Twenty-three years after former Drexel Burnham Lambert executive Michael Milken finished a 22-month minimum-security prison sentence, one fund manager is lobbying President Donald Trump to pardon his past convictions, arguing that Milken’s prosecution was an example of anti-banker hysteria run amok.
Wealth-management executive David Bahnsen told Bloomberg that he sent a plea to Trump asking that he pardon Milken, an innovator who is widely lauded in the financial world for helping to popularize junk bonds among a broader set of investors during the 1980s. Bizarrely, Bahnsen says he’s never met the man. Milken pleaded guilty to securities fraud charges in 1992, and was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison, though he only served 22 months.
Bahnsen said a pardon would send an important message to prosecutors trying to burnish their reputations by going after white-collar criminals.
“Bahnsen, a managing director at Morgan Stanley before he started his own wealth-management group in 2015, told Trump in a letter that Milken’s prosecution was a result of “a period of class envy run amok.” Bahnsen, a Republican donor, said in an email he’s never met Milken.
Bahnsen, whose Bahnsen Group oversees more than $1 billion, told Trump the pardon would signal a stop to “headline-seeking, human-damaging corporate prosecutions, devoid of due process.” The banker said he sent an earlier version of the request and revised it after Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week.”
Milken, 71, is now a philanthropist and namesake of the Milken conference. While he was investigated by the SEC in 2013 for allegedly violating his lifetime ban from the securities industry, the matter was eventually dropped. Milken has not asked that he be pardoned.
Seeing that Milken himself hasn’t asked for a pardon – and the public is still widely resentful of Wall Street executives for evading prosecution after the financial crisis – it’s unlikely that the request will be seriously considered.
Trump proved his mastery of the f**k you pardon by granting clemency to sheriff Joe Arpaio, a man who – apart from being a longtime friend and campaign-trail ally – is popular with a certain segment of Trump’s base. But we doubt he would do it again to appease a much, much smaller crowd of supporters, with whom he has a shaky alliance, at best.