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“The Global Bust-Out Series (Chapter 7): Michael Milken and the “Insider Trading” Network (as of 2013)

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“The Global Bust-Out Series (Chapter 7): Michael Milken and the “Insider Trading” Network (as of 2013)


This is Chapter 7 of a multi-chapter series. On your right is a Table of Contents to all chapters published so far.

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In earlier chapters of this series, we learned about an incredible enterprise known as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which was operated by oligarchs with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in partnership with governments that were among the Muslim Brotherhood’s principal state sponsors. We also learned that the BCCI enterprise operated with the consent and protection of Washington even though it not only counted among its partners numerous mobsters and global terrorists, but was also operating what amounted to a transnational organized crime syndicate involved in everything from the trafficking of narcotics and nuclear weapons components to terrorism and the perpetration of destructive financial crime.

In addition, we learned that BCCI counted among its most important business partners some of the leading figures of the American establishment, including Michael Milken, who was, during the 1980s, the most powerful financial operator on Wall Street. As we know, Milken and some of his closest associates, in league with the BCCI enterprise, perpetrated the “bust-outs” of numerous savings and loan banks, thereby contributing to the devastating savings and loan crisis that began in the late 1980s, and which ultimately cost taxpayers more than $2 trillion in bailouts—a portent of bigger and better things to come.

Also involved with these “bust outs” were (see earlier chapters of this series) some of the nation’s leading organized crime figures, such as Carlos Marcello, who was then the top Mafia boss in the city of New Orleans. Meanwhile, we know, BCCI was involved with a global network of brokerages, most of them operated by people with ties to organized crime, and most of them specializing in the “bust outs” of small to medium-sized publicly listed companies. As a judge remarked after BCCI shut its doors in 1991, the BCCI enterprise singlehandedly “shattered the integrity of the global financial system.”

And history did not end in 1991, when BCCI was shut down.

Most of BCCI’s former principals and their partners (“the larger BCCI enterprise”) continued in the years that followed to involve themselves with similar enterprises, the only difference being that the enterprises came to include some new and younger players, while the enterprises innovated new and more destructive financial schemes. Indeed, we will see that people formerly involved with the BCCI enterprise, along with their newly acquired business partners, contributed significantly to the great meltdown of 2008, and are presently threatening to deliver a repeat performance.

This might be one reason why the president of the United States was recently moved to take the unprecedented step of declaring a state of “National Emergency” in response to certain conditions that currently prevail in the American markets. See Chapter 1 of this series for more on the “National Emergency,” but I will remind readers that in the summer of 2011, President Barack Obama, in explaining why he had declared a “National Emergency,” stated that there was a clear “nexus” between transnational organized crime syndicates, the intelligence services of several unnamed countries, and the world’s leading terrorist organizations.

In addition, the president explained that transnational organized crime syndicates (and, we can confirm, others in the “nexus,”) had “penetrated” the “legitimate financial sector” (i.e. Wall Street). Not only that, but the president stated that this was a “National Emergency” because transnational organized crime syndicates with ties to terrorist organizations (presumably with help from the “legitimate” financial sector on Wall Street) were “undermining markets” to such an extent that they now posed a serious and imminent “threat to stability of the global financial system.”

Unfortunately, officials in Washington have yet to prosecute any of the people (e.g. mobsters, terrorist financiers, and miscreants on Wall Street) who account for our present “National Emergency.” Indeed, as was the case in the 1980s, when BCCI and its partners owned many of America’s leading politicians (including multiple U.S. presidents), it presently seems to be the case that Washington has been “deep captured” by a network (or “nexus,” as the president calls it) that includes the world’s leading mobsters, billionaires with ties to terrorist organizations, and the “legitimate” miscreants on Wall Street who do business with mobsters and terrorists.

In addition, officials in Washington have done little to crack down on the sorts destructive financial weapons (e.g. the “bust outs” of major banks and associated schemes, such as manipulative short selling, self-destruct CDO’s, mortgage fraud, death spiral finance, toxic debt, etc.) that nearly destroyed the world in 2008, and which are now, once again, threatening to collapse the global financial system.

Later chapters of this series will discuss in much greater detail the “global bust-out” that accounts for our current predicament, but first it will be useful to review a bit more history so far as it concerns the network of Michael Milken, formerly known as the most powerful man on Wall Street, later known as one of history’s most destructive financial criminals, and presently known (to readers of the major U.S. newspapers and officials in Washington) as one of Wall Street’s all-time greatest heroes and a “prominent” fixture of the American establishment, worthy of our respect and admiration.

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When Michael Milken was indicted in 1989, the major U.S. news organizations reported that he and one of his co-conspirators, Ivan Boesky, were the central figures in a nationwide “insider trading” network. In addition, the major U.S. news organizations reported that Milken was indicted thanks mostly to the fact that Boesky had cooperated with the government, providing the key evidence that allowed prosecutors to expose the “insider trading” network. It was true that Milken and Boesky were involved in “insider trading,” but the reports by the major U.S. news organizations contained some important omissions.

For starters, Milken and his network were involved in much more than “insider trading.” As we know from earlier chapters of his series, Milken and his closest associates, including Boesky, conspired with the BCCI enterprise and some of the nation’s leading organized crime figures to “bust out” (i.e. loot and destroy) many of the nation’s leading savings and loan banks. We also know that Milken was involved with numerous brokerages (some of them linked to the BCCI enterprise) that specialized in perpetrating the “pump and dump” bust-outs of small to medium-sized publicly listed companies.

In addition, a careful reading of Milken’s 99-count indictment (with many of those counts pertaining to his “bust-outs” of savings and loan banks and other companies, though he pled guilty to only seven counts) reveals that Boesky provided little of the information that was used to prosecute Milken. Instead, the government obtained the vast majority of the evidence used against Milken (and Boesky) in a 1989 raid of a major investment and brokerage operation called Princeton Newport, which had been a key component of the Milken network, involved not only in insider trading, but also the full panoply of other schemes that Milken and his network perpetrated during the 1980s. At the time, Princeton Newport was operated by man named Edward O. Thorpe, who was most famous for having worked with the Genovese Mafia family to develop a method for beating the black-jack tables in Las Vegas (Thorpe has never been charged with any crime, and he is presently one of the nation’s most prominent hedge fund managers).

Pulitzer Prize winning author James Stewart similarly reported in “Den of Thieves” (the seminal work on the government’s prosecution of Milken) that Boesky provided little information to the government. According to Stewart, Boesky told the government that he could not testify against Milken because he was afraid of what might happen to him. As Boesky put it, Milken had “friends in Vegas” – an apparent reference to the Mafia. As Stewart also reported, soon after Boesky expressed his fears, one of Milken’s closest associates, John Mulheren, got into his car and headed towards Boesky’s house. Police officers had been watching Mulheren, and knew that he had a gym bag in his car loaded with two handguns, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a .233 caliber Galil assault rifle.

Suspecting that Mulheren planned to murder Boesky, the cops arrested Mulheren and put him in jail, where Mulheren spent most of his time conversing with Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, who had been the top boss of the Genovese Mafia family until he was jailed on charges of manslaughter. Mulheren himself was investigated for his alleged role in Milken’s network, so it is possible that Mulheren thought about killing Boesky to keep Boesky from providing the government with information about his own (Mulheren’s) activities. Alternatively, it is possible, as some have reported, that Mulheren was simply on the wrong psychiatric medications and didn’t know what he was doing.

Either way, Mulheren was never charged for his suspected role in Milken’s insider trading (and “bust out”) network, and nor was he charged for trying to kill Boesky. He was quickly released from prison, and he subsequently reconciled with Boesky. Contrary to the message put forth by Milken’s public relations machine (which maintains that Milken despises Boesky, and that Milken was convicted only because Boesky was a dirty rat who provided the government with false information about Milken’s activities), Milken also reconciled with Boesky, and after Milken was released from prison (he served two years of a ten year sentence), he and Boesky began again to do business together.

Meanwhile, Mulheren c0-founded, with a trader named Izzy Englander, a hedge fund called Millennium Management, and though Mulheren died in 2003, Millennium is presently one of the most powerful hedge funds in the nation.

In 2010, the media began reporting that the FBI was once again investigating what the FBI described as a “network” of financial operators who were involved in “insider trading.” According to the FBI, this was, in fact, the biggest “insider trading” investigation in FBI history. This investigation is presently ongoing, and a key focus of the investigation, according to media reports, is the giant hedge fund SAC Capital, which is run by Steve Cohen. Back in the 1980s, Cohen was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for allegedly trading on inside information that he received from Milken’s shop at Drexel Burnham Lambert, and back in the 1980s, Cohen and all the others in Milken’s insider trading “network” were, of course, involved in much else (e.g. manipulative short selling, the “bust-outs” of publicly listed companies, etc.) besides insider trading.

Similarly, the “insider trading network” that the FBI is presently investigating has been involved in much else besides insider trading. Previous DeepCapture stories have provided ample evidence that SAC Capital and other hedge funds in its “network” have perpetrated a great deal of manipulative short selling, and they have, along with others, including Michael Milken (who is. to this day a key figure, along with SAC Capital and others, in an “insider trading” network), perpetrated the “bust-outs” of publicly listed companies. Cohen himself has not been charged with any crime, but multiple traders have been indicted for insider trading that they conducted while working for SAC Capital, and the media has reported that prosecutors are hoping to indict Cohen and SAC Capital, though the media continues to report that SAC Capital’s only alleged offense has been to trade on inside information.

Meanwhile, it is clear from SEC filings that SAC Capital and a larger “network” of other hedge funds (many of which employ former SAC Capital traders, and many of which have ties to Milken going back to the 1908s) regularly trade in the same stocks, and many of these hedge funds have not only coordinated their manipulative short selling attacks, but have also come under closer scrutiny during the course of the FBI’s investigation into what the FBI continues to describe as a “network” of financial operators.

One hedge fund in this “network” is Millennium Management, the outfit that was founded by Mulheren and Izzy Englander. The FBI has not publicly implicated Millennium in the “insider trading” network, but Millennium has acknowledged that it is concerned about the greater scrutiny. Indeed, soon after the FBI investigation became big news, Millennium hired an advisory board whose job is to make sure the hedge fund remains in compliance with regulations. Millennium’s advisory board includes former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former SEC enforcement division chief Stanley Sporkin, and former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt (who has been a leading advocate of reform to address the problem of manipulative short selling).

Hopefully that advisory board will keep Millennium in compliance with the rules, and it will certainly keep Millennium immune from further scrutiny on the part of the FBI and the SEC, but it is clear that Millennium and SAC Capital, along with others in their “network” of hedge funds, have continued to collaborate with Milken, investing in companies that Milken was promoting, and attacking companies that Milken was seeking to undermine or destroy. Some details can be found in my recently published book (title: “The Dendreon Effect: How Felons, Con-men, and Wall Street Insiders Manipulate High-tech Stocks”) which also provides other information about the techniques used by a network of powerful hedge funds (and Michael Milken) to undermine the markets and hurt individual investors.

As we will see in later chapters of this series, this same crowd (i.e. Milken and the “network” that the FBI is now investigating, though so far with no prosecutions of any big fish) contributed to the meltdown of 2008, and continue to pose a threat to the markets today.

For our present purposes, we need to stress that Boesky was right when he said that Milken had “friends in Vegas.” Milken’s best friend in the world, according to Milken, is Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino mogul. Meanwhile, Wynn’s friends, according to Scotland Yard, have included the dons of the Genovese Mafia family. Indeed, according to a declassified report written in the late 1980s by Scotland Yard investigators, Wynn had “been operating under the aegis of the Genovese Mafia since he first went to Las Vegas in the 1960s.” Scotland Yard noted that both Wynn and his father had a long standing relationship with Genovese Mafia boss Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno (the mobster with whom Mulheren spent most of his time convening during his stint in jail).

Wynn, however, denies any relationships with the Mafia, and he has won a defamation lawsuit against a Las Vegas newspaperman who published a book (title: “Running Scared”) that advertised itself as “explaining why a confidential Scotland Yard report calls Wynn a front man for the Genovese crime family.” Wynn also filed a suit against the book’s publisher, Lyle Stuart, who had published other controversial books, such as the “Anarchist Cookbook,” and “Turner Diaries,” which is a fictional account of home-grown rebels overthrowing the “Zionist” government of the United States. In explaining why he had filed a lawsuit against the publisher, Wynn said, “I want to put Lyle Stuart out of business. Every law enforcement agency has always vouched for me that any suggestion of me and organized crime is preposterous. I know one thing: If anybody says any different, they’re a fucking defendant.”

It is true that law enforcement agencies (other than Scotland Yard) have vouched for Wynn. Indeed, former FBI Director Louis Freeh (the same fellow who is employed by Millennium Management) is presently employed by Wynn. Freeh is helping Wynn investigate one of Wynn’s former business partners, a Japanese billionaire named Kazuo Okado. Meanwhile, Wynn has won multiple other defamation lawsuits against people and journalists who have accused him of having ties to the Mafia. For example, Wynn has successfully sued Joe Francis, creator of the “Girls Gone Wild” porn empire. Francis had said that Wynn wanted to “hit me in the back of the head with a shovel and bury me in the desert.” Wynn said that was a “terrible lie,” and that his friend, the Dalai Lama, taught him to be a man of peace and calm.

