Michael Milken, once considered Wall Street’s "junk bond king," reportedly could return to Wall Street in the wake of President Donald Trump’s pardon.
Trump on Tuesday pardoned Milken, along with six others, and commuted the sentences of another three people.
Milken was indicted in 1989 in an insider trading probe. during the finance boom of the 1980s, that he made tons of money on junk bonds and leveraged finance deals at the now-defunct Drexel Burnham Lambert. After pleading guilty to securities violations, he paid $1.1 billion and served about two years in prison, Reuters explained.
Columbia University Law School professor John Coffee said the Trump pardon opens the door for Milken to do everything from managing other people’s money to running a securities firm like Drexel, Charles Gasparino and Lydia Moynihan wrote for Fox Business Network.com.
Milken, Coffee said, would have to start by reapplying for his brokerage license. "Before the pardon, Milken’s criminal record disqualified him from even applying because he’s a felon. With the pardon, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission can no longer automatically disqualify him," Fox Business Network explained. However, they could ultimately block his application under the so-called “bad actor” rules, Coffee told Fox Business Network.
“There are still obstacles but they aren’t insurmountable,” Coffee tells Fox Business Network, adding that the current SEC chairman, Jay Clayton, would face a difficult decision if Milken were to reapply since his nominal boss, the president, has basically said Milken is no longer a criminal and should not be considered a felon in the eyes of the government.
If Milken does reapply for his license, Coffee said, “SEC Chair Mr. Clayton is going to be sweating a little bit over this.”
Since his prison release, Milken has headed the non-profit Milken Institute, focusing on a wide span of research, including curing cancer, public health, aging, California and financial markets. Each year the titans of finance flock to the Milken Institute Global Conference, where fund managers and marketers woo prospective investors and philanthropies make pitches for funding.
For his part, Milken doesn't seem to be planning to return to Wall Street anytime soon.
“Several media have asked if Mike has any plans to return to the securities industry,” a spokesman said in a statement. “Today, that is the farthest thing from his mind. He’s fully dedicated to continuing his lifelong crusade to cure cancer and other life-threatening disease,” Fox Business Network quoted the Milken statement as saying.
Milken’s pardon was accompanied by a statement praising his “innovative work” in high-yield debt as well as a long list of people the White House said had provided “longstanding support” for the pardon, Bloomberg reported.
It proved a veritable Who’s Who of private equity, hedge fund, real estate and media titans.
Here are the biggest names:
- Sheldon Adelson: a major Republican donor and Trump supporter, Adelson is the chief executive officer of casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. His wife Miriam also backed the pardon.
- David Bahnsen: a former Morgan Stanley managing director and wealth management executive who wrote Trump in 2017 urging him to pardon Milken, calling the junk-bond king’s prosecution a result of “a period of class envy run amok.”
- Tom Barrack: the chief executive officer and chairman of Colony Capital Inc., Barrack is long-time Trump ally. He faced a call from an investor in November to step down in part over distractions from investigations into his political and personal activities.
- Rupert Murdoch: a powerful media mogul and longtime Trump ally who put the power of News Corp. behind the president.
- Maria Bartiromo: a popular anchor on Fox Business, Bartiromo has interviewed Milken as recently as 2018 (and has also interviewed Trump). The network is part of Murdoch’s media empire.
- Ron Burkle: a billionaire investor who controls Yucaipa Cos., Burkle made his fortune in the grocery-store industry. Burkle, a Democratic fund-raiser famous for his friendship with Bill Clinton, made news last year when he was rumored to be interested in acquiring the Trump-friendly National Enquirer.
- Elaine Chao: the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Chao was a key speaker at the Milken Global Conference last year, where she spoke about the future of mobility as well as women in government. She’s married to Republican Senate Majority Leader and top Trump ally Mitch McConnell.
- Rudy Giuliani: Trump’s personal lawyer, the former New York mayor has lately been embroiled in the Ukraine scandal. As chief federal prosecutor in New York in the 1980s, Giuliani sought to prosecute Milken.
- Rabbi Marvin Hier: dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Hier was invited by Trump to speak at his inauguration. The rabbi in 2018 called on Trump to fight extremism in the U.S. after a shooting at a synagogue.
- Ray Irani: chairman and chief executive officer of Ray Investments Ltd. and former CEO of Occidental Petroleum, Irani stepped down as a board member at Wynn Resorts Ltd. following a sexual harassment scandal involving company founder Steve Wynn.
- Robert Kraft: owner of the New England Patriots and a longtime Trump supporter.
- Richard LeFrak: a billionaire developer and Republican donor, LeFrak appeared in a 2010 episode of Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
- Randy Levine: the president of the New York Yankees and a longtime supporter of Republican politicians, including Trump.
- Kevin McCarthy: a Republican congressman from California, McCarthy is the House Minority Leader and a longtime Trump supporter.
- Larry Mizel: chairman and CEO of home-builder MDC Holdings Inc.
- Arte Moreno: owner of the Anaheim Angels, which he purchased from The Walt Disney Co. in 2003
- Sean Parker: Napster co-creator and Facebook Inc. billionaire who has attended the annual Milken Institute Global Conference.
- John Paulson: founder and owner of Paulson & Co., a New York-based investment adviser that manages about $9 billion, Paulson is best-known for making $15 billion in 2007 on a bet against mortgage bonds.
- Nelson Peltz: founder and chief executive officer of Trian Fund Management LP, Peltz is well-known as an activist investor in companies like Wendy’s and Dupont.
- Steven Roth: chairman and chief executive officer of Vornado Realty Trust, a REIT that holds more than 22 million square feet in commercial property, mainly in New York.
- David Rubenstein: co-chairman and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm with $222 billion in assets under management, Rubenstein hosts a talk show called The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations which appears on Bloomberg TV. Rubenstein issued a statement Tuesday praising Milken’s philanthropy, especially his support for prostate cancer research. “These efforts have surely saved many lives and are a testament to what rehabilitation is all about,” Rubenstein said. “This pardon is well deserved and I am proud to support it.”
- Larry Ruvo: senior managing director of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, the state’s largest liquor wholesaler.
- Marc Stern: the chairman of TCW Group Inc. hosted a $10,000 per person fund-raiser for Trump at his Malibu home in 2018 attended by Vice President Mike Pence.
- Steven Tananbaum: the founder and chief investment officer of GoldenTree Asset Management LP, one of Wall Street’s biggest investors in distressed debt.
- Ted Virtue: the chief executive officer of MidOcean Partners, the middle-market private equity and credit firm, who previously oversaw Deutsche Bank AG’s $35 billion direct investment portfolio.
- Andrew von Eschenbach: a U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief under President George W. Bush, he now serves on the board of Bausch Health Cos.
- Mark Weinberger: the chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young LLP, Weinberger quit Trump’s business council after the Charlottesville white supremacists rally but later dined with the president.
Material from Bloomberg and Reuters has been used in this report.
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