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Chinese wall

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 14, 2009 at 13:52

In Reply to: Chinese wall posted by ESC on March 13, 2009 at 15:42:

: CHINESE WALL - "During his words of penance to the court, (Bernard) Madoff was at pains to emphasise that while his investment advisory outfit was a fraudulent hole, his company's proprietary trading and market-making operations were 'legitimately and honestly run businesses'. His sons, Andrew and Mark, were senior executives on this 'honest' side of the Chinese wall. Madoff's 63-year-old brother, Peter, was in charge of trading." From "Mystery of Madoff's rapid confession - Legal experts were flummoxed by the fraudster's willingness to admit every criminal charge laid before him, but was he trying to protect others who may have been implicated?" Andrew Clark in New York,, Friday 13 March 2009

I'm assuming that your post, ESC, is to inform us about an unusual and interesting metaphorical use of Chinese wall. And that it is. Please allow me to paraphrase here. The Madoff outfit put a complete block or barrier, a "Chinese wall," between one side of the business and the other, with the result that the one side could not be accused of participating in the fraud of the other.

Most uses of Chinese wall refer to physical structures. In Philadephis in the 1950s there was a "Chinese wall," often referred to as such, in which the central area was bisected by a nearly impenetrable raised ramp for trains headed toward the main train station.

The fact that the real Chinese wall has been penetrated many times, most importantly by Kublai Khan and his brothers (grandsons of Genghis Khan), does not seem to interfere with the use of "Chinese wall" as a symbol of impenetrability.