Madoff Gets 150 Years; Wife Gets $2.5 Million; Conspirators?

Last Updated Jun 29, 2009 12:25 PM EDT

Bernie Madoff's plea for leniency fell on deaf ears today, as a federal judge sentenced him to 150 years in prison. Madoff had contended that he was really a nice guy who took a few wrong turns because he just wanted to live up to the unreasonable expectations of his investors. But, hundreds of investors papered the court with stories of how their lives had been shattered. The judge, citing the "massive" breach of trust, said the scope of the crime demanded the maximum sentence, which will ensure that he spends the rest of his life in prison.

As he licks his wounds, he might consider that things could be worse. Reports out of Europe chronicle the tale of a financial advisor who was kidnapped and beaten by disgruntled senior citizens, who lost some $4 million. The geriatric kidnappers bound financial advisor James Amburn with masking tape, threw him in the trunk of their car and whisked him off to the basement of their waterfront home to beat the arrogance out of him. Naturally, this isn't something you'd recommend in a civilized world, but in an era where millions of investors have been swindled, comments on the story appear to favor the pensioners/kidnappers.

Meanwhile, Madoff's wife Ruth has just agreed to give up her minks and $2 million worth of jewelry, not to mention the beach house, the boat and some $60 million in pilfered assets, leaving her to live on a paltry $2.5 million. (How will she survive?) The coverage in today's Wall Street Journal contrasts what happens to Ruth versus what's happened to Madoff's victims. It's definitely worth a read.

Now it's time to turn our attention to the half dozen individuals and companies that fueled the Madoff Ponzi machinery with new investors. Were they in on the scam or innocent victims as they contend? If they were innocent, they were certainly paid lavishly for blithely leading their minions into the clutches of a crook. Should they be prosecuted? Should their assets be seized? Even if they were criminally stupid rather than criminal, shouldn't they bear some responsibility? What do you think?