Would you want people repeating claims that a deal with a penny-stock company was going to pump $200 million into ASD? Would you want people filing complaints and trying to have a TV station charged with “deceptive business practices” for broadcasting news unflattering to ASD?

And how about certified-mail campaigns right out of a sham Utah “Indian” tribe’s playbook — a tribe purportedy founded inside an Arby’s restaurant? Finally, would you want people filing complaints with the Office of Inspector General at the Justice Department before there had been a single finding of fact in the case?

If you want to be taken seriously, you wouldn’t want any of these things. So why encourage them?

What’s more, why invite even more scrutiny of ASD? The firm and its own out-of-control members destroyed the only chance ASD had to be viewed as a progressive, professional advertising company with a sharp, well-honed message and a well-oiled PR operation.

Nothing that ASD or its members did was consistent with professionalism. The messages couldn’t possibly have been more at odds with themselves.

Here is how a professional communications company would have addressed a monumental crisis:

We emphatically deny the government’s assertions and look forward to explaining our business model to the Court. We are confident these issues will be resolved to our satisfaction and that we’ll continue to provide an extraordinary value and opportunity to our worldwide customer base.

Compare that simple message to the ultimate messages.

Back to last night’s note . . .

The AdSurfDaily case does not hinge on whether ASD was a manual surf or an autosurf. We acknowledge that ASD participants had to click on an object to see the next ad. We have written about this, pointing out that a young girl videotaped clicking on ASD ads said it was so simple a six-year-old could do it. In the same video, the supervising adult implied that Facebook was a paid ASD advertiser. Lots of ASD members were capable of doing or saying anything to get the sale.

The term “autosurf” generally has come to mean a surf site that loads ads in a rotator and pays people “rebates” to view them. The term is used in virtually all litigation involving similar businesses, so we’re comfortable with it. Readers seem to know what “autosurf” litigation is about, and ASD would be in the same trouble if it offered “rebates” but operated as what commonly is known as a manual traffic exchange.

As we noted above, the note was polite. But we can’t help but wonder why the reader had the need to define ASD as a manual surf at this late date. It impressed us as yet another bid to change the subject. Andy Bowdoin already has surrendered claims to the lion’s share of the seized assets, and the court has acknowledged his motion to withdraw the claims.

For all intents and purposes, the forfeiture element of the case is over, and the government has won.

The Bowdoin/Madoff/Nadel Graphic

Let us know if you think it was fair or unfair by leaving a comment.

We believe it is fair for the following reasons:

  • All three men are implicated in big-dollar Ponzi schemes.
  • All three men have close ties to Florida.
  • All three men are in their 70s.
  • Ponzi schemes are very much in the news.
  • A $100 million Ponzi scheme should not be viewed as a minor event simply because there are larger Ponzi schemes.
  • Incredible sums of wealth were destroyed.
  • Although it is true the government intervened in the Bowdoin case before the Ponzi collapsed, it is equally true that it didn’t intervene in the Madoff/Nadel cases — much to the dismay of investors who lost fortunes.
  • Madoff, despite the fact he is Public Enemy No. 1, is said to be cooperating with investigators. If true, it does not minimize the crime or make it any less repulsive — but it is something Bowdoin didn’t do. To say Bowdoin’s approach was cynical is to understate his method. He encouraged members to send in testimonials while shielding them from important facts. He then relied on members to testify at the evidentiary hearing, while notifying the court that he intended to take the 5th.
  • Prosecuors allege in all three cases that company funds were diverted to fuel personal spending, including luxury spending for things such as automobiles. Prosecutors also allege that company funds were directed to family members and that extravagant purchases were made.

So, make your case: Fair or unfair? We are always pleased to publish dissenting opinions.

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9 Responses to “Bowdoin/Madoff Comparison: Is It Fair?”

  1. FAIR… I for one am very happy that when all this crap with ASD started there you were with some great information… no fluffernutter or kool-aid or cheer leaders facts.. just the facts.. bottom line..A PONZI is still a PONZI no matter what the spin… it is what it is..