The takeaway, we must conclude, is that Wynn has no ties to the Mafia. As for Milken’s other closest friends and business partners, however, there can be no doubt that many of them have ties to the Mafia. As we know from earlier chapters of this series, Milken’s closest business partner is Gene Phillips, who was the central figure in the junk bond merry-go-round that Milken operated in the 1980s, and which was a key component of the larger operation to “bust-out” savings and loan banks. Phillips operated (and still does operate) an outfit called Southmark Corporation, which was the largest recipient of Milken junk bond finance in the 1980s. The largest subsidiary of Southmark in the 1980s, meanwhile, was San Jacinto Savings and Loan, which was “busted-out” with help from such Mafia luminaries as Herman Beebe and Carlos Marcello (the top boss of the New Orleans Mafia).

The man whom Gene Phillips appointed as the chief loan officer of San Jacinto Saving and Loan was named Joseph Grosz. Aside from being a banker, Grosz was a leading mobster, affiliated with the Chicago Syndicate, according to prominent journalist Pete Brewton, who is one of the nation’s leading experts on the involvement of organized crime in the savings and loan crisis. Brewton has also reported that San Jacinto’s parent, Southmark, was “used as a mob dumping ground to buy the investments of mobsters,” including not only Herman Beebe and Carlos Marcello, but also organized crime figure Harry Wood, and Morris Shenker, a former lieutenant of Meyer Lansky, then the most powerful mobster in the nation.

In 2000, Phillips was arrested and charged with manipulating stock prices in league with other leading figures in La Cosa Nostra. More specifically, Phillips was arrested as part of Operation Uptick, which was described by FBI spokesmen as the largest Mafia bust in U.S. history. More than 120 people, all with ties to organized crime, were arrested in Operation Uptick, and FBI officials described them as being part of nationwide “network” of stock manipulators, some of whom had committed various other crimes, which included (according to an FBI statement): “controlling and infiltrating broker-dealers…and employing tactics of violence, including threats, extortion, physical intimidation, and the solicitation of murder…”

Some of the 120 people arrested in Operation Uptick were members of Russian organized crime syndicates, while others were, variously, described by the FBI as having ties to each of La Cosa Nostra’s five major families—Genovese, Colombo, Gambino, Bonanno, and Lucchese. Among the 120 defendants, aside from Phillips, were: Robert “Little Robert” Lino, a capo in the Bonanno crime family; Anthony Stropoli, a soldier in the Colombo crime family; Frank “Frankie” Persico, a Colombo Mafia family capo; Sebastian “Sebbie” Rametta, an associate of the Colombo crime family; Robert Gallo, an associate of the Genovese crime family; and John Black, an associate of the Lucchese crime family.

The DOJ charged that Phillips, in league with various members of La Cosa Nostra, had manipulated the stock of one of his companies, an outfit called Transcontinental. Aside from Phillips, the largest shareholder in that company was Michael Milken. Meanwhile, the Dallas Business Journal reported that Phillips “allegedly met with two associates of New York’s legendary Bonanno organized crime family to discuss a plan to bilk a couple of ‘very friendly’ union pension funds through the sale of inflated stock.” However, Phillips was acquitted on all charges. In addition, most of the other people who were arrested as part of Operation Uptick got off with nothing worse than small fines, though this was the biggest Mafia bust in history, according to then FBI director Louis Freeh (who, of course, is now employed by Wynn and Millennium Management).

That same year, 2000, the media reported that an outfit called Sinex Bank was linked to the Bank of New York scandal, which saw the Bank of New York laundering upwards of $10 billion ($3.9 billion of which passed through Sinex Bank) for organized crime syndicates. The syndicate most closely linked to that scandal was the Mogilevich organization, the leader of which was (and is) a Russian (actually Ukranian, but he is a Russian citizen) named Semion Mogilevich, widely known as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.” What the media did not report was that the money laundering involved a network of brokerages that first invested dirty cash into the “bust outs” of publicly listed companies, with the money coming out partially cleaned as short selling profits that were delivered onwards to cooperative banks, including Sinex Bank and the Bank of New York.

Also linked to that money laundering was a brokerage called Sinex Securities, which was a subsidiary of Sinex Bank. Sinex Securities was controlled by Gene Phillips, though it was registered in the name of his son, Brad Phillips (Sinex changed its name to National Alliance Securities when it was linked to the Bank of New York scandal). SEC filings show that Transcontinental (the Phillips outfit whose largest shareholder was Milken, and which was at the center of the Operation Uptick charges) had placed more than 700 thousand of its shares with Sinex as “collateral for borrowings”. That is to say, a chunk of the cash that went through Sinex was delivered, as collateral, to Transcontinental shareholders. However, neither Sinex nor Phillips were charged with any crime related to the Bank of New York scandal.

With the exception of Mogilevich himself, nobody else of any significance was charged with any crime related to the Bank of New York scandal, and Mogilevich (“the most dangerous mobster in the world”) subsequently hired a lobbyist in Washington. Mogilevich’s lobbyist is William Sessions, formerly director of the FBI. The FBI still lists Mogilevich as one of the “Ten Most Wanted” criminals in the world, but there is no evidence that the FBI has ever tried to arrest Mogilevich, and others in the Mogilevich organization continue to this day to operate openly in the United States.

Some of them, we will see, are key figures in the Milken network.

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Back in the 1980s, another of Milken’s closest business associates was Fred Carr, who, like Phillips, was a central figure in the junk bond merry-go-round that was part of the larger scheme (that had help from BCCI) to “bust out” numerous savings and loans banks. Fred Carr used Milken junk bond finance to seize control of Executive Life, and that financial institution (like most of the other savings and loans that Milken’s closest associates took over with Milken junk bond finance) was subsequently looted and demolished (that is, “busted out”).

Prior to taking control of Executive Life, Carr had been a principal with Investors Overseas Service, which had ties to BCCI, and which was, at the time, the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Investors Overseas had been founded by a financier named Bernard Cornfield, and later involved a criminal named Robert Vesco, who subsequently fled to Cuba and became involved (according to CIA reports) in trafficking drugs with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. (Castro later claimed that Vesco had been imprisoned in Cuba).

One of Investors Overseas Services’ key “feeders” (that is, one of the people who “fed” the Ponzi much of its money) was Sylvian Ferdman, a Genovese Mafia courier, who routed money into the Investor’s Overseas racket from clients in South America. Another Investors Overseas feeder was John Pullman, whom the U.S. government had named as a close associate of Genovese Mafia boss Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno. That’s the same “Fat Tony” who was later conversing with Mulheren in prison, and whom the Scotland Yard report linked to Wynn (The Scotland Yard report, however, was false, according to Wynn, and U.S. law enforcement officials have not accused Wynn of having ties to organized crime).

Another key component of Milken’s junk bond merry-go-round in the 1980s was MDC Global, an insurance and savings and loan company that (see Chapter 6 of this series) had been co-founded by a BCCI subsidiary. MDC Global, meanwhile, controlled a brokerage called Blinder Robinson, which specialized in “busting out” small to medium-sized publicly listed companies. MDC Global, of course, was itself “busted out,” and in 1989, Blinder Robinson was indicted, along with its founder, Meyer Blinder.

Blinder Robinson was known as “Blind’em and Rob’em” because it was not only a key player in a nationwide stock manipulation network, but also among the most crooked brokerages in America. Among the miscreants who manipulated stocks in league with Blinder Robinson were (according to various indictments) Thomas Quinn and Arnold Kimmes, both of whom (as we know from earlier chapters) had operated a number of brokerages linked to BCCI. Quinn, recall, was an associate of the Genovese Mafia family, while Kimmes had been identified in a 1973 FBI report as a “major organized crime figure.”

When Kimmes was arrested, he escaped prison by ratting on Meyer Blinder, who did not escape prison (though he was quickly released). In 2000, Richard Walker, then the SEC’s director of enforcement, gave testimony to Congress in which he described Blinder Robinson as being part of a “network” of brokerages — including D.H. Blair, Rooney Pace, FN Wolf, A.R. Baron, and many others – that were tied to organized crime. Most of these brokerages had been financed by Michael Milken and/or his close associates.

The proprietor of Rooney Pace, which was financed directly by Milken, was Randolph Pace, who was later indicted for running a $200 million stock manipulation scheme with a man named Judah Wernick. Many of the other brokerages mentioned in the SEC’s Congressional testimony – including D.H. Blair, A.R. Baron, and FN Wolf — were financed by Zev Wolfson, a Milken business associate who also financed Millennium, the hedge fund co-founded by Boesky’s prospective assassin John Mulheren.

D.H. Blair was particularly close to Milken. It was founded by Morty Davis, and run with help from Davis’s son-in-law, Lindsay Rosenwald, who served as vice chairman. After Milken went to prison in 1991, one of Milken’s top Drexel Burnham employees, Richard Maio, became president of D.H. Blair. In 2000, D.H. Blair was charged on multiple counts of stock manipulation and forced to shut its doors. To describe the full extent of D.H. Blair’s relations with La Cosa Nostra and Russian organized crime, I would have to bore you with a list of names so long that this story would begin to read like a telephone directory. But to give you just a small sampling, I will mention that the people indicted in just one of the hundreds of stock manipulation schemes perpetrated by D.H. Blair included: Frank Coppa, a capo in the Bonanno Mafia family; Edward Garafola, a soldier in the Gambino Mafia family; Daniel Persico, a capo in Colombo Mafia family; and Ernest Montevecchi, a soldier in the Genovese Mafia family.

After Milken got out of prison, he hooked up again with D.H. Blair’s former vice chairman, Lindsay Rosenwald, who is now one of the most powerful hedge fund managers in America, and perhaps the single biggest player in the world of biotech stocks. As described in my book (“The Dendreon Effect”), Milken and Rosenwald have sought to destroy biotech companies that were developing promising medicines while promoting dubious companies (financed by Rosenwald and Milken) whose medicines were killing people.

Many other powerful hedge fund managers operating today got their start in the 1980s working for Milken-financed brokerages with ties to organized crime. SEC filings and other evidence compiled by DeepCapture show with perfect clarity that all of the hedge fund managers in this network regularly trade in unison, investing in (or, more often, attacking) the same companies.

This does not mean that they have necessarily broken any laws, but, again, press reports suggest that some of the biggest players in this “network” are currently the targets a massive FBI investigation said to be targeting a “network” of financial operators suspected of insider trading. As I mentioned, one of them is SAC Capital’s Steve Cohen, who was investigated in the 1980s for trading on inside information that he allegedly received from Milken’s shop at Drexel. Cohen has been described by BusinessWeek magazine as “The Most Powerful Trader on the Street.”

When Cohen was investigated for trading on inside information that he received from Drexel, he was not yet a famous hedge fund manager, but he was among the select traders who effectively ran Gruntal & Company , a Mafia-tied brokerage that received much of its finance from Michael Milken.

There were just a few other traders who had special partnership agreements with Gruntal, and who effectively ran the place. I will name most of them, beginning with Maurice Gross, who handled the accounts of the Gambino Mafia family. Gross later founded his own operation with a Pakistani trader and former BCCI figure named Mohammad Ali Khan, who (according to a case filed by the New York attorney general) alighted with some of the Gambino family’s cash. This was no doubt much to the dismay of Gruntal CEO, Howard Silverman, who had come to depend on the Mafia’s good graces.

As of 2008, Silverman was running one of the nation’s biggest “dark pool” trading platforms, an outfit that enabled his hedge fund clients to conduct trading in total anonymity. It should be a matter of concern that a guy who once ran a brokerage with ties to the Mafia went on to run a major “dark pool”–especially since experts such as the authors of a report (see Chapter 1 of this series for details) commissioned by the Department of Defense say that such platforms could easily be deployed to do serious damage to the markets.

One of the people Silverman brought in to help run his brokerage – another of the select traders with special partnerships at Gruntal – was a fellow named Felix Sater, who was (and is) a Russian mobster and a member of the Mogilevich organization (controlled by Semion Mogilevich, often described as the “most dangerous mobster in the world”). While still at Gruntal, Sater was charged with stabbing a Wall Street trader in the face with the broken stem of a wine glass (actually, it was martini glass, according to a man who witnessed the attack).

While still at Gruntal, Sater and several other former Gruntal traders founded a brokerage called White Rock Partners. Most of White Rock’s employees were former Gruntal employees, and there is no doubt that White Rock’s partners all had ties to organized crime. In 1996, the FBI discovered a locker at a Manhattan Mini-Storage in Soho that belonged to Evgeny Klotsman, a White Rock principal who was formerly among the select traders who had effectively run the Milken-financed Gruntal & Company. The FBI announced that the locker contained guns and documents that linked Klotsman and Sater to a “global market manipulation and money laundering network controlled by Russian organized crime.”

In 1999, White Rock (renamed State Street Capital Partners) was indicted for orchestrating stock manipulation schemes in league with the above-mentioned D.H. Blair and A.R. Baron (financed by Zev Wolfson) and five members of La Costa Nostra, including a Genovese Mafia soldier named Ernest Montevechi, and Danny Persico, a capo in the Colombo Mafia family (and the son of Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico, the top boss of the Colombo Mafia family). White Rock’s principals, in fact, included some of the top bosses of the Colombo Mafia family, among them not only Danny Persico (who was arrested, along with Gene Phillips, in Operation Uptick), but also a Colombo Mafia capo named Greg Scarpa, to whom we will return.

According to one of Felix’s White Rock partners (and according to The New York Times, which lent credence to the story), Felix escaped indictment (he was named only as an unindicted co-conspirator in the White Rock case) because Felix and his other partner, Evgeny Klotsman , had ties to the Russian intelligence services, and promised the U.S. government that they could work with Russian intelligence to buy Osama bin Laden’s stockpile of Stinger missiles (thereby preventing Al Qaeda from using the missiles to shoot down commercial airlines).

