Working for Madoff

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We all know about Bernie Madoff.  The man that exemplified greed admitting a Ponzi Scheme of $65 billion back in December 2008, when the rest of world financial markets were also in turmoil.  Recently I read a book about what life was like for those working for his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Securities, LLC (or BLM).


The firm at the time of the fraud exposure employed 150 people, situated on three floors of one of Manhattan's most known towers.  A newcomer to the firm would have found a very bizarre, convoluted world.  There was not one written rule or policy.  However, there was a plethora of strange unwritten rules employees were expected to follow.  No use of pens other than black.  Only one piece of paper could be out on an employee's desk.  The carpets were required to be vacuumed several times a day, with Madoff often doing the honors.  All window shades had to be drawn to the same exact length.  Employees could only wear solid, dark colors.  Employees were prohibited from having family or friends meet them at work.


Even more strange was communication within the firm. Employees yelled across the room.  Rarely there was the use of email.  Employees on a regular basis would cuss each other out.  Employees were allowed if not encouraged to be rude to clients on the telephone.  Madoff's wife visited the offices once a week to complete Madoff's expense report (only she was allowed to do it).  On each visit an argument between husband and wife would ensue with Ruth telling Bernie in a very loud voice to "F" himself.  Employees were often verbally dressed down in front of co-workers, often by Madoff himself.  He would loudly call out employees, particularly the female employees telling them they were stupid, lazy and fat.  Yet, at other times he acted like the caring grandfather type.


The firm occupied three floors and the 17th is where the fraud took place.  Only a couple of employees had access.  Madoff's sons did not.  Official visitors were never shown the floor. IT techs were guarded if they went to the 17th floor to work on computers.  The unspoken rule was that employees were never to speculate about that floor.


Although Madoff was considered the father of technology on Wall Street, his firm used software from the 1960s and 1970s.  Systems were difficult and very expensive to maintain.  An IT worker recommending upgrading systems was snubbed and ignored. An IT worker that insisted on getting rid of 40 to 50 year old technology was fired.  Years before other firms had began to provide investors with colored reports with graphs and charts.  BLM investor reports were simple black and white single line items.


One thing that made up for the difficult and weird work environment was the pay.  Clerical workers made six figures.  Other higher level employees made well into the millions.  If an employee ran into a financial emergency Madoff took care of it, no questions asked, no strings attached.  Madoff threw all expenses paid lavish events throughout the year for the staff.  Some employees were freely allowed to charge huge personal expenses to company credit cards.  Others given copious amounts of paid time off.


Madoff was investigated several times by the Securities and Exchange Commission, one a formal review in 2005.  Madoff personally attended to investigators claiming his proprietary model made sure investors made money even in a down market.  He always refused any more information other than double speak, which investigators accepted.  Investigators were often young, in their 20s, and would instead listen to Madoff talk about the market and great places to eat lunch and dinner.


In the 2005 formal investigation the most basic questions were never asked.  Madoff was never asked to show written confirmation of trades (there was none).  Trading required an individual to have an account number to access a universal trading platform.  Madoff was never asked for an account number he should have but did not possess.


By Thanksgiving 2008 Madoff had less than $500 million in cash but redemption requests of over $2 billion as the financial sector was in freefall.  He was suppose to have $65 billion in investor assets.  Facing ruin he first went to his younger brother Roger, who had worked at the firm for over 40 years.  He confessed his crimes but asked for a week to distribute the rest of the cash to family members and a few friends (the ones he screwed for billions).  A few days later he confessed his sins to his sons but the sons refused to give him a week.  Instead they ended up at FBI headquarters that day and never spoke to or saw their father again.  (A few years later one son committed suicide then a couple years after that the other son died of cancer).


The night of his confessions to his son was the Madoff Christmas Bash.  Madoff and his wife appeared, all smiles.  Noticeably absent were the two sons.  Gossip ensued but both sons were well liked by the staff.  While they may have had a typical tiff with their father it would be unlike them to snub the employees.


The next day Madoff was due to take several early morning calls.  Throughout the decades Madoff had never missed one call or meeting and always let his secretary know of his whereabouts.  That morning frantic calls from his secretary to his cellphone and home phone went to voicemail.  Ditto for the sons absence that morning and efforts to reach them.  Shortly before noon FBI agents busted in and began to demand documents and order employees around.  They would not answer questions but by early afternoon the story broke in the press.  Employees sat crying, shaking or just sitting silently stunned.