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  2. Patrick;

    Re:…He advised us, seemingly politely, that ASD was not an “autosurf.” Rather, he said, it was a “manual surf.”

    That’s tantamount to saying, “It’s not a poisonous snake, it’s a poisonous lizard.” While the distinction may be technically correct, either one can/will cause damage – and would be avoided by rational people, I’d think.

    RE:…We’ve been told that our “little blog” was universally reviled…

    Your correspondent could not be more wrong. I have no way of quantifying the numbers, but I’ve seen numerous comments on various ASD-related forums where someone says, in effect, “You have to read Patrick’s latest post, it’s brilliant.” I’m one who has done so on more than one occasion.

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  3. Hi Brenda,

    Brenda: A PONZI is still a PONZI no matter what the spin… it is what it is..

    That is, indeed, the essence. Appreciate the note.

    Regards,

    Patrick

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  4. Hi Pat,

    Pat Dunn: Re:…He advised us, seemingly politely, that ASD was not an “autosurf.” Rather, he said, it was a “manual surf.”

    That’s tantamount to saying, “It’s not a poisonous snake, it’s a poisonous lizard.” While the distinction may be technically correct, either one can/will cause damage – and would be avoided by rational people, I’d think.

    Hey, I like that snake/lizard analogy. Thanks for sharing it.

    Even the prosecutors said ASD could continue to deliver ads. Andy Bowdoin chose not to — even after the computers were returned.

    I remember listening to the conference call in which the VOIP service was pitched and wondering why ASD was willing to earn commissions from members’ purchases through the VOIP program but not deliver members’ ads.

    And I remember reading the News Release about the prospective $200 million deal with Praebius and wondering why ASD wasn’t serving ads to herald the deal and get all that new money flowing in.

    Regards,

    Patrick

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  5. I think the comparison is unfair.

    Bernie managed to fool high level bankers & investment brokers into giving other people’s money to him. He even managed to keep his scam from the SEC for 10 years. He would still be going if his son(s) hadn’t turned him in.

    All any did was to fool the MLM and ponzi players into giving him their cash. These are people who believe that snake-oil fruit juice will cure cancer or snake-oil fuel additives will improve MPG, that ponzis are “just a game”, and that shape shifting, blood drinking reptile aliens are going to take over the world.

    The comparison is unfair to Bernie. At least he had to be slightly intelligent to fool his targets.

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  6. Tony,

    I enjoyed your tongue-in-cheek prose, perhaps especially this:

    Tony H: . . . and that shape shifting, blood drinking reptile aliens are going to take over the world.

    If such alien reptiles do come, the snake-oil industry no doubt will have a cure, so there’s nothing really to worry about. But, in the unlikely event the original alien-reptile formula doesn’t work, customers always can pop a mothball into their gas tanks and flee until the snake-oilers come out with the “New, Improved!” alien-reptile cure.

    It’ll cost $250 a bottle, but, hey, what’s $250 per bottle for every member of your household compared to the prospect of becoming dinner for a shape-shifting, blood-drinking reptile alien?

    Tony H: The comparison is unfair to Bernie. At least he had to be slightly intelligent to fool his targets.

    I just viewed an Andy Bowdoin tape from the Las Vegas rally (May 31) in which he repeatedly invoked God and then told people that this would be the last gathering at which ASD would permit people to buy more than $50,000 in “ad packs.”

    Higher amounts, he said, might create issues with regulators. So, if you waited until Monday, know that you could purchase only $50,000 worth. Wouldn’t want those regulators to start checking up on things.

    His session concluded with a standing ovation. At several points during the presentation, there were audible “oohs” and “ahhs” and gasps from the audience when he spoke of ASD members’ dreams that had come true, and applause when he spoke of God.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5myd3_mr-andy-bowdoin-speaks-ad-surf-dail_webcam

    Less than two weeks later, ASD insiders started paying off mortgages and buying new cars.

    Patrick

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  7. Hey Patrick did you know that the only reason you are commenting on Sir Andy is because you just want to increase your Alexa rating? thats what I was told by one of the AVG Mods I guess…

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  9. Sorry I cut myself off I guess thats the only defense they could come up with. Seems kinda lame

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