It should not be surprising that Felix Sater, a member of the Mogilevich organization, would have ties to Russian intelligence, and it is equally unsurprising that he would be capable of cutting a deal with Al Qaeda. As the White House national security staff made clear in August 2011, when the president announced that organized crime had “penetrated” the financial system (thereby inspiring the president to officially declare an “Emergency Order”), the Mogilevich organization has close ties to both the Russian intelligence services and to multiple terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda.

A 1996 classified FBI report (since made public) noted that the Mogilevich organization was involved in everything from major league market manipulation to prostitution, Afghan heroin, and trafficking in nuclear weapons materials. This is why Semion Mogilevich sits high on the FBI’s list of “Ten Most Wanted” criminals. But, of course, Mogilevich has a good lobbyist (i.e. a former director of the FBI, the outfit that publishes that “Most Wanted” list), and few, if any, members of the Mogilevich organization are presently in jail. Many of them are residents of the United States, and we will see that many of them, including Sater, remain active in the U.S. markets.

Multiple reports from law enforcement, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations in Russia, and the mainstream media in London (distinct from the mainstream media in the United States, which has a peculiar reluctance to publish anything interesting) state unequivocally that members of the Mogilevich organization have been selling conventional weapons to Al Qaeda for many years. On at least one occasion, the Mogilevich organization tried to sell highly enriched (nuclear bomb grade) uranium to Al Qaeda. This is a matter of dispute for some “experts”, but European Union officials confirm that it is true, and there is evidence that members of the Mogilevich organization did, at a minimum, claim in meetings with Al Qaeda operatives in Europe that they could obtain the nuclear materials.

Felix, through Russian intelligence, was prepared to cut a deal with Osama bin Laden, but the CIA balked when Klotsman demanded that the U.S. government pay him and Felix $3 million for each Stinger missile. Nonetheless, Felix escaped doing jail time, and some of his other associates say that this is because he and his Russian intelligence associates promised that their relationship with Al Qaeda would eventually be put to use for the U.S. government. However, if American officials believe Felix is helping the U.S. government, they are certainly mistaken. Indeed, it is a bit unsettling that this dangerous criminal is still on the loose. Not only was Felix once charged with stabbing a Wall Street trader in the face with the broken stem of a wine glass (actually, a martini glass), but Felix has also threatened to kill multiple other people. For example, Felix Sater has threatened to kill DeepCapture founder Patrick Byrne.

According to one of Felix’s White Rock partners (who has written about this in a book called “The Scorpion and the Frog”), Felix also once threatened to kill a short seller named Alain Chalem, who then ran a brokerage called Taluca Pacific in partnerships with DeCalvacante Mafia capo Phil Abramo, who was widely known at the time as “The King of Wall Street.” As we know from earlier chapters of this series, Abramo had formerly been involved with brokerages linked to the BCCI enterprise.

Felix’s partner says that Felix did not ultimately kill Chalem, and we should assume that he did not, but soon after the threat (in late 1999), Chalem was, in fact, murdered, execution-style, in his New Jersey mansion. The FBI has yet to prosecute anyone for the murder, but media reports have suggested that one suspect was Danny Persico, the Colombo Mafia capo who was a partner in Felix’s White Rock Partners. Other media have reported that the FBI believes the murder was related to Chalem’s dealings with Russian organized crime.

In later years, Felix co-founded a real estate and mortgage outfit called Bayrock. As we will see in later chapters, Bayrock played a role in the larger “bust out” of the mortgage markets, but for the purposes of this chapter, I will note that Bayrock’s former CFO, Jody Kriss, has alleged that Bayrock is a massive money laundering operation. In 2009, Kriss filed a lawsuit to this effect, and noted that Felix had once threatened to have him (Kriss) tortured and then murdered.

One of Bayrock’s co-founders was Tevfik Arif. In 2011, Arif was arrested in Turkey after Turkish commandos raided a party that Arif was holding on a yacht that had once belonged to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founding president. Arif, a native of Kazakhstan, was arrested along with a small harem of prostitutes and some unnamed government officials from Central Asia. (It is unclear why the commandos raided the yacht; the media has reported that Arif was charged only with illegally hiring prostitutes, a crime that does not usually result in commando raids).

Another Bayrock partner was Tamir Sapir, a billionaire real estate investor whose real estate portfolio was managed by a man named Frederick Contini, whom the government has named as an associate of the Genovese Mafia family. In 2008, Contini entered a secret plea to racketeering. He has also faced charges for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a broken wine glass. It seems to be the thing to do.

As Tamir Sapir himself has admitted, he spent his formative years running a company that specialized in selling high-tech electronics equipment to KGB operatives in New York. As Sapir has not admitted (though public records show that it is true), Sapir’s partner in his espionage operation was Semyon Kislin, who was (according to the FBI) a “member” of the Russian organized crime syndicate run by Vyacheslav Ivankov, then the top boss of the Russian mafia in the United States. In 2009, Ivankov was assassinated on a Moscow street, but not before admitting that his organized crime syndicate (which had close ties to the Mogilevich organization) had long been employed by the Russian intelligence services.

It is clear that Felix Sater has maintained relationships that he developed while working as a trader for Gruntal & Company. For example, he remains a close associate of SAC Capital’s Steve Cohen, and a man involved with a private investigation of Felix’s Bayrock says that Felix has laundered money for Cohen and other hedge fund managers. (Cohen presumably would deny this, and he has not been charged with any wrongdoing).

Meanwhile, Bayrock has had partnerships with several investment funds, nearly every one of which is controlled either by Milken’s former top employees at Drexel Burnham, or by others among the small band of people who are Milken’s closest associates. One of Bayrock’s partners, for example, is Apollo Real Estate, part of Apollo Management, a private equity fund controlled by Leon Black, who is one of the most powerful investors in America. Leon Black is the son of Eli Black, who was, in the 1970s, the head of United Brands, formerly known as United Fruit, a company that was accused of everything from bribing tin-pot dictators to dealing with La Cosa Nostra and funneling money to Latin American narco-terrorists.

In 1975, Carl Lindner, another of Milken’s closest associates and a key participant in Milken’s junk-bond merry-go-round and “bust out” scheme , used Milken finance to take over United Brands. In the midst of this takeover, Eli Black crashed through a plate glass window on the 44th floor of the Pan Am Building in New York, and fell to his death (the death was reported as a suicide). After this incident, Eli’s son, Leon Black, was named head of mergers and acquisitions at Drexel Burnham, the investment bank effectively controlled by Milken. The two men became friends, and after Milken’s criminal indictments, Black insisted that Drexel defend his friend at all costs. Even after Milken’s indictments resulted in Drexel’s collapse, Black continued to insist that Milken was innocent, and today the two men are close friends, involved together in multiple business ventures (some described in my book). Milken’s son, Lance, is a partner at Apollo, the Leon Black fund.

Another of the most powerful financiers in America (and also among Milken’s closest associates) is Carl Icahn. In the early 1980s, Icahn was the head of the options department at Gruntal & Company (the outfit whose key clients included the Gambino Mafia family, and whose key traders, such as Felix Sater and Evgeny Klotsman, were major Russian organized crime figures). After leaving Gruntal, Icahn started his own investment outfit, funded mostly by Michael Milken and Zev Wolfson (Wolfson being the guy who funded Mulheren and the above-mentioned Mafia-tied brokerages, which were indicted for schemes they perpetrated with La Cosa Nostra and Felix Sater).

As soon as he launched his investment fund, Carl Icahn hired several key employees: Harvey Houtkin, Allen Barry Witz, Gary Siegler, and Alan Umbria. Meanwhile, Umbria, who represented Icahn on the floor of the American Stock Exchange, served as the front-man for the Genovese Mafia in a New York restaurant called Crisci’s, which was featured in the movie “Donnie Brasco”—a movie about an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the Mob. Umbria was also the Mafia’s front-man in another New York restaurant — The Court of the Three Sisters.

One day in the late 1980s, Umbria’s close business associate walked into The Court of the Three Sisters and found Umbria presiding over a meeting in one of the restaurant’s private rooms. The business associate was asked to leave before he could hear what was discussed at this meeting, but the businessman knows who was in attendance – namely, Alan Umbria, a collection of Genovese Mafia thugs, and Louis Micelli, who was a stock broker until his untimely death in 2005. In addition to being a stock broker, Micelli was a major league narco-trafficker with deep connections to the drug cartels of Colombia, and to a Paraguay cell of Hezbollah, the jihadist outfit that takes its directions from the regime in Iran.

It was the Paraguay cell of Hezbollah that helped Iran blow up a synagogue in Argentina, and for a long time, this cell trafficked in cocaine from bases in Ciudad del Este and other cities in the “tri-border” region where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet. That region has since come under greater scrutiny, so Hezbollah’s drug kingpins have moved deeper inside Paraguay, but they continue to traffic coke, working with Hezbollah jihadis resident in North America – especially in Toronto, Detroit, New York, and my hometown, Chicago. Hezbollah’s trafficking operation continues to be a partnership with La Cosa Nostra, the Russian mafia, and (yes) some stock brokers, more of whom we will meet later.

* * * * * * * * *

Back to Gruntal & Company, the brokerage that was financed by Milken.

As we know, there were just a few traders who had special partnerships with Gruntal, and who effectively ran the place. In addition, we know, all of these traders had close ties to Milken. One of them, of course, was Steve Cohen, future founder of SAC Capital. Another was the Russian crime figure Evgeny Klotsman. And yet another, of course, was the Russian mobster Felix Sater, who, along with Klotsman, was, in 1996 linked to what the FBI described as a “global market manipulation and money laundering network controlled by Russian organized crime.” Other key figures in that “global market manipulation and money laundering network” were, of course, members of La Cosa Nostra, several of whom were involved, along with Felix, Klotsman and other Gruntal principals, in White Rock Partners.

There were just a few other traders who effectively ran Gruntal, and one of them was Andrew Redleaf, whose wealthy family did a lot of business with Milken’s operation at Drexel. Redleaf got his job at Gruntal on Milken’s recommendation. After leaving Gruntal, Redleaf invested in Sun Country Airlines in partnership with Tom Petters, who was arrested in 2008 and indicted for orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme in cahoots with Michael Catain, the son of a famous Genovese Mafia enforcer named Jack Catain. Redleaf currently runs a large hedge fund called Whitebox Partners, another of the hedge funds that regularly trade in unison with SAC Capital and others in the network. (Neither Whitebox nor its principals has been charged with any crime).

Another one of the hedge funds in this network is the massive and eminently powerful Cerberus Capital, run by Stephen Feinberg and Ezra Merkin. In the early 1980s, Feinberg was one of Michael Milken’s top employees at Drexel Burnham. In the mid-1980s, Milken asked Feinberg to move to Gruntal & Company to help the others (namely, Russian mafia boss Felix Sater, Evgeny Klotsman, Gambino Mafia broker Maurice Gross, and Steve Cohen, among a few others) oversee Gruntal’s operations, which had become important to Milken’s nationwide network. But aside from the SEC’s investigation of Steve Cohen, regulators did not catch on to Gruntal’s criminality until the mid-1990s, when it was forced to pay the largest fines in SEC history after a series of scandals that saw some of its other managers charged with embezzlement and cooking the books. By then, the traders who really ran the place in the 1980s had moved on to much bigger projects, one of which, we know, was Feinberg’s Cerberus Capital.

In 2006, Mainichi Shimbun, Japan’s most respected business newspaper, reported that Cerberus was tied to the Japanese Yakuza. Feinberg said it wasn’t true and he sued the Japanese newspaper for libel, but there is no doubt that Mafia outfits worldwide are becoming more closely intertwined, and I think we would be justified in asking whether Feinberg came into contact with various Mafia outfits while working for Gruntal & Company (which was effectively controlled by a select number of traders, some of whom were mobsters). Feinberg’s partner in Cerberus, Ezra Merkin, meanwhile, has been charged with civil fraud for his role in the massive “Ponzi” scheme (in fact, it was not just a “Ponzi” scheme, but more on that later) perpetrated by the infamous Bernie Madoff. One of Merkin’s other funds, Ascot Partners, was the second biggest “feeder” to the Madoff criminal operation.

Other big “feeders” to Madoff’s operation were, according to court documents, “made” members of the Mafia. One of them was Ralph Mafrici, who had a joint account with Madoff’s investment fund in the name of Eleanor Cardile, a relative of Madoff’s right hand man, Frank DiPascali. Mafrici was a Genovese Mafia capo who allegedly ordered the assassination of another Mob boss named Albert Anastasia. Since Anastasia was getting his hair cut at the time, the assassination was famously dubbed “The Barber Shop Hit.” In fact, Madoff’s operation had extensive ties to organized crime, as we will see in later chapters, wherein we will also see that Madoff’s brokerage was a key component of the Milken network (and had, in the 1980s been a key component of the larger BCCI enterprise). First, though, let us meet some of the other characters in the “network” that will feature in our later discussion of the 2008 meltdown.

Another of the traders who, in the 1980s, effectively ran Gruntal & Company was Sam Israel, who later became the proprietor of a criminal hedge fund called Bayou. When Israel was indicted in 2008, Bayou was said to be the “biggest Ponzi scheme in history.” Before that, the biggest Ponzi schemes in history had been the Ponzi schemes run by the above-mentioned Fred Carr and Tom Petters. Unfortunately, in December of 2008, Sam Israel’s Ponzi was topped by Bernard Madoff, who turned himself in to the FBI and announced that his “Ponzi” scheme (which absconded with upwards of $65 billion) was bigger.

When it came time for Israel to show up for prison, Israel instead parked his car on a bridge and left a note in the window that said, “Suicide is Painless.” Then he ran away.

