Was Michael Milken a friend or foe to the financial markets, is definitely a question that
sparks much debate. I tend to take a utilitarian approach to most things in life and this question is
not an exception. While there are always lines in life that should not be crossed, I do think that if
something is going to benefit more people than it will hinder it most likely is something that
should be done. With that said my position is that Michael Milken was a friend to the financial
Michael Milken was an innovator in the financial world. He took the path less traveled
and helped to jumpstart thousands of businesses in multiple industries that might not have been
given a chance otherwise. This led to thousands if not millions of jobs being created helping to
grow the U.S. economy. Not only did he take on risk that most others would not, he created
financial tools that had a great impact in the world of finance and are still in use today.
Along with his contributions to the financial markets during his time at Drexel, his
contributions to charity and medical research over the years have been great. The work that his
foundation has done to promote community and learning in schools has undoubtedly helped
countless numbers of people and the cancer research that the foundation has funded has assisted
in the medical community making great strides in treating cancer.
With that said Michael Milken has obviously contributed a great amount of money, time
and resources, to improving the financial markets, the U.S. economy, charity and medical
research. He has made a positive impact in all areas and still continues as a philanthropist and
speaker continuously spreading his wealth and knowledge.
However, my opinion is not based solely on the great things that Michael Milken has
done. The downfall of Michael Milken seems sketchy to me at best. He originally had 98
charges, to include insider trading, fraud and racketeering. However, according to a multitude of
lawyers that have studied this case there was little to no evidence that supported any of these
charges. The six charges that Milken did plead guilty to were upgraded to felonies, when prior to
his case these would have been trivial offenses. According to those who worked with him,
Milken might not have liked the rules and regulations that the government handed down but he
would follow them.
Overall, this is all a matter of perception. What one might consider ethical another will
consider unethical it all depends on how someone looks at things. In my opinion, again using a
utilitarian approach, I think that all the good Michael Milken contributed to financial markets
and to society, outweighs any of the negative things he was accused of or possibly did. If there
were stronger evidence to back up what he was charged with my opinion might be different.
However, with little to no evidence for the charges and with what he did plead guilty to being
trumped up to felonies for effect, I don’t believe he did anything that had a substantially negative
impact on the world of finance.
Michael Milken was the king of the stocks back in the 1980s and early 90s, but that doesn’t
mean he was looking out for the best interest of those around him. Personally, I believe he was a
foe in this industry. Even though he helped other companies make millions, he was doing it
wrongfully. Essentially Milken got caught and did time for his misbehavior in the finance world.
Ethically, I believe he was only looking out for himself and in the long run but got bit in
the butt when he ended up getting caught. He was doing what any other finance professional was
told to do, which was to gain money and respect, yet he was doing it illegally. Once Milken was
caught, it put the finance industry in a magnify glass to make sure everything was being done
perfectly and by the book.
Milken was making millions a year, he approximately made over $1 billion dollars in a
four year period and was living the high life. He was also making many charitable donations to
prostate cancer, but in actuality that was stolen money. So even though it made him look good to
donate to charity, it technically wasn’t his money to begin with. Moral sensitivity (recognizing
the presence of an ethical issue) is the first step in ethical decision making because we can’t
solve a moral problem unless we first know that one exists. I believe Milken didn’t even know he
was ethically doing something wrong or he wouldn’t have gone as far as he did.
Problem recognition is something that requires that we consider how our behavior affects
others, identify possible courses of action, and determine the each potential strategy. Empathy
and perspective skills are essential to this component of moral action. If we understand how
others might feel or react, we are more sensitive to potential negative effects of our choices and
can better predict the likely outcomes of each option. Milken kept going with all his stock market
escapades well over a decade so in the end I don’t believe he cared for anybody but himself.
Finally, paying attention to our emotions can be an important clue that we are faced with
an ethical dilemma. Moral emotions are part of our makeup as humans. These feelings are
triggered even when we do not have a personal stake in an event. Even though Milken was
charged with many counts of felonies, after he got out he still contributed to cancer research. If
only he would have been trust worthy the entire time, I would have never considered him a foe.