Madoff should devote his life to helping prosecutors recoup $170 billion

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New York Judge Denny Chin gave Bernie Madoff a sentence of 150 years in prison. Chin argued that Madoff's crimes were extraordinarily evil and lasted 20 years.

Madoff's statement after listening to some of his victims sounded contrite. It remains to be seen where Madoff will spend the rest of his life. But if he wants to help, he could provide prosecutors what they need to recoup the $170 billion he stole.

Here's what Madoff had to say: "I'm responsible for a great deal of suffering and pain, I understand that. I live in a tormented state now, knowing all of the pain and suffering that I've created. I've left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren."

Madoff's attorney argued that Madoff should get 12 years, but Judge Chin pointed out that no friends, family or other supporters had submitted any letters on Madoff's behalf, attesting to the strength of his character or good deeds he had done. He should spend the rest of his life doing everything he can to pay back his victims. And he'll die in prison.

But if society wants justice, it must change the system so it is impossible for future Ponzi schemers to get off the ground.

Peter Cohan is president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates. He also teaches management at Babson College. His eighth book isYou Can't Order Change: Lessons from Jim McNerney's Turnaround at Boeing.

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