He was the controversial financial innovator whose work at Investment Banker Drexel Burnham Lambert during the 1980s greatly expanded the use of high yield debt, otherwise known as junk bonds in corporate finance and acquisitions. He parlayed his business acumen, the stable of clients loyal to him and his ability to raise tremendous amounts of money into both dominance within this area of finance capital for a period of time, as well as great personal wealth; at the height of his career he was earning an annual salary in excess of $550 million per year.
In 1989 New York District Attorney Rudolph Giuliani charged him with 98 counts of racketeering and fraud. Indicted by a federal grand jury, Milken pled guilty to six felony counts of securities fraud. He was banned from operating in the securities industry for life and was sentenced to ten years in prison - a term later reduced to two years.
Since his conviction Milken has focused his professional life on charitable works and education-related companies plus cancer research as a result of his being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993. Trying to rehabilitate himself, Milken has used his personal fortune and high-level contacts to become an influential voice in economics, education and medical research. Some of the very powerful business leaders, including Ted Turner and News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch, are today counted amongst his supporters. Directors of his nonprofit foundations include former Intel Corp Chairman, Andrew Grove and retired U.S. Army General, Norman Schwarzkopf.