- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1st edition (August 1, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0688109373
- ISBN-13: 978-0688109370
- Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 6.6 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,433,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Highly Confident: The Crime and Punishment of Michael Milken Hardcover – August 1, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Milken, the junk-bond king who is now in prison for masterminding a securities fraud and embezzlement scheme, is not an arch-villain, asserts Kornbluth, but a myopic, tragic figure whose "mass disconnection from reality" blinded him to such mundane considerations as whether he was breaking any laws. The villain of this taut, riveting account of Wall Street's biggest scandal, which reads like a thriller, is arbitrageur Ivan Boesky, who is portrayed as an amoral liar who seduced Milken into illegal activities. Kornbluth, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair , interviewed Milken, his lawyers and his associates at length to produce a stunning tale of greed and self-deception packed with revelations and reconstructed conversations. He tells how Milken and his cronies at the Drexel Burnham Lambert investment firm hired several detective agencies (including a squad of ex-Mossad agents) to find out whether Boesky had socked away tens of millions of dollars in Swiss banks. He re-creates the turf war between the prosecutor in the case, ambitious U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, and Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Richard Breeden. He reveals that then-U.S. Attorney Gen. Dick Thornburgh overruled a possible settlement deal between Milken and the U.S. Attorney's office. He adds fresh details on the wheeling and dealing of T. Boone Pickens, Carl Icahn, Saul Steinberg, Steve Wynn and other high rollers. With rare insight, Kornbluth penetrates Milken's guru-like, deliberately ambiguous persona. A mad hunger for accumulation drove this Los Angeles-born middle-class Jewish prodigy, son of a rigid accountant, emotionally scarred by polio, to become a "high-performance machine," described by one colleague as "a borderline schizophrenic who reintegrates reality in a way that best suits him." Obsessed with remaining obscure, Milken, ironically, became the most notorious man in the securities industry. And Salomon Brothers, "the firm that wished Milken vaporized," is now the biggest buyer of junk bonds and an adviser to the government agency that sells the junk of seized S&Ls--a cushy arrangement that Washington would never have allowed Drexel to enjoy. Photos. First serial to Vanity Fair; author tour. (Aug.) .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Publisher
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He notes that after Milken was named head of bond research at Drexel, "Thus began a streak that is the envy of those who know how hard it is to win consistently---in seventeen years of trading, Michael Milken would have just three losing months." (Pg. 43) Kornbluth admits, "For a man who opposed financing hostile takeovers after 1985---and who begged the firm to stop doing them after [Ivan]Boesky's plea---Milken was shockingly passive about turning his views into corporate policy. Although Drexel bankers have confirmed that Milken complained hostile takeovers were 'taking years off my life,' he never refused to work on them and never memorialized his misgivings. For someone who says he opposed hostile takeovers, the evidence is voluminous: For the next four years, Michael Milken sold every deal he was asked to sell." (Pg. 58-59)
He observes, "it's completely in character that while the sky was falling, Michael Milken could conduct business as usual in the fall of 1986. For him, there were more compelling problems than Ivan Boesky to ponder---how to solve the third world debt crisis, when to start a fund to invest in businesses in Mexico, what to do to help the Russians in their painful strides toward capitalism. He had broken free of temporal concerns, he was standing at the top of the world and looking into the future, he was contemplating vast acts of global transformation." (Pg. 91)
He suggests, "Now the very journalists he scorned would hold his years of silence against him. They'd shred his privacy, critique his business practices... By temperament, he was never going to welcome reporters into his life. And thanks to the unwritten rules of criminal law, he couldn't now even if he wanted to---no respectable criminal lawyer would advise a client to talk about his case to the press. He was the safest of targets, a potential defendant whom no one knew and who couldn't speak up and defend himself." (Pg. 121)
He asserts, "In hindsight, it didn't seem pertinent that Milken was willing to take a financial risk here---or that he had, in his view, committed more of his own money to the deal than KKR had. What stood out was how much he made, and that it looked like a sure thing, and that fund managers who did business with Drexel were now indebted to him... it looked indisputably sleazy." (Pg. 324) He contends, "He took the plea [bargain], he says, because he couldn't take any more of the RICO threat hanging over his family and the incessant battering coming his way from the government, the press, his own firm, and his competitors. In his mind, the plea should have put an end to the assault. Just the opposite has occurred..." (Pg. 346)
He concludes, "What the prosecutors and SEC lawyers are really sensitive about, I suspect, is the revelation that they were as 'highly confident' as Drexel and Milken. Investment bankers weren't the only ones who swaggered through the 1980s---it was a time of excess, that virus reached far beyond Wall Street... lawmen saw that advancement, reputation, and future prosperity depended on their success in the Milken prosecution. And, like Milken, they had a sense of holy purpose. In the certainty that they were breaking important ground and saving the Republic from ruin, they may have thrown accepted rules of conduct out the window." (Pg. 365)
Readers wanting other sympathetic portraits can pick up Fall from Grace: The Untold Story of Michael Milken and Payback: The Conspiracy to Destroy Michael Milken and His Financial Revolution; those wanting critical perspectives might prefer The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders and Den of Thieves.
It would be nice to have a follow up to the story to let us know how Milken and his brother have done since then. Milken, love him or hate him is one clever clever boy.
Todavía recuerdo las sensaciones que tenía al leerlo.
Es una buena biografía, muy detallada, algo novelada, sobre las andanzas del financiero Michael Milken, uno de esos cerebros privilegiados que, utilizando las matemáticas y haciendo caso relativo de la ética, consigue amasar una fortuna enorme.
Si estás interesado en conocer el mundo de los bonos basura (Milken fue su inventor)y en las tramas financieras en general, este libro es uno de los mejores que puedes leer.
People should do their homework, before condemning him.