Mother Jones
Apparently We’ve Forgotten Who the Milkens Are
Michael and Lowell Milken’s role in the rise of junk bonds helped make them rich. That wasn’t enough for UCLA to turn down Lowell’s $10 million donation—or even acknowledge his family’s checkered past.
By Nick Baumann | Thu Aug. 18, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

If, 20 years from now, a major public university were to name a program after one of the most controversial figures in the financial scandals of the late aughts—say, for example, the Angelo Mozilo [1] School of Finance, or the Joseph Cassano [2] Department of Economics—would anyone notice? Would anyone care? A little-noticed event last week suggests not.

Last Tuesday, the University of California-Los Angeles announced that it had accepted a $10 million donation from Lowell Milken to start the “Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy.” The university’s press release [3] described Milken as an “international businessman” and the “co-founder of Knowledge Universe, the world’s largest early childhood education company.” The Daily Bruin [4], the Associated Press [5], Los Angeles Times [6], and Los Angeles Daily News [7] all decided to leave their characterizations at that. But there’s a lot more to Milken’s story.

Folks who are aware of events that happened before the Clinton administration, however, will recall that Lowell Milken is the brother and business partner of convicted fraudster Michael Milken [8]. Michael was the “junk bond king” who, in 1990, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for six felony violations of federal law (he served 22 months [9]). Lowell, like Michael, was indicted on federal racketeering [10] and fraud charges connected to insider-trading violations at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the now-defunct Wall Street investment bank where both brothers worked.

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