After that, Israel had second thoughts and decided to turn himself in. Meanwhile, it emerged that Israel had been in business with Robert Booth Nichols, whom the FBI had identified as a close associate of both the Gambino and Genovese Mafia family and perhaps the key U.S. contact for the Japanese Yakuza. Back in the 1980s, Nichols had been involved with BCCI, and he was tied to a big scandal surrounding a software program called Promis.

The developers of Promis alleged that the software was stolen from them by the U.S. government, which (according to the developers) modified it so that it included a back door feature that would allow the U.S. government to access information on computers that had installed the software. At the time, the media gave considerable credence to this story, and suggested that the U.S. government had sold Promis software to multiple foreign governments. What has not been widely reported is that Mafia-tied Robert Booth Nichols also managed to gain rights to sell Promis software, and Nichols handed those rights to the famous Saudi arms dealer and market manipulator Adnan Khashoggi, who had been a key figure in the larger BCCI enterprise.

As a document obtained by DeepCapture shows, Khashoggi, in turn, licensed the software to Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, then the largest shareholder of BCCI and executive director of the bank. (Recall from earlier chapters of this series that Sheikh Mahfouz was, until his death in 2009, also one of Osama bin Laden’s most important business partners). Mahfouz proceeded to sell this software to major banks around the world, raising the question of whether he used its back-door feature to obtain confidential information from the computer systems of banks that used the software.

The bizarre nature of the business that Nichols and Israel later did together has been reported in an entertaining book called “Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con,” which suggests that Israel was conned by Nichols into believing that he, Israel, could recoup his hedge fund losses by tapping into a “secret market” that was, according to Nichols, controlled by 13 powerful families who also controlled the whole world. The book, of course, casts doubt on the notion that the 13 families actually control a secret market, much less the whole world, and the book reports further that Israel was scammed by Nichols into paying a large sum of money to get his hands on U.S. Treasury notes with a face value worth billions.

The Treasury notes were said to be linked to “Yamashita’s gold,” which was reputed to be gold that had ostensibly been stashed in the Philippines by the Japanese just prior to the end of World War II, and later recovered by a secret U.S. government operation. This, too, seems an unlikely proposition, but there might, in fact, be more to this story than a tale of a hapless hedge fund manager (Sam Israel) who lost millions to a clever con-man (Nichols). Which is not to say that 13 families actually control the world (though, of course, anything is possible), but as court documents obtained by DeepCapture show, Nichols and Israel had, in fact, obtained U.S. Treasury notes valued at $250 billion (as in a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars).

Israel and Nichols told people that their $250 billion in Treasury notes were secured by 2,500 metric tons of gold (serial number SC 3040-20) at the Atlanta Federal Reserve. In fact, physical gold in this quantity was not sitting with the Federal Reserve, but Nichols and Israel said the Atlanta Federal Reserve had issued a serial number in confidence that the gold would be forthcoming, much of it from the Philippines.

More specifically, Nichols and Israel told people that many of their $250 billion in Treasury bonds were secured by “Yamashita gold” that had been located years earlier by then Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who had moved the gold to a new hiding place in the jungles of Mindanao, an island at the south end of the Philippine archipelago. According to Nichols, Adnan Khashoggi (who was once indicted for laundering money on behalf of Imelda Marcos, then widow of the former dictator) had reported that this gold was now in the possession of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group on Mindanao, and that his associates were traveling to the Philippines to retrieve the gold.

Nichols later changed the story and said that the $250 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds were related to long-standing U.S. government obligations to the offspring of Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. Specifically, Nichols said the obligations had been confirmed by Tansri Teong, a representative of the Maiwah family, descendents of Chiang Kai-shek who lived in Luxembourg. However, Nichols began telling the Chiang Kai-shek story after Israel was arrested, perhaps to distract investigators from the fact that their scheme revolved primarily around Khashoggi’s assurances concerning the Yamashita gold in the Philippines.

In either case, while Khashoggi had spoken of this gold in the past, many considered the story to be rather implausible. Of course, anything is possible, but it is equally possible that the $250 billion Treasury bonds were a fake. Nonetheless, according to journalist Cheryl Seymour (who first reported parts of this story, though not the information about the gold in the Philippines), bankers around the world were convinced that the Treasury notes were real. And, again, they had a face value of a quarter trillion dollars—which is around 60% of what the U.S. government pays each year in interest on the national debt. It’s also around 60% of the U.S. government’s annual defense expenditures. Moreover, Nichols and Israel circulated the story about this supposed massive obligation just as the U.S. financial system was beginning to weaken.

That is, just as the system was weakening in 2008, Israel and Nichols claimed that they were going to cash in notes that would (if it they were real) effectively bankrupt the U.S. government and fuel panic with regard to any major banks that had liens on Treasury notes. As one banker told Seymour, this “shook the financial foundation around the world.” Other bankers reiterated that statement: Sam Israel’s claim (whether true or false) to have $250 billion in Treasury bonds linked to a stash of gold in the Philippines actually rocked the global financial system (though, of course, there were other activities that did quite a lot more to rock the global financial system).

After Israel was arrested, he and Nichols filed lawsuits against each other. Soon after, in 2009, reports emerged that Nichols had been found dead in Switzerland. People close to Nichols insist that Nichols faked his own death, but the truth remains unknown. It is also unlikely that we will learn whether the U.S. Treasury notes were fake because soon after Nichols and Israel filed their lawsuits, the notes vanished. They had been briefly entered into the public record, but they are not there anymore. There is no doubt, though, that the notes (whether they were counterfeit or not) did exist. And some bankers apparently did take them seriously.

No doubt I will be ridiculed as a conspiracy theorist simply because I have told this true (albeit weird) story, but I have been accused of worse, and I will note that an almost precisely similar story (though with a different set of protagonists) was recently discussed on the floor of the British parliament.

* * * * * * * *

Before he got involved with the bizarre $250 billion Treasury note scheme, and after he left Gruntal & Company, Israel spent time working for one of Michael Steinhardt’s hedge funds. In that capacity, Israel helped Steinhardt corner the market for U.S. Treasuries, posing a threat to economic stability until the government threatened to press criminal charges, convincing Steinhardt to back off.

John Lattanzio, the manager of Steinhardt’s hedge fund, was extremely secretive. There wasn’t much information on him until a court case revealed that Lattanzio once proposed marriage to a Russian hooker and gave her a $289,275 diamond ring. Nothing wrong with that (marriage is a wonderful thing), but the interesting development in this case was that the lovers quarreled, Lattanzio wanted his ring back, and the prospective wife told the judge that Lattanzio had big-time Mafia connections. She also said that Lattanzio “would not hesitate to use [the Mafia] to harm me.” Which is not surprising because the man who launched Lattanzio’s career, Michael Steinhardt, also has big-time Mafia connections.

When it became evident that Steinhardt’s ties to the Mafia might become public, Steinhardt preemptively published a book in which he revealed (as if were no big deal) that his father, Sol “Red” Steinhardt, had done time in Sing-Sing prison because he was, in the words of a Manhattan district attorney, the “biggest Mafia fence in America.” In fact, as noted in earlier chapters of this series, Steinhardt’s father was effectively the chief financial officer for the Genovese Mafia family. In his book, Steinhardt admitted that the first and most important investors in his first hedge fund were: the Genovese Mafia family; Ivan Boesky (Milken’s most famous criminal co-conspirator); and Marc Rich (who then shared office space with Boesky).

In previous chapters of this series, I discussed Marc Rich’s ties to BCCI and the Iranian regime, noting that Steinhardt’s lobbying helped convince President Bill Clinton to pardon Rich from his indictment for illegal trading with Iran. Although Rich was pardoned, he still owes the U.S. government taxes, so he lives in Switzerland, where his palatial home is guarded by a private army of mercenaries.

Rich has done quite a lot of business with companies, such as Highland Capital, that were under the control of Russian organized crime boss Semion Mogilevich, and Rich was linked to the late 1990s scandal that saw Russian organized crime syndicates (most notably the Mogilevich organization) launder more than $10 billion through the Bank of New York. This was the same scandal that involved Sinex, which handled around $3.9 billion of that money, most of it belonging to the Mogilevich organization. Rich was not charged in the Bank of New York affair, and nor were any of the other oligarchs (many of them previously linked to the BCCI enterprise) who were implicated in the Bank of New York affair.

Of course, Steinhardt was also among Milken’s closest associates. Nowadays, Steinhardt runs a big exchange traded fund (ETF) outfit called Wisdom Tree Investments. His partner in that operation is Jonathan Steinberg, son of Saul Steinberg, who was a key player in the junk bond “bust out” scheme that Milken ran in the 1980s. Steinberg used Milken junk bonds to seize Reliance, a giant insurance and financial services firm, which was subsequently looted and destroyed (i.e. “busted out”). Steinberg was not charged with any crime.

As noted in Chapter 6 of this series, a Wall Street Journal story published in 1985 (read it, as it was the last serious investigative report on short-side market manipulation published before the media started describing these miscreants as heroes worthy of our admiration) identified Steinhardt as being part of a “network” of short sellers who regularly attacked public companies using unscrupulous tactics, such as posing as journalists to obtain inside information and conspiring to cut off victim companies’ access to credit.

Among the others identified as being part of that “network” was Jim Chanos, who is now the proprietor of a famous hedge fund called Kynikos Capital, and the head lobbyist for the hedge fund industry. Chanos is also a favorite source for the New York financial media, one reason why the media no longer publishes stories about short-side market manipulation (which does not occur, according to the lobby headed by Chanos). When DeepCapture first started reporting on Chanos’s ties to Michael Milken and associates, Chanos went to lengths to distance himself from Milken, telling journalists that he had identified the fraud at Milken-financed companies.

In an email to some of his associates (the email was obtained by lawyers for the Canadian financial institution called Fairfax Financial, and later obtained by DeepCapture), Chanos outlines the party line, suggesting to the recipients of the email (namely, a long list of Milken-tied hedge fund operators and billionaires, such as Carl Icahn, who owed their careers to Milken) that they communicate the fact that he, Chanos, had been a short seller of companies financed by a “certain junk bond king” (i.e. Milken). But while Chanos, Steinhardt, and others in their “network” were certainly short sellers of Milken-financed companies, their short selling was always beneficial to Milken, and was simply the tail-end of the “bust-out” schemes that I have described, noting that every “bust-out” ends in a wave of short selling.

Indeed, as was revealed in the 1985 Wall Street Journal story, Chanos got his big start by shorting a company called Baldwin United. According to this story, Chanos went so far as to go to Baldwin’s bankers with false information that convinced the bankers to cut off Baldwin’s access to credit. As a result, Baldwin went bankrupt, and Milken got himself named as the advisor to the bankruptcy. According to a well-known and highly respected businessman who was involved in the bankruptcy proceedings, Milken abused his advisory role and ensured that all of Baldwin’s assets were delivered to his cronies at firesale prices. This success brought Chanos to the attention of Michael Steinhardt.

At the time, Chanos (who is now revered by The Journal) was working for a Mafia-tied brokerage called Gilford Securities. In 2000, five Gilford brokers were arrested (along with Phillips) in Operation Uptick, which was, of course, then the biggest Mafia bust in the history of the FBI. Gilford’s brokers were charged with manipulating stocks in league with ten members of La Cosa Nostra and a corrupt New York cop. By then, though, Chanos had left Gilford to start his own hedge fund, receiving his initial finance from Steinhardt (son of the biggest Mafia fence in America) and Steinhardt’s limited partner, Ivan Boesky (Milken’s most famous co-conspirator). Steinhardt’s other limited partner, Marty Peretz, introduced Chanos to Dirk Ziff, another powerful hedge fund manager (Och-Ziff Capital and Ziff Brothers), and for a while Chanos ran his hedge fund out of Ziff’s offices.

While Chanos was launching his hedge fund, future CNBC reporter Jim Cramer (who had once planned to work in partnership with Boesky) was running a hedge fund out of Steinhardt’s offices. Later, Cramer and Chanos were the biggest fundraisers for the political campaign of New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, who had been Cramer’s college roommate. For a time, Spitzer’s favorite hooker, “Ashley Dupree” lived (rent free) at Jim Chanos’s beachside villa. She called him “Uncle Jim.” As Patrick Byrne once said, Ashley should be ashamed of herself for associating with this crowd.

SEC filings make it clear that Chanos regularly trades in league with other hedge funds in the Milken network, and in 2006 they were attacking Fairfax Financial, one of the largest financial institutions in Canada. Fairfax filed a lawsuit against others in his “network,” including SAC Capital, and some of its affiliates, such as Exis Capital and Sigma Capital. (A judge has ruled that SAC Capital should be dropped from the suit, but Sigma and Exis are still in litigation, and Fairfax has appealed the ruling).

Emails obtained by Fairfax’s lawyers make it clear that these hedge funds were using the same tactics (such as trying to cut off the company’s access to credit) that they had been using since the 1980s.In one email, an employee of Exis Capital (a SAC Capital subsidiary) wrote that “the way to get this thing [Fairfax] down is to get them where they eat, like the credit analysts and holders. We’re taking this baby down for the count.” This email was addressed to Jonathan Kalikow, son of Peter Kalikow, who had, in the 1980s, been one of largest investors in Ivan Boesky’s criminal arbitrage fund (or “hedge fund,” as it would now be called).

Kalikow is also a former owner of The New York Post. At the time, the newspapers’ fleet of delivery trucks was controlled by La Cosa Nostra. The operation was run by Bonanno Mafia soldier Richard “Shellack-head” Cantrella. Soon enough, the New York Post delivery fleet began transporting cargos of smuggled weaponry and cocaine, in addition to newspapers. (Kalikow was not charged with any crime, and it is possible he was unaware that his delivery trucks were controlled by the Mob).

