I have to admit, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Michael Milken.. He did deserve the jail time he got, he was breaking securities laws in an attempt to hide his holdings and influence. But in the scope of Wall Street characters or scoundrels, whichever you prefer, he was also an innovator that helped change and yes improve our financial markets.
Milken, for all practical purposes, found a new way to slice and dice the risk pie with corporate bonds – he was the inventor of high yield bonds for companies that couldn’t secure traditional bond financing. Yes, many really were “junk” bonds. But many companies that had been locked out of the credit markets were now able to participate, and many of those companies used the funding to grow their operations and provide a return to their shareholders and bond holders. And its also worth noting that he devoted his after prison life to promoting math skills, surely one of the most important skills for every student in our modern world.
One of the great things about being a person of faith is believing in forgiveness and redemption. Michael Milken paid his debt to society, and threw himself into more, into giving back. This doesn’t change that he committed crimes many years ago. But I’m happy that he has been pardoned and will have a chance to more fully participate in our society and political system. Now if we can only extend the same forgiveness to the many millions of people who’s only crime was to be caught with marijuana.