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Self-Aggrandizement Is Beside the Point: Milken's Charity Benefits Needy People

November 20, 1988

Your articles on the Milken foundations (including "State to Audit Milken Trusts in Search for 'Self-Dealing,' Nov. 11; "Milken Foundation's Ties to Bond Deals Questioned," Nov. 10) take the readers' eyes off the great accomplishments of Michael Milken and his family. For several years, the Milken family foundations have been involved with doing incredibly positive things for the education of the young children of America. This does not just include local school districts such as the Los Angeles and Pasadena Unified School Districts, but also school districts throughout the country such as in Boston, New York and Chicago.

Milken has put more than $260 million in investments into his charitable foundations. If he had chosen to do so, he could have sold the investments, paid a tax and pocketed about $200 million. He could have bought a yacht far bigger than Donald Trump's and jet airplanes far fancier than Adnan Khashoggi's.

Rockefeller and others waited until they died to put large sums into their foundations. With the possible exceptions of Carnegie and Packard, I cannot think of any instance where a living person has come even close to Milken's generosity.

The main allegation against the Milken foundations, if one can understand it, is that they sold a $1.45-million investment to a related family entity. This represents about 0.5% of the foundations' assets. More importantly, there is no allegation that the foundation lost any money from this transaction. In fact, it has not been proven that the transaction was illegal, or for that matter, that it actually took place.

U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell's statements are not only irresponsible, but dangerous. If one took him literally, it was evil for Milken to help poor children because he created his foundations for "self-aggrandizement, private profit and illegal ends." The next logical step is to praise the Donald Trumps, Marvin Davis and other billionaires who have resisted the temptation towards self-aggrandizement by hoarding their money.

RICHARD RIORDAN

Los Angeles

The writer is a partner in the Los Angeles law firm Riordan & McKinzie and in the investment firm of Riordan, Lewis & Haden.

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