While Madoff claimed to have carried out the charade alone several employees were convicted of being accomplices.  Investigators thought more employees were involved but could not prove it.  They also believe the fraud could have started as early as the 1960s when the firm was founded but again couldn't prove due to lack of documentation from much earlier days.  However, most employees just simply thought they were working a in very tough place but very respected and making a hell of a living doing so.


A side note is the ultimate enabler Chase Bank.  Chase was listed on prospectus as the transfer agent for trades yet never executed one trade in decades.  Even more troubling is that Madoff (unwisely) had all of his ill gotten money on deposit with Chase.  There should have been a flow of funds in then disbursements to trading accounts.  Instead the money came in and was clearly withdrawn to cover the outrageous costs of the firm and Madoff's ultra lavish lifestyle (he was the .001%).  Banks are required to have KYC (Know Your Customer) policies in place to monitor particularly large accounts for any suspicious activity.  Investigators wanted to bring charges against Chase but were stopped by the Obama DOJ.  Obama and Chase CEO Jamie Dimon had been friends for years.  Need I say more.


Finally, investigators narrowed in on the two sons and wife. The belief was that they knew or should have known something was wrong.  The sons ran the legit trading operation that was carried out on the 18th and 19th floors.  As traders they would have had visibility into the trades being executed for the advisor end (the fraud part).  The sons claimed every time they approached their father about what was occurring on the 17th floor he became enraged and told them to mind their own business.  As noted above one son facing possible charges took his own life.


Ruth the wife was ultimately cleared as investigators could not definitely prove she knew something.  She was given $2.5 million to live out her life.  She has lost all contact with her former society friends and is believed to be in the Connecticut area working an hourly wage job.  Quite a fall from flying in a personal jet to visit Kings and Queens.


