Last Updated on February 10, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1067
On the final day before the Ponzi scheme falls apart, Alkaitis and his office staff gather. The five employees in the asset management department, Alkaitis, and Alkaitis’s personal assistant all attend a meeting during which they discuss the imminent reality of the scheme’s collapse: The company has started losing investors due to the economic downturn of 2008, and they can no longer cover the losses accrued by their fraudulent practices. Alkaitis’s daughter, Claire, has discovered the ruse and intends to report the company to the FBI. Alkaitis states that all of the employees are aware of what they have done, which is true in all but two cases: Simone, Alkaitis’s assistant, was genuinely unaware, and Ron, one of the asset managers, is described as exceptionally unintelligent.
Alkaitis asks Simone to help him buy paper shredders, and he instructs her to begin shredding incriminating files relating to Alkaitis’s premier investor: Lenny Xavier. This task will make Simone a key witness for the ensuing prosecution, as she witnesses masses of incriminating evidence.
In order to maintain appearances, all of the staff attend the office Christmas party, except for Enrico, who boards a plane to Mexico. Vincent, who has recently been made aware of the scheme, also attends, but she and Alkaitis leave early. Oskar follows her after she rebukes Alkaitis, and the two have sex after commiserating over how miserable their respective days have been. Meanwhile, Joelle and Harvey return to the office to continue shredding documents.
The complicit office staff reflect on their roles in the scheme and decide on various courses of action. Oskar Novak begins researching countries that do not have extradition treaties with the United States, but he ultimately does not flee. Enrico does flee, traveling to Mexico and assuming his deceased cousin’s identity. Joelle convinces herself that everything will work out alright. Harvey Alexander finds the prospect of complete honesty liberating, and he writes out a detailed confession and also secretly preserves some of the most incriminating files while helping with the shredding operation.
Alkaitis is arrested early the next morning.
In the aftermath of Alkaitis’s arrest, there is pandemonium. Angry investors descend upon the office building, demanding answers. They have all been financially ruined by Alkaitis, and their fury is palpable. The remaining employees resign themselves to their fates, and they are arrested one by one. Harvey excitedly hands over his written confession; Joelle skips her final day of work and takes her anxious and confused children on a whirlwind tour of the city; Oskar remains in denial up until he is cuffed a few blocks outside of the building.
Olivia and Leon both learn that their money is gone. Olivia is stricken, and she tries to talk to anyone she knows at the company, only to realize that it is fruitless. Leon is attending a convention in Las Vegas at the time, and he is devastated when his accountant calls him with the news. He attempts to console his wife as they come to understand just how bad their circumstances are about to become.
Simone escorts Claire Alkaitis out of the building. Claire herself was not involved with the fraud, and her division was actually completely legally run, but by virtue of being Alkaitis’s daughter, her reputation is ruined. She remarks that Simone is relatively lucky. Aside from being temporarily unemployed, Simone’s career should not suffer, and she will someday have an entertaining story to tell at cocktail parties.
The night of the arrest, Ella Kaspersky is invited onto the news as a commentator. Joelle bitterly remarks that Ella must be...
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enjoying herself, having been right about Alkaitis all along.
Olivia watches as Alkaitis’s trial plays out over the next few months. On the day of the verdict, he is sentenced to 170 years in prison. However, Olivia derives no joy or peace from the news and instead leaves the trial feeling listless and invisible. She fades into the city and spends the remainder of her life living in her sister’s guest room.
These chapters finally divulge the full details of Alkaitis’s crimes, as told through the eyes of his coconspirators. The varied reactions of his colleagues to the news that the Ponzi scheme has been discovered exemplify the different ways that people react to impending disaster. Enrico represents the flight response, as he immediately leaves the country to avoid facing justice. Joelle represents denial, as she works to convince herself that everything will work out somehow. Oskar represents the way that inner turmoil can result in inaction. He seriously considers leaving like Enrica but is rendered ineffectual by a combination of guilt and doubt. Harvey represents the freedom that can be found through confession and honesty. Once he commits to cooperating with the investigation, he gleefully begins collecting evidence and recording his confession, surrendering completely to his fate.
Olivia and Leon’s experiences represent the human cost of greed and economic predation. Most of Alkaitis’s investors are wealthy people and corporations, but people like Leon, Olivia, and the unnamed dentist from the trial are not rich. Instead, they have worked their whole lives in order to accrue the money they need for a comfortable retirement, and Alkaitis has stripped them of any security they may have had in their futures. It is worth noting that the one client Alkaitis endeavored to protect was not a disadvantaged individual or a charity, but rather Lenny Xavier, the wealthy, sleazy music producer who knew he was investing in a Ponzi scheme from the start.
Among the office staff, Oskar emerges as an especially intriguing figure due to his intense inner conflict. He asserts that it is possible to both “know and not know” something at the same time, and this is a theme throughout the work. It is certainly true that all of the asset managers—with the exception of Ron—knew what they were involved in, but their reactions upon being confronted by the investors are telling: They may have known what they were doing from a technical standpoint, but the human cost of those actions was not something they had ever really conceptualized. When Oskar sees Olivia’s signature on the painting of Lucas in the pied-à-terre, he bursts into tears, finally recognizing that his actions have directly contributed to the imminent ruin of an old woman.