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Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff

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Print Email Font ResizeEditorial: Strengthen SEC to deter the next Bernie MadoffMercury News EditorialPosted: 06/29/2009 08:00:00 PM PDTUpdated: 06/29/2009 09:36:06 PM PDTWith a 150-year prison sentence on Monday, Bernard Madoff got what he had coming to him — and certainly more than enough to guarantee that the 71-year-old master swindler will die in prison, not in the Hamptons.


District Judge Denny Chin said the maximum penalty for Madoff's financial crimes, which he called "evil" and "staggering," was intended to send a message.

But a stiff sentence, while satisfying, is no substitute for vigilant regulators as a deterrence to the Ponzi schemes that Madoff created.

Strengthening the Securities and Exchange Commission — replacing its leadership and increasing funding — must be a priority for Congress and President Barack Obama as they look to purge fraud and rein in excess that threatened the nation's financial system.Madoff was an example of a big shot who appeared too big to investigate.

The SEC passed on serious investigations of Madoff despite what the agency's inspector general acknowledges were serious and credible allegations, over several years, of trouble.

The SEC should have been suspicious of the unbroken 10 percent-plus annual returns that Madoff guaranteed, even in hard times, and of the tiny, unknown auditing firm that Madoff, who reported $17 billion in assets, employed.

The federal government estimates that Madoff's pyramid fraud, in which he paid off earlier investors with newer investors' money, totaled $65 billion, although it will take years to sort Advertisementit all out.

So far only he and his accountant face criminal charges, although others, including executives at brokerage firms he favored, may have been in on the game.

What's clear is that he duped not only venerable banks, universities, union pension funds and the rich and famous, but also hundreds of small-time investors.

For those who lost their homes, their life's savings and their security, Madoff's life sentence is cold comfort.Print Email Font ResizeReturn to Top
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