Judge Kimba Wood has indicated that she intended Michael Milken to serve only one-third of his 10-year sentence, "Judge Sees Milken Jailed for Three Years" (Feb. 20).
Her reasoning, in part, is that officials have calculated that the losses to victims did not exceed $1 million, evidently a magical figure that translates into a guideline requiring a felon to serve only one-third of the imposed sentence.
On the same day that news of Judge Wood's opinion was reported, Drexel Burnham Lambert, Milken's former employer, indicated that creditors had agreed to settle for one-tenth of the $20 billion that they lost. It is also no secret that Milken earned more than $1 billion during his years with Drexel. Where does Judge Wood think that billion came from, trees?
It doesn't take a math scholar to deduce that much more than $1 million was lost by investors and certainly Milken was one of the main beneficiaries of those losses.
It staggers the imagination to think that Milken--in six years--could make more money than a John D. Rockefeller or a Henry Ford--and get that money from people who got nothing in return. Not only is it stealing, but it is an indictment of a legal system that increasingly treats white-collar crime with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
Some have cited Milken's meteoric rise in the business world as an example of the American dream, a success story. This is not the American dream. This is the American tragedy, and unfortunately it is fast becoming the American way.