At any rate, back in 2006, this network was going to take Fairfax “down for the count.” Fortunately, though, Fairfax was a strong company. Its bankers did not cut off access to credit, and it had the good luck to buy a lot of credit default swaps that massively boosted its profits.

However, two years later, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and other banks were taken “down for the count.” The public attack on Lehman began in May, 2008 with a speech by David Einhorn, a famous short seller who got his start working for Gary Siegler, one of the first people whom Carl Ichan hired after leaving Gruntal & Company. Einhorn is, for all intents and purposes, Ichan’s boy, and when he gave his Lehman speech, he was standing by Icahn’s side, just as he was standing by Ichan’s side when he initiated previous attacks on public companies.

In his speech and subsequent media tour, Einhorn cited data from a strange firm called The Markit Group to support his exaggerated contention that Lehman had improperly accounted for the value of its property and collateralized debt obligation holdings. See my earlier DeepCapture story, “The Markit Group: A Black Box Company that Devastated Markets,” which notes that this company was founded by a few hedge funds, which the company refuses to identify. It was, in 2008, run by two former Canadian bankers and a developer of Bulgarian property, and seemed to cherry-pick its data, which was provided by a few investment banks that are passive investors in the company.

The Markit Group is wholly without transparency, and yet it essentially dictates perceptions of market prices for collateralized debt obligations and other instruments (including credit default swaps) that are important barometers of health in the banking sector. And during the crisis of 2008, it consistently churned out wildly overstated valuations on credit default swaps, while valuing all collateralized debt obligations based on a sampling of CDOs that included only the worst of the worst (or more specifically, the “synthetic” CDOs that had been designed by short sellers to self-destruct).

The Markit Group’s wildly off-base statistics fueled the panic that helped bring down Bear Stearns, and it was a useful tool for Einhorn, when he initiated his attack on Lehman. That attack was akin to the launch of a new Ipod, with much-hyped speeches and a whirlwind media tour handled by a public relations firm, which presented Einhorn as the boy-wonder fraud-buster who had proved his mettle in an earlier battle with a financial services firm called Allied Capital. (See DeepCapture’s story, “Notes on David Einhorn: The Predator in a Cute T-Shirt,” for a fuller deconstruction of Einhorn’s blatantly dishonest attack on Allied Capital, which was perpetrated in league with Michael Milken and Carl Icahn).

While Einhorn was on his media tour, most of the other hedge funds in his network initiated a short selling attack on Lehman. After Lehman’s collapse, the bank’s creditors filed a lawsuit against the above-mentioned Steve Cohen and Dirk Ziff, alleging that the two hedge fund managers (along with Citadel Investment) helped destroy Lehman with manipulative short selling.

To be continued…Click here to read Chapter 7

Mark Mitchell is a journalist who spent most of his career working as a correspondent for mainstream media publications before joining DeepCapture.com. Mitchell is the author of a recently published book: The Dendreon Effect: How Felons, Con-men, and Wall Street Insiders Manipulate High-tech Stocks, which is available from most major online booksellers.

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The Global Bust-Out Series (Chapter 6): An Oligarchic-Organized Crime and Terrorism Syndicate (and Some Stock Promoters)

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The Global Bust-Out Series (Chapter 6): An Oligarchic-Organized Crime and Terrorism Syndicate (and Some Stock Promoters)


This is Chapter 6 of a multi-chapter series. On your right is a Table of Contents to all chapters so far published.

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In this chapter of the Global Bust-Out Series, we learn still more about the Bank of Credit and Commerce and International (BCCI) and its business partners (the “larger BCCI enterprise”). Although this might seem like ancient history, it is history that we should not forget because the people who were involved with the BCCI enterprise did not simply disappear when BCCI collapsed in 1991. To the contrary, most of them remained in business. This despite the fact that Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau had described BCCI as “the largest banking fraud in world financial history.”

Recall, too, that the larger BCCI enterprise did more than operate “the largest banking fraud in world financial history.” It also deployed a variety of schemes to “bust-out” publicly listed companies, some of them among the largest savings and loan banks in the United States. This contributed to the savings and loan crisis that began in the late 1980s, and which ultimately cost American taxpayers upwards of $2 trillion in bail-outs—a portent of bigger and better things to come.

The larger BCCI enterprise also “busted out” (i.e. looted and destroyed) smaller public companies, and it “busted out” other national economies besides the one in the United States. When a few BCCI principals were brought to trial (they were sentenced to pay nothing more than fines that were a fraction of what they had looted), the sentencing judge correctly remarked that the BCCI enterprise had single-handedly “shattered the integrity of the global financial system.”  They had also shattered the integrity of Washington, where officials went to lengths to protect the larger BCCI enterprise from prosecution.

Because the BCCI enterprise was never seriously prosecuted (or exposed in the media), the people who had been involved with BCCI and the larger BCCI enterprise (some of them global terrorists) continued during the years that followed not only to remain in business, but also to operate an almost precisely similar enterprise, the only difference being that the enterprise came to include some new and younger players, while people involved with the enterprise innovated new and more destructive financial schemes. More specifically, they innovated new ways to “bust-out” publicly listed companies and national economies.

Indeed, as we will see, a number of them contributed to the great meltdown of 2008, and they are presently threatening to deliver a repeat performance.

It is no overstatement to say that miscreants (some of them operating big banks on Wall Street) who were formerly involved with BCCI and the larger BCCI enterprise presently pose the single biggest threat to the stability of the global financial system and our economic well-being. More than that, they pose a serious threat to the future of our democracy and to political stability in many other nations as well.  This is, in other words, the history that partly accounts for our present predicament, and it is the history that has (already to the great detriment of our democracy) been covered up by officials in Washington, and ignored by the major U.S. news organizations (many of them owned by people previously linked to the BCCI enterprise).

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During the 1980s, there existed a global network of brokerages linked to BCCI, and it is essential that we know more about these brokerages and their activities because some of their proprietors later established a similar global network of brokerages—and that network, we shall see, remains in business today.

The first fact to know about the brokerages linked to BCCI is that they looted many billions from the global financial system, and most of this looting was accomplished by the perpetration of so-called “pump and dump” schemes. See Chapter 1 of this series for a fuller description of “pump and dump” schemes, but I will repeat the essentials because these schemes have never been properly defined by the media, and rarely, if ever, has anyone been prosecuted for the most damaging component of these schemes. That is to say, American law enforcement officials sometimes prosecute the “pump” end of the schemes, charging miscreants for inflating (or “pumping”) stock prices, which is a relatively minor infraction, but law enforcement officials (and the media) routinely ignore the “dump” end of the schemes even though it is the “dump” that causes the most damage to the financial system.

In a typical “pump and dump” scheme, miscreants first gain a degree of control over a company and/or its stock, and then initially “pump” the shares, causing the stock price to soar in value. But as the name of the scheme suggests, the miscreants eventually  “dump” shares into the market, causing the stock price to decrease in value. And when the miscreants “dump” shares into the market, they always simultaneously attack the target stock with manipulative short selling that causes the stock price to go into a death spiral, thereby ensuring that the stock will hit zero before ordinary investors can realize what is happening and recoup some of their losses.

It is the manipulative short selling where the miscreants make much of their money, and obviously it is the manipulative short selling that wipes out ordinary investors and does the most damage to the markets, but it is this component of the scheme—the manipulative short selling—that is rarely prosecuted.

The manipulative short selling is rarely prosecuted partly because the targeted companies (especially in “pump and dump” schemes) are often fraudulent companies, and authorities apparently believe that the stock price of a fraudulent company ought, in any case, to be zero. But often, the targeted companies are legitimate, while others are not fraudulent until such time as miscreants gain a degree of control over them. And fraudulent or not, the result is always the same: the companies are “busted out” (i.e. destroyed), with the manipulative short selling triggering death spirals that ensure that ordinary investors have no chance whatsoever to exit the stock before it hits zero.

As Congressional investigators tasked to look into the BCCI scandal noted, the global network of BCCI-affiliated brokerages manipulated the U.S. markets and victimized countless investors in North America. However, the whitewashed report produced by the Congressional investigation into the BCCI scandal failed even to identify these brokerages by name, and failed also to identify the people who operated the brokerages. The major U.S. news organizations, meanwhile, reported almost nothing about these brokerages, and on the rare occasion when the brokerages were named, the media not only failed to note that the brokerages were affiliated with the BCCI enterprise, but also failed to report that the brokerages were involved in any criminal activity whatsoever.

The Wall Street Journal, for one, never mentioned any of these brokerages, but one of The Wall Street Journal’s award-winning journalists, Larry Gurwin, did publish a seminal book about the BCCI scandal, and this book (title: “False Profits”) contained much information that apparently could not appear in the newspaper that employed him. For example, Gurwin’s book noted that many of the BCCI-affiliated brokerages were operated by a man named Thomas Quinn, which was interesting because Quinn had been identified by the FBI (which never arrested him) as a major organized crime figure with ties to the Genovese Mafia family.

Quinn operated his brokerages—a global network of BCCI-linked brokerages with names like Equity Management Services, Kettler Investment, etc.—in partnership with other mobsters, including a man named Arnold Kimmes. The FBI identified Kimmes as a “major organized crime figure” in a classified report published in 1973, but the FBI did not arrest Kimmes in 1973, nor did the FBI  arrest Kimmes in any subsequent years, though Kimmes (being a “major organized crime figure”) committed  a lot of major organized crimes in league with BCCI and Quinn.

Quinn traveled often to the Middle East, where some of his brokerages were located, and spent part of every year in the United States, where he manipulated markets in league with a network of other brokerages with ties to organized crime. When he wasn’t traveling in the Middle East or the United States, Quinn was based in France, where he owned a pink villa overlooking the Mediterranean – a villa that he had named Farmhouse of the Roses, suggesting that major organized crime figures appreciate things that are cute and pretty.

In 1988, French police stormed Farmhouse of the Roses, kicking down doors, ransacking the place, hauling away evidence, and arresting Quinn, who was subsequently sentenced to four years in (French) prison on charges of securities fraud and market manipulation. When he was released, Quinn returned to the United States, where law enforcement officials and regulators never bothered him, though it was known that he was once again operating multiple criminal brokerages in this country. For example, Quinn co-founded an outfit called Sovereign Equity Management in partnership with an American criminal-oligarch named Phil Abramo, who was widely known as “The King of Wall Street.”

In addition to being known as “The King of Wall Street,” Abramo was a capo in the DeCalvacante Mafia family.

There were many other major organized crime figures involved with brokerages linked to the BCCI enterprise in the 1980s (and with similar brokerages in subsequent years). Among them were such Mafia luminaries as Canadian mob boss Vic Cotroni; and Antonio Commisso, a.k.a. L’avvocatu, or The Lawyer – the Toronto boss of the Ndrangheta Mafia organization, also known as the Siderno Group because it  has its origins in Siderno, Italy. Meanwhile, these mobsters and others–including Abramo, Quinn, and Kimmes–had extensive business with a famous Canadian stock promoter and organized crime figure named Irving Kott.

In 1979, a hit man named Cecil Kirby placed a bomb under Kott’s car. The bomb exploded, but Kott survived to co-found several brokerages in the global network linked to BCCI. For example, in 1983, Kott co-founded an outfit in Amsterdam called First Commerce Securities, which was the largest and most destructive of the BCCI-linked brokerages.

In 1984, Kott crossed paths with man named Ali Nazerali, who was then a senior employee of an outfit called the Gulf Group and also acted as a principal of a company called Ayla Holdings BV. This lead to Nazerali’s involvement with First Commerce Securities, which has been described as history’s largest-ever “boiler room” operation (“boiler room” being a common name for brokerages that “pump” stocks that are subsequently “dumped” to rip off investors). In 1986, a crack-down by Dutch authorities forced First Commerce to cease operations. The Dutch authorities requested a bankruptcy declaration against First Commerce in December 1996, which was granted in January 1987. Dutch authorities at one point estimated that First Commerce had scammed innocent investors of nearly $400 million (in 1986 dollars).

Nazerali later claimed in an affidavit filed in Canadian court proceedings that Ayla Holdings only had a “conditional” agreement to purchase First Commerce, but a number of sources allege that Nazerali was involved along with Kott in the operations of the brokerage during the period from 1984 to 1986. Neither Nazerali nor anyone else associated with First Commerce was charged with any crime related to operating First Commerce, although a First Commerce managing director was briefly arrested in November, 1986, and the Dutch authorities issued a warrant for Kott’s arrest in 1987. By this time, Kott had (in 1985) survived a second assassination attempt, and was traveling under a false name, reportedly because he feared for his life.

One of First Commerce’s top executives, meanwhile, had been a fellow named Joseph Gamal, who had transferred to First Commerce from BCCI headquarters in London, while another top executive of First Commerce had been a man named Simon Raouff, who had previously worked for Iraq’s foreign ministry, and who was, according to “False Profits” and others, involved with BCCI’s shipments of weapons to Iran and Iraq. Raouff also formerly worked for the Gulf Group, and Nazerali (the fellow who operated First Commerce from 1984 to 1986) was (as mentioned) formerly a top executive at the Gulf Group.

According to multiple sources, including “False Profits,” Nazerali was, like Raouff, also involved in the arms business, and it is likely that he began selling arms while working for the Gulf Group.

The Gulf Group was one of BCCI’s most important affiliates, involved in everything from container shipping to arms dealing and financial services. As Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and many others later made clear, much of the cash that BCCI looted from the global financial system was delivered to the Gulf Group in the form of loans that were not expected to be paid back (and most of that money disappeared). The Gulf Group was controlled by a man named Abbas Gokal and his two brothers, Murtaza and Mustapha Gokal. The Gulf Group and the Gokal brothers themselves also had connections with First Commerce Securities and other brokerages linked to the BCCI enterprise.