Tubularsock Added Jan 8, 2018 - 11:42am
George, thanks for the run down. Most interesting.
It's another good reason for NOT having government over-site!
As often is argued the government isn't needed to "watch over" business because the business interests would only do the right thing for their employees and clients.
So it is comforting that Orange Dump is ending over-site through the system ....... now just what could go wrong with that thinking?
Bill Kamps Added Jan 8, 2018 - 12:12pm
People should pay attention to the old adage, "when it is too good to be true, it probably is."   So called sophisticated people got monthly  statements that showed absurd returns.  Greed kept them from asking too many questions.  Im sure if they asked for documentation they got the same runaround as the investigators did.
Tubularsock Added Jan 8, 2018 - 12:55pm
Bill, Tubularsock agrees. Yet, while a client didn't feel the need to ask why he was doing so well a government investigator should know the difference between "runaround" and fraud.
Don't you think?
Bill Kamps Added Jan 8, 2018 - 1:31pm
Tubular, yes the inspectors should have caught it.   However, several things mitigated that.  Im sure the biggest factor was that  Madoff was the former chairman of the Nasdaq, his investors were also famous and well respected, no one filed a complaint, and so the inspector didnt feel like much inspecting needed to be done.  After all there are real criminals out there ( sarcasm ).
The government doesnt have enough inspectors to inspect all the things that it is charged with inspecting, so Im sure since Bernie was well respected in the business they sent over some young kids to do the pro forma rubber stamp.  Bernie takes them to lunch, blows a little smoke, and all is good.
Its like most things, unless someone reports a crime, or complains, the government doesnt dig very deep. 
Unfortunately these things really arent all that rare.  A quick Google shows about five such schemes in Houston over the past ten years.  Those are the ones that got caught, how many others are out there? 
George N Romey Added Jan 8, 2018 - 1:36pm
Actually Madoff showed modest but always positive returns. Many of his investors weren’t sophisticated. However the feeder funds were yet they were never prosecuted.
The SEC was given more than enough evidence, certainly to ask basic questions. SEC Chairmen at the time were into “self regulation.”
Katharine Otto Added Jan 8, 2018 - 2:02pm
I thought Jamie Dimon was JP Morgan.  Is that the same as Chase?
Bill Kamps Added Jan 8, 2018 - 2:41pm
George,  many of his investors were millionaires, you can call them unsophisticated, but then they probably had advisors who should have known better.   Some were institutions, who also should know better.
The modest returns were statistically impossible to achieve, because there were essentially no down months.   Everyone that looked at the returns said they were impossible, and the correlation to the overall market was not there.
The same thing happened in Houston with the Stanford Group, and a couple of others.  They didnt get caught until too many  people asked for redemptions.
Government regulation in many areas is lax.  Not enough inspectors for anything, food, banks, bridges, you name it.  So without complaints, they just gave it the once over. 
Of course Madoff took advantage of his reputation, his network of friends,  and lax government oversight.  This is a given.  However, first and foremost we have to look out for ourselves, and not just assume that because something passed government inspection it is doing everything correctly. 
George N Romey Added Jan 8, 2018 - 2:58pm
Some of Madoff’s investors were Jewish people with relatively small sums to invest. Usually they were family or friends of large investors and not knowledgeable of the market.
Madoff was an utter fail of regulation. Chase Bank should have been formally investigated with charges brought up. When Madoff confessed everybody on Wall Street as usual ran for cover. Too many people knew he was either front running or running a Ponzi scheme but it was all one big club of billionaires.
Doug Plumb Added Jan 8, 2018 - 4:25pm
It would make a hell of a movie. Maybe it did...
opher goodwin Added Jan 8, 2018 - 7:09pm
Fascinating George. Illustrative of what we've been talking about.
Edward Miessner Added Jan 8, 2018 - 7:22pm
Quite an article George. I had forgotten that it went on for so long.
George N Romey Added Jan 8, 2018 - 7:28pm
Of course what the anti regulation crowd doesn’t want to admit is that Madoff was very instrumental behind the scenes in the 90s pushing through bank deregulation. He is seen on video claiming the markets were to sophisticated and heavily laden with technology such that widespread fraud was impossible.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Jan 8, 2018 - 9:50pm
Thanks George.
Leroy Added Jan 8, 2018 - 10:00pm
Interesting history of working for Madoff. 
The Chinese markets are rife with corruption.  There are players who apparently studied Madoff.  My wife hired a maid who worked for one of them.  She was a classy looking lady.  I always wondered why she worked as a maid.  Her job was to manipulate the books to always show a profit.  I heard many such stories.  The crash of 2015 took the life savings of many investors, including my driver's.
Ari Silverstein Added Jan 9, 2018 - 9:39am
I wonder how much of the book is true.  Even if just a smidgen, it sounds like a fascinating book.
The biggest thing I wonder is whether or not the sons were aware of the scam.  Some things suggest they were aware and other things you wrote about suggest they had no idea.  I don’t think Chase bank was the ultimate enabler.  That’s just your anti-big-bank bias talking.  After all, Chase bank can’t control who Madoff lists as his transfer agent.  
