HighTower Advisor to Trump: Pardon Michael Milken
Most retail brokers try and steer clear of politically sensitive topics for fear of alienating clients, but a Newport Beach, California, advisor has seized on Donald Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio to seek help clearing the name of another controversial figure.
David Bahnsen, who manages around $1.1 billion for clients as a partner at HighTower Advisors, on Wednesday, published on his website a letter to the President seeking a pardon for Michael Milken, the junk bond impresario who served time in prison for securities fraud.
“Michael Milken was targeted, arrested, prosecuted, and eventually imprisoned, because our society went through a period of class envy run amok,” the letter says. “The reason a pardon is so desperately needed is to rid the public consciousness of the false assumptions and understandings that surround his case. Indeed, only a pardon will allow this case to be a testimony to what is right about America, as opposed to what is wrong.”
Bahnsen, whose 15-year brokerage career included seven years at Morgan Stanley and five at UBS Financial Services, said he doesn’t expect much client reaction because he has been very public on his Twitter feed about his right-wing leanings and has donated to prominent Republicans including Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“Advisors are wrong that they need to be agnostic on everything,” Bahnsen wrote in a text message to AdvisorHub. “Clients like convictions.”
Bahnsen, who has never met Milken, worked at Milken’s alma mater Drexel Burnham Lambert or consulted him about the pardon request, said he has had a long-time “obsession” about the former junk-bond king who served a 22-month prison sentence in the early 1990s. Milken, now 71, today runs an economic think tank called the Milken Foundation and is a major benefactor to causes ranging from cancer and other medical research to educational and Jewish cultural causes.
The advisor, who is 43 and did not support Trump in the presidential primaries because he did not think he could win, said the Arpaio pardon put the issue of “egregious prosecutorial abuses” in the limelight.
A Milken pardon would boost credibility for high yield bonds, “the oft-aligned instruments that Mr. Milken pioneered,” Bahnsen wrote in the letter to Trump.
Bahnsen does not recommend high yield bonds as direct investments to his customers but often has a weighting in the instruments through allocations to fixed-income money managers. Due to a short-term tactical strategy, he has no such holdings for clients currently, he told AdvisorHub.
“The high yield bond market has proven itself through multiple market cycles to be a highly effective way of pricing risk and reward, and has proven to be a gift that keeps on giving for many credit investors seeking income and growth,” Bahnsen wrote in the letter to Trump.
The odds of receiving a response from Trump directly are 50-50, Bahnsen said in a text message.