Abbas Gokal subsequently became the only major BCCI figure to do jail time for his BCCI crimes, and after his release from jail, he moved to Tehran, where he and his brother, Mustapha, became financial advisors to the Iranian regime. Back in 1969, another Gokal brother, Hussein Gokal, was hanged by the Iraqi government, which had convicted him (albeit in the Iraqi courts, which had a low burden of proof) of being an Iranian spy. That was before the 1979 Islamic revolution, but after the revolution, the surviving Gokal brothers and the Gulf Group had (like their affiliate, BCCI) extensive and close working relationships with the Iranian regime.

The Gulf Group, like BCCI itself, also worked closely with the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, and Abbas Gokal, who was one of Pakistan’s most prominent oligarchs, served (as did many of Pakistan’s oligarchs) as an asset of Pakistan’s intelligence service. Among other ventures, the Gulf Group helped the Pakistani intelligence service deliver weapons to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, and the Gulf Group was linked to the nuclear weapons proliferation network operated by Pakistan’s intelligence service and Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, known as “The Father of the Islamic Bomb.”

One of the beneficiaries of that nuclear proliferation network was the regime in Iran, and the Gulf Group’s dealings with the Iranian regime were so extensive that the mullahs who ruled Iran considered the Gulf Group to be not just one of their most important business partners, but a key ally in furthering the Islamic revolution. The Iranians relied on the Gulf Group for financial and policy advice, and also for a steady supply of sophisticated weaponry. Rachel Ehrenfeld (now director of the Economic Warfare Institute) has written that the Gulf Group “was the major player in delivering strategic and nuclear weapons [components] from the West to Iran and other Muslim countries.”  Congressional investigators reached similar conclusions.

Abbas Gokal, the man who controlled the Gulf Group, was also an intermediary for American oligarchs looking to do business with BCCI and the Iranian regime. Among these American oligarchs was a financial operator named Ivan Boesky, who would later become best known as Michael Milken’s most important criminal coconspirator.

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During the 1980s, Boesky ran what was then one of the nation’s most powerful arbitrage funds (today it would be called a hedge fund), and he had a reputation on the Street as a mysterious character who liked to operate in the shadows – a guy known to deliver suitcases full of cash to gorillas with handguns holstered on their hips. According to Pulitzer Prize winning author James Stewart (see his book, “Den of Thieves”), Boesky often told people that he had spent an earlier period in Iran working as a CIA agent.

Prosecutors would later describe in colorful detail the armed gorillas and suitcases full of cash, but Boesky’s claims to have been working as a CIA agent in Iran were somewhat dubious. It is more than likely, as one of Boesky’s former business colleagues confirmed in an interview with DeepCapture, that Boesky had (and still does have) deep ties not to the CIA, but to the regime in Iran (though, of course, it is possible that he had ties to both).

In any event, it is certain that Boesky spent time in Iran. He was, for example, in Iran soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought the current Iranian regime to power, and when he returned from that trip Boesky went into business with a trader and oligarch named Marc Rich, who, like Boesky, was transacting large volumes of trading with the Iranian regime. The intermediary for Rich’s trading with Iran was, of course, Abbas Gokal, and Rich relied on BCCI for much of his finance. Indeed, Congressional investigators would later identify Rich as being a key figure in the larger BCCI enterprise.

Throughout the 1980s, Rich and Boesky shared New York office space in a building (at 650 Fifth Avenue) that was owned by an outfit called the Assa Corporation, which was controlled by the Iranian regime. Much later, in 2009, the Department of Justice indicted the Assa Corporation, alleging that it was a front for Iranian espionage in the United States, and that it was funding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The DOJ also presented evidence that the Assa Corporation had ties to organized crime, and it is likely that the Assa Corporation’s had been conducting business with organized crime since the 1980s. As we will see, Rich and Boesky also had extensive ties to organized crime and they continue to this day to do business with the Assa Corporation (which has dealings with numerous brokerages in the United States, its indictment for espionage and funding Iran’s nuclear program notwithstanding).

In 1983, Rich was indicted for illegally trading with the Iranian regime during the 1979-1980 Iran hostage crisis, which saw U.S. soldiers die in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue American diplomats who were being held hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. After he was convicted, Rich fled to Switzerland and lived as a fugitive from the law, but U.S. President Bill Clinton, on his last day in office, granted Rich a pardon from his crimes, and by this time Rich was, perhaps, the world’s most powerful commodities trader, in addition to being a big player in other markets.

President Clinton’s decision to pardon Rich from his crimes was influenced by a hedge fund manager and oligarch named Michael Steinhardt, who had persistently lobbied Clinton on Rich’s behalf, and who was one of the largest funders of the Democratic Party. In addition, Steinhardt had co-founded an outfit called the New America Foundation, which played a key role in securing the presidency for Clinton, and was later credited with having authored much of the Clinton administration’s policy platform.

As Steinhardt has himself admitted (possibly because he worried that the information was going to become public anyway, and because he wished to deliver the news as if it were no big deal) the largest investors in his first hedge fund were the Genovese Mafia family. This was because Steinhardt’s father, Sol “Red” Steinhardt, was (in the words of a Manhattan district attorney) the “biggest Mafia fence in America.” More specifically, Steinhardt Sr. was the chief money manager for the Genovese and affiliated Mafia families.

According to Steinhardt, the second biggest investors in his hedge fund (after the Genovese Mafia) were Marc Rich and his office mate, Ivan Boesky. Steinhardt, meanwhile, had become one of the more prominent (and some say “notorious”) hedge fund managers on Wall Street. In 1991, Steinhardt was implicated in a scheme to corner the U.S. Treasuries market—a scheme that would have had disastrous consequences for the U.S.A. if had been successful. Two years earlier, in 1989, The Wall Street Journal described Steinhardt as being part of a “network” of financial operators who deployed manipulative short selling to attack publicly listed American companies. Indeed, though The Wall Street Journal did not report this, the same “network” had conspired with BCCI to “bust-out” (i.e. destroy) some of America’s largest financial institutions.

In addition, this “network” remains in business today, so there is more that we need to know about the “network,” beginning with the information that the “network” includes Ivan Boesky and Marc Rich, not to mention former BCCI figures like Abbas Gokal and some of the world’s leading organized crime bosses. Meanwhile, of course, a central figure in the “network” is Boesky’s most famous criminal coconspirator, Michael Milken, who was (in the 1980s) the most powerful man on Wall Street, and who remains to this day one of the most destructive financial operators in the nation.

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Although Milken spent two years in prison, and is, without doubt, one of history’s most destructive financial criminals, the major U.S. news organizations presently describe Milken as being not only a Wall Street hero, but also one of the most “prominent” fixtures of the American establishment. Even the usually reliable Economist magazine published an article in September 2010 that hailed Milken as an “innovator” whose junk bond finance in the 1980s helped build some of America’s greatest companies.

It is true that Milken’s finance contributed to the growth of a few major companies. For example, Milken financed Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In addition, Milken finance helped Ted Turner build CNN into a media powerhouse. And it is perhaps no coincidence that CNN was, meanwhile, doing business with BCCI subsidiary Capcom Financial, which, during the 1980s, transacted $90 billion (a mighty sum in those days) in “wash” trades through Milken’s trading desk at Drexel Burnham Lambert.

As noted in earlier chapters, “wash” trades are usually accompanied by manipulative  short selling, and they cause extensive damage to the markets. In addition, “wash trades” usually involve money laundering (hence the term “wash”), so it is probably notable that Capcom Financial and its director, Ziauddin Ali Akbar, who also served as BCCI’s treasurer, were, in the 1980s, indicted for laundering money on behalf of Colombian drug cartels. And of course, the larger BCCI enterprise was laundering money for terrorist outfits and the world’s leading organized crime syndicates. (Congressional investigators determined that Capcom principals, one of whom was the chief of Saudi intelligence, might also have influenced CNN’s coverage of the Middle East and of BCCI itself).

In any event, while  Milken did finance a few successful companies, Milken and a close-knit cabal of criminal-oligarchs destroyed (i.e. “busted out”) far more companies than they built, and, often, they did so in league with the BCCI enterprise.

It would require another book-length blog to discuss all of the companies that the Milken cabal destroyed in the 1980s, and the subject has already been covered to some extent by other books, so I will leave it to the reader to consult, for example, Connie Bruck’s highly acclaimed book, “The Predators’ Ball,” which describes Milken’s  larger scheme in general terms. Perhaps the best book on the Milken cabal is Ben Stein’s “License to Steal,” in which Stein posited that the principal business model of Milken & Co. was to “bust out” (a term that Stein also used, which is to say I didn’t make it up) publicly listed companies, including many of the nation’s leading savings and loan banks. (Stein later became a columnist for The New York Times, which never publishes anything negative about Milken nor any other oligarch).

Although the major U.S. news organizations devoted little attention to the “bust-outs” of savings and loan banks, the “bust-outs” were noticed by others, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC), whose deputy director at the time was the crusading William Black, a rare example of an honest man in government who later (as a professor of economics) developed the concept of “control fraud,” in which financial executives (e.g. Michael Milken and his associates) deliberately use entities that they control as a “weapon” to commit fraud that undermines markets and the broader economy. Back in the 1980s, as the FDI noted, Milken and his closest associates “willfully, deliberately, and systematically plundered certain S&Ls.”

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The Milken variation of the “bust out” worked as follows: Milken issued junk bonds to finance about two dozen of his closest associates, who used the finance to take over good companies. Under the direction of Milken’s cronies, the companies took on ever greater amounts of Milken’s junk bond debt. But rather than use the finance to grow the companies, the Milken cronies simply looted the companies of their cash. To create the illusion that there was a liquid market for the junk bonds, the Milken cronies meanwhile traded their bonds amongst each other at stair-stepping prices.

As the government’s indictments of Milken made clear, this junk bond merry-go-round was conducted with Mafia-like secrecy – nobody other than Milken’s closest associates knew that the only buyers for the junk bonds were Milken’s other closest associates. Meanwhile, Milken was involved with a nationwide network of brokerages and investment funds (many featured in later chapters of this series, and many still in business today) that traded on inside information about these companies and manipulated their stock prices. When the Milken’s junk bond cronies were done looting their companies, Milken and his cronies, along with others in their network, would attack the companies with manipulative short selling, thereby triggering a death spiral in their stock prices and ensuring that the companies could not be saved.

One of the short sellers who regularly attacked companies that were “busted out” by Milken and his associates was, of course, Michael Steinhardt (the guy with the hedge fund whose biggest investors were Marc Rich, the Genovese Mafia, and Milken’s criminal co-conspirator Ivan Boesky). Others were among the short sellers who were part of the short selling “network” exposed by the 1989 Wall Street Journal story that identified Steinhardt as being a key figure in the network. Later chapters of this series will discuss the network in greater detail, but for now it is enough to know that the 1989 Wall Street Journal story reported that others in the network, including a fellow named Jim Chanos, were employed at the time by a brokerage called Gilford Securities.

By 2000, Chanos had left Gilford Securities and (with funding from Steinhardt, son of the biggest Mafia fence in America) started his own hedge fund, Kynikos Investments, one of the most powerful hedge funds in the nation. Chanos also headed up (and still does head up) a hedge fund lobbying organization and, by 2000, he had become a  favorite source of information for journalists at major U.S. news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, which never again published a story exposing manipulative short selling. Meanwhile, in 2000, five former brokers at Gilford Securities were indicted as part of Operation Uptick, billed by the FBI as the largest Mafia bust in history. The FBI reported at the time that the Gilford brokers had manipulated stocks in league with a “network” that included ten of La Cosa Nostra’s leading lights and a corrupt New York cop.

When I called Chanos’ former boss, H. Robert Holmes, to ask about Operation Uptick and the Mafia’s infiltration of his brokerage, he said: “This is bullshit.” Indeed, almost none of the 120 people arrested in Operation Uptick (ostensibly the biggest Mafia bust in history) were ever sentenced to anything worse than small fines, and most of them remained in business, so maybe Holmes was right: it was bullshit.

Back in the 1980s, when Gilford and Chanos were part of Milken’s nationwide network, their manipulative short selling targeted numerous companies that had been financed with Milken’s junk bonds. Chanos presently tells reporters that he was Milken’s nemesis and that his short selling of Milken-financed companies was evidence that he had a keen nose for fraudulent companies, but this is pure spin. Milken financed those companies fully intending that they would be “busted out” (i.e. destroyed) with help from manipulative short selling perpetrated by others, including Chanos and Steinhardt, in his network. And the short selling attacks, of course, triggered the essential death spirals in the stock prices of the target companies so that even if the companies’ boards of directors were to remove the Milken cronies, the companies would be unable to raise finance from more reputable sources.

When the companies went bankrupt, Milken and his cronies, including the short sellers, would make a fortune. Other Milken cronies would make still more money by purchasing the companies’ assets at fire-sale prices in the bankruptcy proceedings. And then they would repeat the process all over again, assured that the junk bond merry-go-round would supply a constant stream of lootable finance.

But, of course, this scheme eventually collapsed – and it must be stressed, the vast majority of the companies that Milken financed ultimately were destroyed.

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As already indicated, many of the companies that were destroyed by Milken & Co. were savings and loan banks, and in the case of the savings and loan banks, there was another important component of the scheme that involved a small number of people who specialized in so-called “brokered deposits.” Indeed, “brokered deposits” were one of the more important contributors to the savings and loan crisis, and they have been similarly cited as a contributing factor (other factors being manipulative short selling and “control fraud”) in our more recent financial crisis.

