LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – President Donald Trump Tuesday pardoned Los Angeles billionaire businessman and philanthropist Michael Milken, who served two years in prison in the early 1990s for insider trading and then went on to found the nonprofit Santa Monica-based Milken Institute.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning in Washington D.C. — just prior to boarding Air Force One for a four-day fundraising swing through Southern California — Mr. Trump said that the 73-year-old Milken “suffered greatly.”
“We have Mike Milken, who’s gone around and done an incredible job for the world, with all of his research on cancer, and he’s done this and he suffered greatly,” Mr. Trump said. “He paid a big price; paid a very tough price. But he’s done an incredible job.”
Milken was one of 11 people who were granted pardons Tuesday, among them former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr.
Milken rose to prominence in the 1980s for his work in the high-yield bond market at the Wall Street bank Drexel Burnham Lambert. He was indicted in 1989 on insider-trading allegations, but ultimately pleaded guilty to various securities violations. He was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison, but his sentence was later reduced to just under two years.
In a statement Tuesday, the White House wrote, in part:
“Mr. Milken was charged in an indictment alleging that some of his innovative financing mechanisms were in fact criminal schemes. The charges filed against Mr. Milken were truly novel. In fact, one of the lead prosecutors later admitted that Mr. Milken had been charged with numerous technical offenses and regulatory violations that had never before been charged as crimes. Though he initially vowed to fight the charges, Mr. Milken ultimately pled guilty in exchange for prosecutors dropping criminal charges against his younger brother. As a result, Mr. Milken served 2 years in prison in the early 1990s. Since his release, Mr. Milken has dedicated his life to philanthropy, continuing charitable work that he began before his indictment. Over the years, Mr. Milken—either personally or through foundations he created—has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in critical funding to medical research, education, and disadvantaged children. Mr. Milken’s philanthropy has been particularly influential in the fight against prostate cancer and has been credited with saving many lives.”
One of the prosecutors on Milken’s case was Rudy Giuliani, now Trump’s personal attorney.
Since his release from prison, Milken has been a major donor to medical research causes through his founding of the Milken Family Foundation. He also founded the Milken Institute economic think tank, which has offices in Santa Monica, New York, Singapore and Washington, D.C.
Milken himself issued the following statement in response to the news:
“Lori and I, who recently celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary, along with our children and grandchildren, are very grateful to the President. We look forward to many more years of pursuing our efforts in medical research, education and public health.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)