Carmen Nobel at the website of Harvard Business School:
One December evening in 2011, while preparing a lesson plan, Harvard Business School professor Eugene Soltes picked up the phone for his weekly conversation with Bernie Madoff.
Soltes, who was doing an in-depth investigation on white-collar crime, had been interviewing Madoff every Wednesday evening for several months. Madoff, a renowned stockbroker turned fraudster, conducted the phone calls from FCI Butner, a medium-security federal correctional institution in North Carolina. At the time, he was serving the third year of a 150-year prison sentence for orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
Madoff’s phone-time allowance was limited, and he saved much of it for his conversations with Soltes. They conversed in 15-minute chunks, the maximum amount of uninterrupted call time that the prison would allow.
The professor and the felon shared a genuine, geeky interest in financial economics. Sometimes they discussed the early days of Madoff’s career, which began in 1960. Other times they chatted about new books, academic journal articles, or recent events in the news. But that evening Soltes led the conversation with a specific question: How would you explain your actions and misconduct to a group of students?