The full story of brokered deposits is a long one, but the short version is that a brokered deposit is, as the term implies, a bank deposit that is acquired through a broker.

More specifically, the broker aggregates deposits from many sources, and is paid by a given bank to deliver his bundle of deposits to the bank in question. The hitch is that these brokered deposits, unlike, say, checking and savings accounts, are generally not a stable source of funding, and technically, undercapitalized banks are not allowed to accept them. However, in the 1980s, there were loopholes (and there remained loopholes in all the years that followed) that enabled some well-connected brokers to deliver huge bundles of deposits to the most dubious banks, and in the process those banks would take on costly liabilities. In the case of the savings and loans that were part of the Milken junk bond merry-go-round, the deposits were simply looted.

In the 1980s, the single most important deposit broker—and a central character in most accounts of the savings and loan crisis (see, especially, the book “Inside Job.”)—was an organized crime figure named Mario Renda. And Renda’s most important business partner was Adnan Khashoggi, who, of course, was a key figure in the larger BCCI enterprise. Khashoggi was also closely involved with the global network of brokerages linked to the BCCI enterprise, and he (along with others already mentioned) will prove extremely important to our later discussion of the financial crisis that began in 2007, and which continues to this day.

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It is not an understatement to say that the savings and loan crisis would not have happened if it were not for the work of Renda and his sponsor Khashoggi, who, along with Milken, was one of the masterminds of the scheme to “willfully, deliberately, and systematically plunder” not just a few banks, but more than a hundred savings and loan banks across the nation, some of them among the nation’s most important financial institutions. Also central to this scheme was an outfit called CenTrust, which was based in Miami, and was the largest savings and loan bank in the southeastern United States. As Congressional investigators would later reveal, CenTrust was controlled by BCCI, and financed by Milken.

CenTrust was also a key component of Milken’s junk bond merry-go-round—i.e. the merry-go-round that allowed a host of Milken-financed savings and loan banks, including CenTrust, to appear healthy, even though they were taking on ever greater liabilities in the form of brokered deposits, and even though they were being “systematically” plundered (i.e. “busted out”). Ultimately, of course, CenTrust was one bank that was “busted out,” and its inevitable collapse alone cost U.S. taxpayers more than $2 billion.

Another key participant in the Milken junk bond merry-go-round and the larger scheme to “bust-out” major savings and loan banks was a monumental criminal and prominent American oligarch named Charles Keating. With Milken’s finance, Keating seized control of an outfit called Lincoln Savings and Loan, which was then the largest savings and loan bank—and one of the most important financial institutions—in the nation. Ultimately, of course, Milken and Keating, along with others in their network, “systematically plundered” (i.e. “busted out”) Lincoln Savings and Loan, and they did so in cahoots with the BCCI enterprise.

A later Congressional investigation would reveal that one BCCI figure involved in the “bust-out” of Lincoln Savings and Loan was a shadowy Swiss financial operator named Alfred Hartman, who was a member of BCCI’s board of directors and the head of BCCI Swiss subsidiary, Banque de Commerce et de Placements, based in Geneva.  Also involved in the “bust-out” of Lincoln Savings and Loan, according to Congressional investigators, was Abbas Gokal, head of the Gulf Group. As we know, the Gulf Group was one of BCCI’s most important affiliates, closely tied to the Iranian regime and Pakistani intelligence.

When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began investigating BCCI for its role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, the Committee announced that it intended to take a close look at Keating’s relationship with Gokal and the Gulf Group. It is not clear what, if anything, came of that investigation, but we would be justified in asking whether any serious investigation occurred at all given that Keating had successfully corrupted (or “captured”) at least five senators. Those captured senators would later become known, famously, or notoriously, as “The Keating Five,” at which point it was widely reported that the senators had, for many years, been intervening on Keating’s behalf, helping to derail law enforcement investigations into the goings-on at Lincoln Savings and Loan.

The same senators—and other senators besides—had given speeches on the Senate floor singing the praises of BCCI and ridiculing those who suggested that BCCI was a criminal enterprise. Presently, U.S. senators continue to sing the praises of billionaires who were formerly involved with the BCCI enterprise, and many of those billionaires continue to be given VIP treatment by other top officials in Washington.

Therefore, it is necessary for us to learn more about the billionaires who were formerly involved with the BCCI enterprise, beginning with the observation that all of these billionaires are, like Milken, also treated with reverence by the major U.S. news organizations, including The New York Times. And it is to one recent (and typical) New York Times article that we now turn, if only because it gives further credence to my contention that The New York Times is less reliable than People magazine, while the New York Times slogan—“All the News That’s Fit to Print”—is false and eminently fraudulent advertising that should be reported to the Better Business Bureau.

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In 2009, The New York Times published an obituary marking the death that year of Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, the Saudi billionaire and Muslim Brotherhood oligarch who had, in the 1980s, been the largest shareholder of BCCI, and who had served as executive director of the bank. Sheikh Mahfouz was also one of history’s most destructive financial criminals, and when he and other BCCI principals were tried for their BCCI crimes, the presiding judge (who sentenced them to pay fines that were fraction of what they looted) named Sheikh Mahfouz as one among the people who had “shattered the integrity of the global financial system.” Aside from that, Sheikh Mahfouz was the most prominent banker in Saudi Arabia.

Not only was Sheikh Mahfouz the principal banker to the Saudi royal family, but he had also been the principal financier of numerous other Saudi oligarchs, including Adnan Khashoggi, who had been involved with the BCCI enterprise during the 1980s. In addition, Sheikh Mahfouz had been the proprietor of numerous other financial institutions, all of which had been affiliates of BCCI during the 1980s, and most of which remain in operation today. For example, Sheikh Mahfouz founded an outfit called National Commercial Bank, which is presently one of the largest and most powerful financial institutions on the planet, with extensive operations in the United States, and partnerships with some of Wall Street’s leading brokerages and investment houses.

If all that were not enough, Sheikh Mahfouz was also the most important business partner of a Saudi oligarch and terrorist named Osama bin Laden.

For these and other reasons to be discussed, Sheikh Mahfouz was, in fact, one of the most important people in the world. That alone is enough to cast doubt on The New York Times slogan—“All the News That’s Fit to Print”—for The New York Times rarely printed anything at all about Sheikh Mahfouz until his death in 2009, at which point The Times published an obituary for Sheikh Mahfouz that is worthy of our attention not because it was exceptional, but because it was entirely typical of the reporting by America’s most important newspaper, and this typical story was so ingratiating to power and so grossly propagandistic that it might not be an exaggeration to suggest that The New York Times itself poses a greater threat to the republic than do any of the terrorists who purportedly hate our freedoms.

For starters, The New York Times did not describe Sheikh Mahfouz as one of history’s most destructive financial criminals, and nor did the Times note that Sheikh Mahfouz and his BCCI associates had “single handedly shattered the integrity of the global financial system.” The Times did report that Sheikh Mahfouz had paid some money to settle fraud charges related to his involvement with BCCI, but the always “balanced” New York Times noted (and gave credence to) Sheikh Mahfouz’s claim that the payment (around $250 million, but the Times didn’t say how much) to settle fraud charges was just a “business decision,” and that he had not technically paid a “fine” because he denied all wrong-doing.

As for the nature of the BCCI enterprise, The New York Times reported only that BCCI had been shut down in 1991 after being accused of “financial chicanery and money laundering.” That was it. Just “chicanery,” as if it were nothing more than a slap-stick funny sort of mischief. Recall that this was a bank that helped “bust out” the American economy, meanwhile running a global network of criminal brokerages in partnership with transnational organized crime syndicates and providing a full package of services to the world’s leading terrorist outfits, with some terrorists themselves counted among the key figures in the larger BCCI enterprise. This is the same BCCI enterprise that thoroughly corrupted Washington and captured leading U.S. news organizations.

This was a bank (see “The Outlaw Bank,” by Johnathon Beaty, who was chief investigative reporter for Time Magazine until he reported the truth about this bank) that operated its own “Black Network” involved in everything from terrorism and coups de’ tat to weapons smuggling, narco-trafficking, nuclear weapons proliferation, prostitution, political assassinations, kidnappings, and murder for hire.

The New York Times has never reported any of that, and in its obituary for Sheikh Mahfouz (which was also the last time the Times mentioned BCCI), the Times literally had nothing more to say about BCCI other than those few words:  “financial chicanery and money laundering” (i.e. standard banking procedures), tempered with the assurance of Sheikh Mahfouz that neither he nor BCCI had committed any wrongdoing. Aside from that, this story in the Times demonstrated nothing short of admiration for Sheikh Mahfouz, noting that “Sheikh Mahfouz typified Saudi Arabia’s super-wealthy.” The Times gushed further that Sheikh Mahfouz “maintained opulent homes around the world and traveled in his own Boeing 767 with gold-plated bathroom fixtures.”

The Times also reported (approvingly) that Sheikh Mahfouz had, in 1977, joined a “Washington insider” named John Connally and unnamed “others” to buy an outfit called Main Bank of Houston. In addition, the Times reported that Connally introduced Sheikh Mahfouz to some Texas billionaires, namely the brothers William Herbert Hunt and Nelson Bunker Hunt, and the Times reported that these billionaires and Sheikh Mahfouz proceeded to collaborate in an effort to corner the silver market.

However, the Times did not seem to think there was anything wrong with American oligarchs and a Saudi sheikh trying to corner the silver market. In addition, the Times reported that the attempt was “unsuccessful” because Sheikh Mahfouz had (according to the Sheikh Mahfouz) “lost money” in the effort. Moreover, readers of this story in the Times were left to believe that this was the full extent of Sheikh Mahfouz’s business in the United States: the purchase, with a “Washington insider,” of Main Bank, and an “unsuccessful” attempt to corner the silver market.

But there was more to this story—news that the Times didn’t see “Fit to Print.”

For example, the Times did not report that Sheikh Mahfouz was (in the 1980s) a key player in a network of financial operators who were systematically plundering not just Main Bank, but also more than 100 other savings and loan banks. In addition, the Times failed to report that the “attempt” to corner the silver market was more than an attempt, and was, in fact, entirely successful in that Sheikh Mahfouz and his partners (for a time) fully controlled the price of silver. From the perspective of a Muslim Brotherhood oligarch like Sheikh Mahfouz (see earlier chapters of this series for more on what Muslim Brotherhood leaders call “The Financial Jihad”) the cornering of the silver market was all the more successful in that it wrought havoc in the broader markets, and nearly caused the collapse of  Bache & Co., which was then one of America’s largest investment banks.

As for that “Washington insider,” John Connally, the Times seemed to believe that it was par for the course and even commendable for Sheikh Mahfouz (who was then perpetrating the “biggest banking fraud in world financial history” in partnership with the chief of Saudi intelligence and other BCCI figures) to seek favor with a “Washington insider,” and the Times failed to report that this particular insider, Connally, had recently served as Secretary of Treasury, in which capacity he had convinced President Nixon to devalue the dollar and abandon the gold standard (which helped Sheikh Mahfouz corner the silver market).  Moreover, at the time when he went into business with Sheikh Mahfouz, Connally had announced his intention to run for president of the United States, though the Times didn’t mention that.

The Times also failed to report that Sheikh Mahfouz went into business with many other “Washington insiders” besides Connally. For example, Sheikh Mahfouz and BCCI purchased National Georgia Bank, the principal financiers of then President Jimmy Carter’s family peanut business, and Sheikh Mahfouz had extensive business with future President George Bush, Jr.  Indeed, Sheikh Mahfouz and other key figures in the BCCI enterprise effectively owned Washington, and they still owned Washington at the time of Sheikh Mahfouz’s death in 2009, but this was neither newsworthy nor problematic so far as The New York Times was concerned.

In addition, the Times failed to report that Main Bank, the outfit that Sheikh Mahfouz acquired with a Washington insider, was a key component of a larger scheme—namely, a scheme to “bust out” the U.S.A. and the global economy—that Sheikh Mahfouz and BCCI were perpetrating in league with other “Washington insiders” and American oligarchs, among them, of course, Michael Milken, who was, at the time, the most powerful man on Wall Street and one of history’s most destructive financial criminals (worthy of our respect and admiration,, according to The New York Times).

One of the few journalists who has reported extensively on the savings and loan scam is Pete Brewton, formerly of various of newspapers in Texas, and indeed Brewton (who has been scorned by others in the mainstream media for failing to toe the party line) is one of the world’s reigning experts on the savings and loan scandal. In addition, Brewton (see his book on the Mafia and savings and loans) has reported that Main Bank (owned by Sheikh Mahfouz and Washington insiders)  was part of a network of affiliated savings and loan banks that raised (with help from Khashoggi’s organized crime partner Mario Renda) a steady stream of brokered deposits, with the banks lending the cash back and forth to each other.

This daisy chain of lending served a purpose similar to Milken’s junk bond merry-go-round, temporarily creating the appearance that the banks were functioning and liquid financial institutions, but, of course, the goal of the people in the network was ultimately to “bust-out” (i.e. loot and destroy) all of the savings and loan banks in the network, including Main Bank. It might also be noted (though it is not “News That’s Fit to Print”) that Sheikh Mahfouz and other BCCI figures controlled or partially controlled numerous other banks in the network, among them an outfit called MBank and its parent, MCorp.

The two biggest clients of MBank (i.e. two people who helped loot the bank, as they were not expected to repay their loans) were major organized crime figure Herman Beebe and Carlos Marcello, who was then the top Mafia boss in the city of New Orleans (and the chief of La Cosa Nostra operations throughout Texas and other southern states). Another outfit in the network was Mainland Bank, which was “busted out” with help from Adnan Khashoggi, who, of course, was financed by Sheikh Mahfouz. Mainland’s top client, meanwhile, was Leonard Capaldi, whom the DOJ would later identify as a major organized crime figure and close associate of Detroit Mafia capo Tony Tocco.