George N Romey Added Jan 9, 2018 - 12:44pm
No but Chase should have seen what appears as unusual activity. They are required by law to do so. Law enforcement then makes a decision on whether an investigation is warranted. 
mark henry smith Added Jan 9, 2018 - 2:21pm
Interesting stuff, George. I got most of my info from the NYTimes and a best friend of my brother-in-law worked for Madoff. Still a touchy subject whether employees knew the details of the scheme. Same with Wells-Fargo, who knew what when.
The thing we should always remember is that crooks are always the most generous people you could meet, because they're playing with other people's money. Of course, in a sense, we all are.
Ari Silverstein Added Jan 9, 2018 - 3:54pm
Chase should not have seen what appears as unusual activity as Chase was not executing trades for Madoff.  It’s right there in black and white, you wrote it. 
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 9, 2018 - 4:59pm
George, very interesting post. I had watched the dramatization on CNBC but it seems like they left out much of the interesting items in the story. Can you share the name of the book and author?
Edward Miessner Added Jan 9, 2018 - 5:45pm
George, "He [Madoff] is seen on video claiming the markets were to sophisticated and heavily laden with technology such that widespread fraud was impossible."
HA! Sophisticated markets heavilly laden with technology cannot be anything but rife with corruption. And anybody who says the opposite is in on it; it ain't just Madoff!
George N Romey Added Jan 9, 2018 - 6:47pm
EBAC it’s Betrayal by Andrew Kirtzmen, a local NYC reporter.
George N Romey Added Jan 9, 2018 - 6:50pm
No Ari. Money would have been moved into sweeps for trading. An operating account would not be taking in billions. Also Chase was listed as transfer agent and knew so. This is something you obviously know nothing about. KYC requirements of large accounts.
Michael B. Added Jan 9, 2018 - 9:00pm
Good post George. I never really followed that case; I knew he was legit and wound up being a giant Ponzi scheme, but that's about it. My favorite high-finance corruption story will probably always be the BCCI case. That was worthy of a Stanley Kubrick movie a la Dr. Strangelove, lol.
Thomas Napers Added Jan 10, 2018 - 4:37am
While I do feel bad for people that were swindled by Madoff, I don’t feel that bad.  Keep in mind, anyone that invested as far back as the 1960’s received a 10% return on their investment up until the scam ended.  That means in 6 years, all of those people would double their money.  A lot of early investors, lived of Madoff’s 10%. 
As for the more recent investors, they mostly consisted of sophisticated institutional entities, all of these people should know that nobody can return 10% every year for that a long a period of time.  Even if it was a 1% return, nobody is that consistent to avoid rising and falling with the market to some degree. If the great recession never happened, the scam might still be going on today.  So if anything, this story is proof that recessions are highly necessary in a market economy and to do your homework.
As for Chase being culpable for the perpetuation of the scam because Madoff listed Chase as the Transfer Agent, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  The entire country was unaware of the scam.  This includes Federal financial regulators and sophisticated institutional investors.  Even employees that worked there for years appeared to have no idea.  Chase can’t control what people write.  The KYC laws are targeted for those that attempt to launder money because they’re involved in some illicit activity.  As far as everyone knew, Madoff was a legit investor. 
Shane Laing Added Jan 10, 2018 - 5:25am
Great article George very interesting so what happened to Madoff? So is he doing hard time or a nice easy going prison?
George N Romey Added Jan 10, 2018 - 9:03am
He’s in a Federal jail not hard labor but no cushy cushy. His wife and all other family have cut off contact. He will turn 80 this year.
Thomas if you actually took the time and did research instead of being a typical corporate tool you might know something. For years people on Wall Street knew something wasn’t right. No other firm could generate month after month of positive returns. Several magazines for investors pointed out that Madoff’s returns were mathematically impossible. The SEC had been notified numerous times that his model couldn’t be real. Yet the SEC always sent 20 somethings to investigate that didn’t know the most basic questions to ask.
Several of the feeder funds requested confirmations of trades, standard practice. When Madoff refused they continued to invest with him.
Finally no doubt Madoff was assigned to a high level banker at Chase. As a former banker I can assure you that banker knew Madoff’s accounts. He clearly would have seen client deposits coming in but never a transfer to a trading sweep account. Only transfers to fund the business and cover Madoff’s global trotting activities. The banker had to know Chase was listed as Transfer Agent. 
Madoff was the biggest secret on Wall Street. Writings show He was thought to beveither front running or running a Ponzi Scheme. Notice when he was exposed no one from Wall Street acted like they even knew the guy. Madoff ran with .001% crowd.
Dave Volek Added Jan 10, 2018 - 11:23am
Nice Article George.
I think the best advice is never put all your money with one investing firm. You never know who is a rogue CEO.
Bill Kamps Added Jan 10, 2018 - 12:08pm
