A U.S. judge approved a $7.2 billion settlement on Thursday to pay former customers of the Madoff firm, the largest yet in the worldwide search for money lost in Bernard Madoff's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Burton Lifland in New York made the ruling over the objections of some investors, who contested the deal between the estate of Jeffry Picower, a Madoff friend and investor, and a trustee liquidating the Madoff firm.