Often they are called "investors." I call them marks, johns, goobers, shitbirds, chumps, suckers - you know, the customers. What did Bernie Madoff call them?
This is a bad time to bring this up. Lots of good people are hurting this holiday season. And I've been fairly sympathetic to the pressure during decades of increasing income polarization on middle-class dupes not to fall behind when everyone else was making 10% a year, including the dope next door. Your salary had plateaued, the job wasn't rock solid, the kids needed college, mama needed a new pair of shoes. Unearned income could make life quite a bit better. But many of these guys gave up the only thing the middle-class ever had going for it: skeptical and independent thinking.
Madoff preyed on his inside networks. He told them how hard it was to get in, how exclusive he was, what a tight little elite club his was. The 19th hole wannabes lapped it up. Then he told them it was all proprietary. Secret shit. 10% year after year pumped out by his black box stuff. They loved it even more.
They loved that they didn't get it. They loved that they didn't understand. They didn't really care about the inequality boom or growing poverty or declining manufacturing or 40 million without health insurance - at least not enough to think about what they were doing.
This is the core religious impulse that keeps the world the dogwatch of tyrants and con men that we sometimes and correctly feel it to be. So we have this chaotic undemocratic sidestepping of progress that the marks and suckers insure that it is.
There's lots more to say about things like the failure of the Securities and Exchange Commission. There's more to say. But it starts with the dolts that make it all possible: the middle-class wannabes without the guts to think for themselves.