It is hard to say what Chase should have known, but yes they probably should have known whether there was a trading account.  Madoff, didnt bother to simulate the trades, and if he didnt bother to have a trading account, then the bank should have seen that.  The question is when people deposited money with the firm, did it just stay in the company account, or was it moved to some account that pretended to be a trading account?
There should have been a ledger of trades, which of course there wasn't.  One or more of Chase, the IRS and the SEC should have noticed that this ledger didnt exist.   One or more of these should have noticed that payments for salaries, commissions, expenses, etc, were not coming from profits, but from principal.  There should have been a list of stock holdings, and these should have equaled the principal contributed by the depositors. 
It is unclear how large was the average account for people.  This is because there  were a great many feeder funds, which collected people's money, and then funneled them to Madoff.  These feeder funds  were paid a commission for the deposit, and therefore didnt care a lot about how legit was the fund. 
However, as I mentioned, none of this is unique.  During the 2000s at least three ponzi schemes were uncovered in Houston alone.  If there were three in Houston, how many were there nationally?  Apparently oversight is very lax, and so they are not difficult to operate.  Madoff's was even easier  because of his reputation and network within Wall St.
People get screwed all the time, whether by  people like Madoff, or entertainers or athletes who trust their relatives and friends to manage their money.  We all have to pay attention to what is happening with our money, and if other people manage it for us, we need to ask the  basic questions to make sure we are not being ripped off.  If the money is  really invested, there will be evidence of the investment, and we should not just take some line of BS that  the statements are not available.
mark henry smith Added Jan 10, 2018 - 2:56pm
There were ledgers. This was not done haphazardly. There were all kinds of paperwork to show how funds had moved from here to there, to there, to there, and in that mountain of paperwork was the secret to keep the fraud going. Who wants to go through all of that? Better for everyone just to sign off and go home happy.
Same with congress and laws, and budgets. These things are like every religious text ever written and make for just as interesting reading. And Yesham begat Locki, who begat, Squalor, who begat Ponzi, ...
Simplicity is the enemy of a good scheme. Just look at those guys trying to scam money out of you on the street. It's never just a dime for a phone call, it's this story, and once they've hooked a sucker, they lay it on more and more thick until you wanna pay just to limit the damage time.
And also, Madoff always had bagels and coffee for the SEC investigators, and they always got an invite to the Christmas party.     
George N Romey Added Jan 10, 2018 - 5:27pm
The ledger all were fake. All accounts were with Chase. The money flowed into Chase. There’s no way in hell a bank officer could have not noticed the money simply flowed in and paid only expenses. But I’m sure that Chase officer got invited to all of the Madoff bashes and love hearing stories about Kings and Queens.
Madoff was an informal adviser to the SEC. It was paramount to a bank hitting Bonnie and Clyde as security directors.
wsucram15 Added Jan 11, 2018 - 1:02am
I remember this and it was one of the things that really made me have problems with Obama, the ties to Wall Street.
Bill Kamps Added Jan 11, 2018 - 9:39am
I may not have been clear.  There may have been ledgers of deposits and withdrawals, there could not have been ledgers of trades that made any sense.  They could not get the returns they were claiming without moving hundreds of millions daily from one group of stocks to another,  which would have been seen in the market and impossible to do.  It is tough to buy $10 million of a single stock in a day.  Big funds cant churn their stocks so quickly.   It would have been pretty easy to see they weren't really trading.  Chase, the IRS and SEC all had reason to look at the trades, and they could not have.
Madoff may have been the worst of the Ponzi schemes, because of the feeder companies, which had fingers world wide.  However, there were lots of Ponzi schemes, the Stanford Group in Houston was a pretty bad one.  They supported numerous charities including the Houston theater company.  If there were four that were caught in Houston alone, how many existed and still exist ?
While oversight obviously failed, we should assume that criminals have a much greater interest in foiling the inspectors, than the inspectors do in catching the criminals.  Especially early on in the scheme.  Therefore the criminals will usually be ahead of the inspectors.   The problem with the Ponzi scheme is that everyone is happy, until the music stops.  So there are no complaints of bad business practices, the money flow keeps everyone happy.  
Dave Volek Added Jan 11, 2018 - 1:49pm
Bill Kamps
Interesting perspective. I would also add that if the regulators step in early--while everyone is singing their merry tune--the regulators' hands are likely to get slapped. Then you have the people claiming too much government interference in private affairs. Or maybe the charges were politically motivated to take down a successful business person.
mark henry smith Added Jan 11, 2018 - 2:39pm
Right on Bill Kamps. That's the beauty of the swindle and the idea of the perp is to get out before the S hits the fan, which Madoff couldn't do because of his familial responsibilities. He preferred to fall on his sword.
