From an interview with the New York magazine:
“How could I have done this?” he asks. “I was making a lot of money. I didn’t need the money. [Am I] a flawed character?”Whine, whine, whiner. I think the author of the article has it right, Madoff is much more likely to be a narcissist than a sociopath -- completely delusional. But when you're committing fraud on such a grand scale, does it really matter what label society wants to slap on you?
In some ways, Madoff has not tried to evade blame. He has made a full confession, telling me again and again that nothing justifies what he did. And yet, for Madoff, that doesn’t settle the matter. He feels misunderstood. He can’t bear the thought that people think he’s evil. “I’m not the kind of person I’m being portrayed as,” he told me.
And so, sitting alone with his therapist, in the prison khakis he irons himself, he seeks reassurance. “Everybody on the outside kept claiming I was a sociopath,” Madoff told her one day. “I asked her, ‘Am I a sociopath?’ ” He waited expectantly, his eyelids squeezing open and shut, that famous tic. “She said, ‘You’re absolutely not a sociopath. You have morals. You have remorse.’ ” Madoff paused as he related this. His voice settled. He said to me, “I am a good person.”
There aren’t many who would agree. For most of the world, Bernie Madoff is a monster; he betrayed thousands of investors, bankrupted charities and hedge funds. On paper, his Ponzi scheme lost nearly $65 billion; the effects spread across five continents. And he brought down his own family with him, a more intimate kind of betrayal.
Madoff, 72, is in prison with a sentence of 150 years, which seems more than just, given the enormity of his crime. Though the financial damage continues, prison seemed to conclude Madoff’s part of the story. Then, on the second anniversary of Madoff’s arrest, his son Mark, age 46, slipped a vacuum-cleaner cord over a pipe on the living-room ceiling of his Soho loft and tried to hang himself. When it broke, he tried again with a dog’s leash, and succeeded. This was the kind of cosmic retribution that might have been exacted in the House of Atreus, the suicide an accusation of a vast betrayal. It seemed a death designed to hurt the living—even a monster’s conscience must be moved by such a demonstration. After all, before he was exposed as a fraud, Madoff had been a family man.
After Mark’s suicide, I became interested in this most tragic of families and the elemental forces that had torn them apart. And so I began calling everyone connected to the business and the family. Soon a picture began to emerge. Madoff’s youngest son, Andrew, harder-edged and less prone to self-doubt than his brother, had been protected by his anger at his father’s betrayal. Mark’s rage consumed and overran him. Neither would speak to their father, even if their lawyers had permitted it. Their mother, Ruth, had to choose between her husband and her sons. She had chosen her husband of five decades—though after Mark’s suicide, she too no longer speaks to Madoff. After the death, Ruth rushed from her apartment in Florida—but wasn’t at the memorial service at his widow’s house. Most of the family didn’t want her there. Mark’s widow still won’t let her visit Mark’s two young children. Andrew, who hasn’t spoken to his father since December 10, 2008, the day Madoff confessed, is still largely estranged from his mother and distant from his brother’s widow, Stephanie. As he tells friends, his rage at his father, far from dissipating, has metastasized. To friends, he’d described his father as a bully and a gifted manipulator. Madoff was a family man, yes, but to Andrew, that was yet another manifestation of his narcissism. The family served the needs of Bernard L. Madoff.