The IA 25 Rogues Gallery

Not every influencer uses his powers for good

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IA 25Steve Luckenbach wrote in April of a Harris Interactive poll taken at the height of the recession in which the financial services industry tied with Big Tobacco as the lowest regarded of all industries. The depths of one of the worst financial crises in history is a terrible time to gauge public opinion of the financial industry, but the image of the financial services industry as a cabal of sleazy salesmen robbing little old ladies of their life savings is one that is too easy to conjure.

We, of course, know better. There are bad apples in every bunch, sure, but there aren't many; in an ever-growing list of 130 influencers over the nine years of the IA 25, Investment Advisor's annual list of the most influential people in and around the industry, we only managed to rustle up three baddies whose influence was large enough for them to be included in the IA 25 over the years.

Find out who they are in the following slides. (And see the complete list and Special Report schedule for extended profiles of all the 2011 members of the IA 25).

 

 APBernie Madoff, 2009

A man who needs no introduction, for all the wrong reasons. As Bob Keane wrote when Madoff appeared on the IA 25 in 2009, Madoff "will not be remembered as a former chairman of the Nasdaq exchange or as a noble philanthropist," but rather as the architect of a global Ponzi scheme that cost investors upwards of $65 billion.

It's not just his part in the Ponzi scheme to which all other Ponzi schemes will be compared that makes Madoff so influential, however. The effect he had on the industry's reputation over all will be long felt by frustrated honest advisors.

"Madoff's scam hurt thousands of individuals and institutions, but the damage is more than monetary," Keane wrote in 2009. Instead of elevating advisors' influence on their clients' financial lives, FSI president Dale Brown said Madoff's "crimes undermined the confidence of many, many clients in their fine, upstanding, and honest financial advisors."

 

 AP)Michael Milken, 2010

Milken was afforded a rare second chance following his indictment for racketeering and fraud, but his "second career" as a philanthropist is not what landed him on the IA 30, Investment Advisor's special anniversary edition of IA 25. Instead, Bob Keane wrote in 2010, it was Milken's role in introducing high-yield bonds to the advisor's investment toolchest and the entrepreneur's capital options.

"As head of bond trading at Drexel Burnham Lambert, Milken helped build a junk bond market that was worth about $150 billion by 1990 and financed a raft of mergers, acquisitions, buyouts and hostile takeovers as well as providing funding for a number of today's leading corporations," Keane wrote. "After his 1989 guilty plea to six securities and reporting violations, Milken spent two years in prison and was barred from the securities industry for life, but in 2009 Forbes ranked him in a 25-way tie for 158th wealthiest American with a net worth of $2 billion."

 

 APEliot Spitzer, 2003-2005

The former New York governor and attorney general, and current CNN  pundit, appeared on the IA 25 prior to his highly-publicized fall from grace in 2008. Still, even during his three-year run between 2003 and 2005 on the IA 25, Spitzer faced his fair share of criticism.

In 2003, he was called a "tireless campaigner for the consumer" by Richard Grasso, then-chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, but Tom Grzymala, formerly of Alexandria Financial Associates, wondered then if political aspirations were behind Spitzer's crusade. Investment Advisor Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell wrote that the SEC's credibility problems enabled Spitzer to overstep his authority, and Lisa Hurley, general counsel at Bisys Fund Services, criticized Spitzer in 2004 for not collaborating with the SEC. "I don't think we can have a system going forward that pits federal regulators against state regulators," Hurley said.

By 2005, Spitzer's last appearance on the IA 25, he had cemented his position as a "tenacious watchdog of the financial markets and financial services industry," Waddell wrote, by exposing "illegal trading by mutual fund firms, corrupt practices among stock analysts, and bid rigging in the insurance industry."  Michael Tannenbaum, with the law firm Tannenbaum Helpern Syracuse & Hirschtritt, said that Spitzer's influence was "at times painful, but ultimately may turn out to be quite favorable."

Three years later, Spitzer's involvement in a prostitution ring was discovered during an investigation into suspicious money transfers, the New York Times reported in March 2008. Spitzer resigned from the governorship that month.

(See the complete list and Special Report schedule for extended profiles of all the 2011 members of the IA 25).

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