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Former hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam leaves court after he was convicted on all counts of fraud and conspiracy in Wall Street's biggest insider trading trial for years, in New York, on May 11, 2011. - 

Steve Chiotakis: Today in New York, Raj Rajaratnam will be
sentenced to prison, in one of the biggest insider trading scandals in history. Rajaratnam is the former head of Galleon funds.

Marketplace New York bureau chief Heidi Moore reports, today's sentence could send a stern message.

Heidi Moore: Until recently, the government used to catch only small fish in insider-trading scandals. The perpetrators would give the money back -- usually chump change -- hey do some time, and they weren't much of a deterrent to anyone else.

With Raj Rajaratnam, the government caught a big fish. And with such a major conviction, they want a major sentence -- more than 20 years.

John Coffee is a professor at Columbia Law School. He said the absolute record for insider trading is 15 years.

John Coffee: This is probably the most professional insider trader in history, and that argues for a severe sentence that reflects the total financial damage and the degree to which he regularly corrupted high-ranking officials at a variety of important corporations.

Rajaratnam's lawyers says he can't serve much time because of his medical problems. But Ted Sonde, a partner with law firm Patton Boggs, says that argument probably won't work.

Ted Sonde: Sometimes when someone is suffering from a terminal illness, it really makes a difference, but generally it's not a big factor in the sentencing.

Sonde told me Rajaratnam's fate has already been a deterrent to Wall Street investors. Rajaratnam was convicted because of wiretaps on his phone. Now investors watch what they say, and to whom.

Sonde: One of the things I tell people is don't write stupid emails, don't joke, because jokes are never funny when they're read in a government context.

Sonde says when he advises clients, he uses Rajaratnam as a cautionary tale. Not too many need persuading after that.

In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

Follow Heidi N. Moore at @moorehn