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“Give Me Some of Those High-Yield Bonds”

The New York Times headline today: United States President Donald Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of high profile white-collar criminals.

For me, Trump’s most significant pardon is of the former high-yield bond financier, turned cancer research and innovation philanthropist Michael Milken. Milken’s fallen firm Drexel Burnham Lambert backed Sir James Goldsmith’s Acapulco strategy of corporate raiding. In the excellent Adam Curtis series The Mayfair Set (BBC, 1999), the late Frank Sinatra tells Milkens’ Predators Ball investment conferences: “Give me some of those high-yield bonds.”

On 11th October 2011, I took a copy of Connie Bruck’s Predators’ Ball book (New York: Penguin Books USA, 1988) to the Tokyo Stock Exchange building. James B. Stewart’s Den of Thieves (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991) informed how collaborator Barry Saunders (now a McKinsey design director) and I examined the organisational culture and methodologies of investigative journalism. Stewart has penned a New York Times reflection on Milken’s legal and cultural significance.

Trump’s pardon of Milken may become a Billions plot point. It’s also a signal to me that Trump’s executive power and its Wall Street oligarchical nexus means that white-collar crime will be around as a research program interest for many years to come.