I'm sure he's in prison setting up deals with other prisoners and guards, just as we see at the end of The Producers, in fact that was Madoff's model, I think. There's a scene at the beginning of the Madoff story where he doubts he can get away with it, it's just so ridiculous, and then he does. And the terrible thing is that the investors did get money back, when they should have lost everything. Because it only encourages them to invest in another Ponzi scheme. A guaranteed 10% return again. Sounds great.
The horror among so many of the investors was how a nice, Jewish man could take advantage of his fellow Jews. These obviously were not Holocaust survivors, or people who'd read Viktor Frankel's books about his stay in the camps.    
George N Romey Added Jan 11, 2018 - 4:44pm
Madoff apparently his well respected by his homies in prison.
Madoff was a very average student but from an early age craved money and the life. Very early in his work life he was introduced to retail store millionaire later billionaire Carl Shapiro. Shapiro impressed by the then young tenacious man threw some money to Madoff to invest. Madoff quickly doubled the investment. No one was sure if it was legit.
What followed was a near half century father son kind of relationship with Shapiro giving Madoff billions to invest throughout the years. In 2008 at age 95 Shapiro came to find the man who was like a son took him for billions. Madoff represents the psychopath nature of Wall Street.
John Minehan Added Jan 11, 2018 - 6:47pm
"Clean desk policies" are a big help where the FBI or agents from an OIG might show up.
John Minehan Added Jan 11, 2018 - 7:11pm
Couple of thoughts:
---Madoff had a CPA firm in Rockland no one had ever heard of.  
---If they were really making those big returns, why not some high-speed/low-drag tax boutique?  Why no a Big Four (?) outfit that can audit public companies (if just to bring in business? 
John Minehan Added Jan 11, 2018 - 7:27pm
I have always wondered if the SEC didn't think Madoff was laundering money related to the Black Budget . . . .
George N Romey Added Jan 11, 2018 - 7:37pm
Supposedly because a Madoff thought a Big 4 would ask too many questions. Although in the case of Enron Anderson had to no desire to ask questions with such a cash cow.
Thomas Napers Added Jan 12, 2018 - 6:56am
“Chase, the IRS and SEC all had reason to look at the trades, and they could not have.”
Chase had no reason to look at any of Madoff’s trades, because Chase was not acting as a transfer agent for Madoff.  I’m sure the regulators learned a lot about how to detect a scheme like this, but you can be sure the next scammer will think of something that eludes them.  If anything all this financial regulation gives people a false sense of security and trust in our financial system. 
George N Romey Added Jan 12, 2018 - 7:41am
Evidence showed Chase knew they were listed on the Prospectus as Transfer Agent. That should have been reported to the SEC albeit I doubt not much would have come of it.
mark henry smith Added Jan 12, 2018 - 3:33pm
Guys, just think about it, think about the credit default swaps that had a huge part to play in the housing bubble of the 2008's. In the financial services game it's all about leverage, leveraging money now for returns tomorrow, and the smart money is leveraging borrowed money, or other people's money to make a return on top without risk. The whole operation is so shady that a small fry like Madoff, and if you look at the numbers these guys are dealing with, he was small potatoes, it was, ah shucks, let's not worry about this too much.
The terrible part of all of this isn't that people got hurt, lost money, that happens all the time. The terrible part is that people got bailed out on their bad decisions because they had clout and that debt that the government incurred, is still there, still growing, and not one of our current leader's top brass has the balls to talk about it, but if it was a democrat in the white house, you can bet debt would be brought up everyday.
We have to tear this house of cards apart because we have a government, a financial sector, a media who are living inside it and their bulk is the structure that will not let it fall. When it does, as it will, because the self perpetuation of wealth always has limits, it's the American people who will have to pick up the pieces as the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, the Saudis, the people who've been playing us for suckers the whole time, using our stock market as a way to churn returns, even getting our government involved through bond-buying to keep the return on bonds low, buying real estate all over the world, as we turn inward, don't be surprised when they refuse to let us borrow a dime.
Sorry George, I'm in a mood today. Take down Disney.  
George N Romey Added Jan 12, 2018 - 4:07pm
The financial super powers have developed the perfect system. When they lose the taxpayers are forced to bail them out no strings attached. Madoff’s crimes were not much different from the rest of Wall Street. He was dumb enough to admit to his fraud rather than running for cover like Jimmie Cayne, Dick Fuld or Stan O’Neil.
Jeff Michka Added Jan 12, 2018 - 7:17pm
And also, Madoff always had bagels and coffee for the SEC investigators, and they always got an invite to the Christmas party.-Sounds like SEC people fell into the Union trap of being a union agent, and through levering "social relationships" the b'day cards, etc. via management counterparts, made it harder for a union guy to be tough getting contracts.  "Don't want to screw 'a friend,'hardly friends'".

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