Who is Ponzi ?

Or: The Remarkable Similarities of Ponzi & Fiske

Charles Ponzi, from whence the name Ponzi Scheme arises, was a clever Italian immigrant who lived in Boston about one hundred years ago. Our local version, Ponzi Fiske, shares some rather remarkable similarities.

In Mitchell Zuckoff’s book “Ponzi’s Scheme” it turns out that there is another particular subtlety to the classic Ponzi scheme: not just anyone can pull it off. Doing so requires cleverness, charm and charisma. That all these the original Ponzi had a-plenty is clear from Mitchell Zuckoff’s entertaining portrait of the dapper rogue.

But get this: the original Ponzi was able to persuade 30,000 people, Bostonians and others, many of them Italian immigrants like Ponzi himself, to entrust him with their hard-earned pre-inflationary dollars. Ponzi’s investors, it turned out, were not only the dreamers. So too, was Ponzi himself. Never did he think he was doing anything wrong. Always he thought he would find a way out of his fix, a way to make everyone whole: taking over a bank, buying into a macaroni company, turning much of the American freight and passenger fleet from World War I into his very own steamship line.

With all of its pejorative connotations, the term “Ponzi Scheme” may actually be a bit unfair to Charles Ponzi, conjuring up someone who is more mendacious and greedy than the real Charles Ponzi actually was.

It remains a mystery, similar to ours.

Having lived in Humboldt County for so short a time, little is really known about our Ponzi, Fiske.

It is difficult to say if the pejorative connotation is relevant, but the Coop does have 30,000 members who entrusted him with their hard earned money.

In a belated attempt at damage control Fiske has tuned up his autobiographical blurb on the Coop website. He even names the various cities he has lived in, so that zealous journalists don’t confuse him with another real businessman/entrepreneur of the same name or physiognomy.

But !
One thing our Ponzi Fiske did not mention in his self portrait was all the businesses he worked for.

This is probably because the last time he tried that on his LinkedIn post, someone checked his claims and received a written answer that the real Colin Fiske, our little boy in the wheelhouse, was only ever an unpaid volunteer. Pleasant. Clever. Charming. Even charismatic.

Just like the original….

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