THE BALFOUR SCANDAL
Jabez Spencer Balfour was one of Britain’s earliest self-made millionaire businessmen. His fortune was derived from a complicated, inter-connected group of property companies that operated a large-scale, long-running Ponzi scheme. In November 1892, in the post-Baring Crisis downturn, the Liberator Building Society, Balfour’s principal property vehicle, failed leaving thousands of small savers penniless. Balfour went on the run, but was eventually apprehended in Argentina. Convicted of fraud in November 1895, he was sentenced to 14 years penal servitude. Upon release from prison in 1906, his memoirs were serialised in the press.
Adapted from: Roberts, Richard: The Financial Times: Scandals and Debacles. Visit our Contextual Essays section for the full essay).