The expected plea ends a half-century career that saw him rise to Nasdaq chairman and one of Wall Street's elite, and could result in a maximum prison term of 150 years.
Madoff, 70, also faces the prospect of coming face to face for the first time since his December arrest with some of the thousands of investors whose accounts prosecutors say he oversaw since at least the 1980s.
A plea would mark the first time Madoff has spoken publicly about the scheme. The judge must hear him describe his crimes in his own words to accept it.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said that, assuming Madoff goes forward with plans for a guilty plea, he will give investors a chance to challenge his conclusion whether to accept a guilty plea to securities fraud and perjury, among other charges. He also will let burned investors challenge his decision whether Madoff should be allowed to await sentencing in his $7 million Manhattan penthouse or immediately go to prison.