Bernie Cornfield – The Enigma of the Swiss Investors Overseas Business
The late actor Bernie Cornfield built an empire overseas that was headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The actor, who was born in Turkey, spent his early years living in Brooklyn, then emigrated to the United States in 1930. Born to a wealthy Russian Jewish family, she worked at a foreign freight-forwarding office and later became a nurse. While in his early years, he was the editor of Time magazine, where he honed his writing skills.
In 1973, a group of 300 IOS employees complained to the Swiss authorities, who subsequently charged Cornfeld with fraud. Eventually, he spent 11 months in jail before being acquitted. Cornfeld had previously complained of being a victim of Swiss justice and has consistently maintained his innocence. A Swiss court ordered him to post a $1.7 million bail bond, but he was unable to do so without the help of friends and family. In 1975, he was charged with a telephone fraud charge and sentenced to 90 days in jail.
The alleged embezzlement scandal of the 1970s led to the collapse of Cornfeld’s multi-billion-dollar investment company, Investors Overseas Services. More than two50,000 investors lost their money when the company went belly-up, resulting in a $120 billion loss. Despite his illustrious career, he lost his fortune on bad investments. In December of 2018, he suffered a stroke in Israel and died at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. He had surrounded himself with beautiful young women, including Heidi Fleiss. He spent his fluctuating fortunes on a 40-room Beverly Hills mansion and jetted between his homes.
Although his early investments were risky, Cornfeld and Cowett grew their firm rapidly. He whipped off 20 per cent of investors’ money while paying salespeople only eight per cent. By the middle of the Sixties, the IOS group had grown to be one of the world’s largest financial organizations. During this period, over 100 salesman had become millionaires, a testament to his success. By 1975, the company had managed $15bn in assets and profits and Cornfeld’s personal fortune had topped $100 million.
Despite the ill-fated investments, Cornfeld remained an enigma in the world of finance. His Investors Overseas Services (IOS) controlled billions of dollars in investors’ money, and was ultimately responsible for the 1970 financial crash. In the wake of this, he left the country with $200 million and a string of celebrity girlfriends. A former IOS executive has spoken on the controversy surrounding Cornfeld.
A ’70s crash: How to Survive It