THE LUCRATIVE work done by Michael Milken on Time Warner's buyout of Turner Broadcasting System has gotten the attention of an old nemesis. The Securities & Exchange Commission is looking into whether the consulting arrangement violates a 1991 lifetime ban of Milken from securities work, says a source close to the inquiry.
The former junk-bond king, who during his reign in the 1980s masterminded the financing of Turner, is receiving as much as $50 million from Turner for his Time Warner role, according to The Wall Street Journal. The SEC is considering whether Milken served as an "investment adviser," which would violate the SEC's order.
But there's no clear definition of an adviser. So the SEC will try to determine exactly what kind of advice on the proposed $7.5 billion deal merited such a hefty paycheck. The source says the SEC also wants to be careful to avoid the appearance of a witch-hunt. "Milken does have the right to make a living," the source says. A Turner spokeswoman would say only that Milken has been advising the company on "long-term strategic issues." Denying any violation, a Milken spokesman says: "The SEC did not bar Michael Milken from having ideas and vision."
Milken spent two years in prison and paid a $1.1 billion fine after pleading guilty to felony securities-law violations in 1990. If the SEC finds that Milken has violated its order, he could be hit with contempt charges.