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'Giant mess': How an OSU alumnus helped victims of Madoff Ponzi scheme

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Rick Antle, a 1976 OSU alumnus, helped victims of the biggest Ponzi scheme in human history.

Oklahoma State alumnus Rick Antle felt a call to action that day.

When he heard about the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, the largest form of investment fraud in human history, he knew he had to help.

“I didn’t have any idea at that point how I could or whether I could, but it was something that I would like to have been involved in,” Antle said. “For a lot of reasons, but not the least of which is just to learn about these types of schemes and how they work and how do you try to compensate the losers and what that’s all about.”

Antle, who graduated from OSU in 1976 and is currently a finance professor at Yale University, was a trustee of two liquidating trusts of Madoff feeder funds. Put simply, he assisted in redistributing a portion of the lost funds in the scandal.

“My piece was very small,” Antle said humbly. “Like $200-400 million. That’s very small relative to (the $64.8 billion lost). It was just a giant mess.”

Antle, operating under a limited liability company, was tasked with contacting the “net winners” in the scheme and demanding they give money back since it was not technically theirs. The net winners were those who took out more than they put into the fraudulent investment.

But how did an accountant from a small town end up assisting in a case of this magnitude? Antle said his connections helped tremendously.

“I worked with an attorney that (represented) somebody that lost money to Madoff. (He) came to him and asked him who he could sue. I already worked with that attorney,” Antle said. “When it got to the point where they needed a trustee to do the liquidation, I got the job that way.”

Madoff’s Ponzi scheme still resonates with Antle today. It’s one of the first things that he’ll teach his classes at Yale and he’s blown away with how long it was able to go on.

The main question that sticks out to him though is how Madoff, who died Wednesday morning, was able to morally do this to so many victims.

“(Madoff) did this and was apparently unphased,” Antle said. “You just wonder if there’s a hole in the person's soul to be able to do that.”

While this was a difficult situation to handle, Antle was thankful toward his professors at OSU for preparing him for this moment.

“I just had a lot of great professors I think,” Antle said. “They were really bright, really hard working people… I think it was the quality and the rigor that you always had to do homework if you were in accounting.”

Because he went to OSU in the 1970s, Antle made sure to point out that he is not the former OSU football player with the same name.

“When people think ‘Rick Antle,’ they think of the football player. I’m not the football player,” he said. “He’s my cousin's son, I think. I don’t think I’ve ever actually met him.”