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Yet another bank in the network was San Jacinto Savings and Loan, which was a subsidiary of an outfit called Southmark Corporation, operated by Gene Phillips, the single most important business partner of Michael Milken, and a central player in the Milken-BCCI scheme to “bust out” the national economy.

Southmark was the largest recipient of Milken junk bonds in the 1980s, and it was the lynchpin of the junk bond merry-go-round. Its subsidiary, San Jacinto, was one of the largest savings and loan banks in the nation, and, of course, it was “busted out” (i.e. looted and destroyed) with much of the loot going to a familiar cast of coconspirators, including Adnan Khashoggi; Sheikh Mahfouz; New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello; and the notorious mobster-oligarch Herman Beebe, who was linked to the “bust-outs” of no less than two dozen other saving and loan banks across the nation.

The man whom Gene Phillips appointed as the chief loan officer of San Jacinto Saving and Loan was named Joseph Grosz. Aside from being a banker, Grosz was a leading mobster, affiliated with the Chicago Syndicate. As Brewton reported, San Jacinto’s parent, Southmark, was  “used as a mob dumping ground to buy the investments of mobsters,” including not only Herman Beebe and Carlos Marcello, but also organized crime figure Harry Wood, and Morris Shenker, a former lieutenant of Meyer Lansky, who was the most powerful mobster in the nation until he was replaced by Alvin Malnik. Meanwhile, in the 1980s, Malnik (the nation’s most powerful mobster) managed investments in the United States for Saudi princes involved with the BCCI enterprise (as was reported by People magazine, but not by The New York Times).

The “bust out” of San Jacinto cost American taxpayers another two billion in bailouts, and a Department of Justice investigation determined that San Jacinto and its parent, Southmark, were key components of the nationwide network that coordinated the “bust outs” of many other savings and loan banks—namely the network that is the subject of this story, and which precipitated the savings and loan crisis that ultimately cost more than $2 trillion in taxpayer-funded bailouts. However, Lloyd Monroe, the man who led the DOJ investigation into Southmark and San Jacinto, was forced to resign from his job after complaining that top officials at the DOJ had thwarted his investigation, and neither Phillips nor any other Southmark executive was charged for their role in the savings and loan scandal.

Presently, Phillips is still the most important business partner of Michael Milken, and most major U.S. news organizations seem to regard Phillips in the same way they regard Milken—i.e. as something of a Wall Street hero and a “prominent” fixture of the American establishment. The only exceptions are a few journalists (including Brewton) who have covered Phillips closely, and who managed to report on his activities in prominent publications in Texas, where Phillips is based. For example, the Dallas Business Journal reported in 2000 that Phillips “allegedly met with two associates of New York’s legendary Bonanno organized crime family to discuss a plan to bilk a couple of ‘very friendly’ union pension funds through the sale of inflated stock.”

That same year, 2000, Phillips was arrested and charged with manipulating stock prices in league with other leading figures in La Cosa Nostra. More specifically, Phillips was arrested as part of Operation Uptick, which, of course, was described by FBI spokesmen as the largest Mafia bust in U.S. history. More than 120 people (including, recall, those five brokers who had worked for Gilford Securities), all with ties to organized crime, were arrested in Operation Uptick, and FBI officials described them as being part of a nationwide “network” of stock manipulators, some of whom had committed various other crimes, which included (according to an FBI statement):  “controlling and infiltrating broker-dealers…and employing tactics of violence, including threats, extortion, physical intimidation, and the solicitation of murder…”

Some of the 120 people arrested in Operation Uptick were members of Russian organized crime syndicates, while others were, variously, described by the FBI as having ties to each of La Cosa Nostra’s five major Mafia families—Genovese, Colombo, Gambino, Bonanno, and Lucchese.  Among the 120 defendants, aside from Phillips (and aside from the five former Gilford brokers), were:  Robert “Little Robert” Lino, a capo in the Bonanno crime family; Anthony Stropoli, a soldier in the Colombo crime family; Frank “Frankie” Persico, a Colombo Mafia capo; Sebastian “Sebbie” Rametta, an associate of the Colombo crime family; Robert Gallo, an associate of the Genovese crime family; and John Black, an associate of the Lucchese crime family.

The DOJ charged that Phillips, in league with various members of La Cosa Nostra, had manipulated the stock of one of his companies, an outfit called Transcontinental. Aside from Phillips, the largest shareholder in that company was Michael Milken, who, of course, was Phillips’ most important business partner, known to readers of The New York Times only as a “prominent” fixture of the American establishment who was (at this time in 2000, according to the Times) focused principally on “philanthropic” activities. (See my book “The Dendreon Effect” if you wish to learn how Milken uses his “philanthropy” to manipulate stocks of pharmaceutical companies and to suppress promising medical treatments developed by companies that he and others with ties to organized crime are trying to destroy for profit.)

The New York Times has yet to report that Phillips was arrested as part of the largest Mafia bust in FBI history, and nor has The New York Times ever reported that the Mafia has a large presence on Wall Street.

The Wall Street Journal did report that Phillips had been arrested, but The Journal provided nothing at all in the way of detail about the ties between Phillips and the Mafia, much less about his earlier central role, along with leading mobsters and BCCI, in the savings and loan scandal (i.e. in the “bust out” of the American economy). Instead, The Journal simply noted that Phillips had been arrested “in a sweeping case alleging organized crime influence on Wall Street,” and then described some Phillips businesses in relatively benign terms. However, the author of The Wall Street Journal article did note that when he tried to interview Phillips, he not only found Phillips uncooperative, but was told by Phillips: “You’re not supposed to be talking to me. You’re going to get buried.”

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A few weeks after the Wall Street Journal story was published, Phillips was acquitted on all counts. Most of the mobsters arrested in Operation Uptick also did not do jail time, and as I noted earlier, most of them remain in business today. More specifically, they are involved with a nationwide network of brokerages, and as we will see, this network of brokerages (though the brokerages have changed their names, and there are some new editions) is essentially the reincarnation of the network that BCCI and leading organized crime figures established in the 1980s.

As we know, the global network of brokerages linked to BCCI in the 1980s specialized in “busting out” small and medium-sized public companies. It should be added, though, that the establishment of this global network of brokerages was not unrelated to BCCI’s other ventures, including its involvement in the schemes to “bust out” savings and loan banks. Some of the brokerages in the global network were established as subsidiaries of the savings and loan banks that had been seized by BCCI and/or BCCI’s confederates, the most prominent confederate being, of course, Michael Milken (then the most powerful man on Wall Street).

Later chapters of this series will discuss the global network of brokerages in more detail, but to cite just one more example, a BCCI affiliate called the Saudi European Corp. and Michael Milken, among others, including Sheikh Mahfouz, gained control over a savings and loan operation called MDC Holdings. The ultimate goal, of course, was to “bust out” MDC Holdings, and, of course, that is ultimately what happened. But like the other savings loan banks in the network, MDC Holdings was, for a time, made to appear like a healthy and going concern, utilizing all of the methods that we have already discussed.

In other words, MDC Holding was a key component of Milken’s junk bond merry-go-round; it was a key recipient of the “brokered deposits” delivered by the organized crime figure and Khashoggi partner Mario Renda; and it was a key link in the “daisy chain” that saw all of the banks and miscreants in the network lending money back and forth to each other.

In addition, MDC Holdings counted among its subsidiaries a brokerage called Blinder Robinson, which was so notorious that it was known on the Street as “Blind’em and Rob’em.”

The eponymous head of Blinder Robinson was Meyer Blinder, whose diamond-encrusted pinky ring and thick, gold chains marked him as one among the new breed of financial operators who had descended upon Wall Street. Blinder was indicted in 1989, but he did only 39 months in prison, and was back in business upon his release. And, of course, Blinder was treated generously by the major U.S. news organizations, including our favorite, The New York Times, which published a 2004 obituary marking the death of Meyer Blinder—an obituary that we should briefly review because its omissions are related to the omissions in the Sheikh Mahfouz obituary, to which we will return momentarily.

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Upon the death of Meyer Blinder, The New York Times reported that Blinder had been the “King of Penny Stocks,” and the Times described Blinder’s “penny stock” business as follows:  “Keep pushing the stock up, moving it from hand to hand at higher prices until the ‘story’ behind the stock wears thin. Then just walk away from it.”  The Times added that Blinder had been charged with nothing worse than selling stock at “markups that were above the allowed 10 percent.” In addition, The Times reported that Blinder had always warned that “everybody who gambled on penny stocks knew the risk,” and The Times seemed to agree with that statement (the suggestion being that the investors in penny stocks were suckers who deserved what they got when Blinder and his confederates stole all their money).

It was not, of course, the case that Blinder’s outfit simply kept “pushing the stock up” until it came time to “just walk away from it.”  Nor was it the case that ordinary investors were fully aware of the risk. Blinder’s brokerage, like others in the network, perpetrated “pump and dump” frauds, the most important component of which was not the “pump,” but rather than “dump” and the accompanying manipulative short selling that sent stocks into death spirals, with the stocks hitting zero before ordinary investors could become even remotely aware that they were being fleeced. That is why the operation was called “Blind’em and Rob’em,” though The New York Times did not report that, and The Times did not report that the “Blind’em and Rob’em” schemes had “busted out” (i.e. destroyed) at least a hundred publicly listed companies over the course of its amazing crime spree.

Among the miscreants who manipulated stocks in league with Blinder Robinson were (according to various indictments) Thomas Quinn and Arnold Kimmes who (as we know) had operated a number of other BCCI-linked brokerages. Quinn, recall, was an associate of the Genovese Mafia family, while Kimmes had been identified in a 1973 FBI report as a “major organized crime figure.” When Kimmes was indicted, he escaped prison by ratting on Meyer Blinder. In 2000, Richard Walker, then the SEC’s director of enforcement (who had failed, for the most part, to take any enforcement actions in this regard), gave testimony to Congress in which he described Blinder Robinson as being part of a network of brokerages that were tied to organized crime. The New York Times, of course, reported none of this.

The Times, did, however, report (approvingly) that Blinder had “raised more than $200 million for starting and nurturing businesses.”  More specifically, he raised $200 million to seize control of businesses that he and others subsequently “busted out,” but the Times left that part out, and concluded its story by informing its readers that Blinder’s “generosity to charities like the Denver’s Children’s Hospital was well known.”  And that was it. All the news that was fit to print, according to the Times, which did not see fit to print anything close to quantifying the damage that Blinder Robinson had inflicted on the global financial system, much less the fact that it had done so in league with BCCI and a host of mobsters and terrorist financiers who were involved with the larger BCCI enterprise.

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One of Blinder Robinson’s key principals in the 1980s was a fellow named Amr Ibrahim Elgindy, and later chapters of this series will be devoted entirely to discussing Amr Ibrahim (a.k.a. Anthony) Elgindy because he later established a short selling syndicate that remains in operation today, though Elgindy himself was, in 2005, sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of securities fraud and bribing FBI agents to provide him with confidential information about government investigations into companies that his short selling crew had targeted for destruction.

During his 2004-2005 trial, prosecutors stated that Anthony Elgindy had ties to Al Qaeda, and that he might have traded ahead of his advance knowledge of the September 11 conspiracy.

In support of their contention that Elgindy had ties to Al Qaeda, the prosecutors began by noting that Elgindy had delivered large sums of money to an outfit called Mercy International, but at this point the judge cut off the prosecutors and forbade them from any further discussion of Elgindy’s ties to terrorism. According to the judge, linking Elgindy to terrorists would bias the jury, which was a bit like saying that it would be unfair to discuss a criminal’s ties to the Mafia, but the major U.S. news organizations seemed to agree with the judge. The New York Times published a story casting doubt on the prosecution’s contention that Elgindy had ties to terrorism, and The Wall Street Journal not only reported that the prosecution had unfairly biased the jury by mentioning terrorism, but published a long story strongly suggesting that it would be unfortunate if Elgindy were to be sentenced to prison at all.

Again, later chapters of this series will be devoted entirely to the true story of Anthony Elgindy and his short selling syndicate, but for the purposes of this chapter it is enough to know that Elgindy did, in fact, have ties to terrorists, and it is possible that he developed these relationships while working for the BCCI-linked Blinder Robinson. It is also possible that prosecutors were cut off by the judge when they began to discuss Elgindy’s ties to Mercy International because at that time the Department of Justice and other U.S. government agencies were not keen for the public to know about Mercy International’s ties to terrorism. Indeed, officials in Washington were going to some lengths to cover-up Mercy International’s ties to terrorism, and though it is not clear why they were doing so, it is noteworthy that Mercy International was co-founded by people who had formerly been involved with the BCCI enterprise.

One of Mercy International’s co-founders was Sheikh Mahfouz, who, of course, was one of the most “prominent” bankers on the planet and a business partner of numerous “Washington insiders.” Another of Mercy International’s co-founders was a man named Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who was the scion of one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest families, a resident of the United States, and an honorary member of the American establishment. Mr. Alamoudi had contacts at the highest levels in Washington, and for a time during the 1990s, he worked in the White House as an advisor (on Middle Eastern affairs, terrorism, etc.) for President Bill Clinton.

In addition, Mr. Alamoudi (Elgindy’s close associate) was one of the most important figures in Osama bin Laden’s organized crime (and terrorism) syndicate. (Osama bin Laden’s outfit, of course, is usually referred to as “Al Qaeda,” and I will continue to use that term in contexts where it has been used by U.S. officials, but it should be recalled that Osama bin Laden himself never used the term “Al Qaeda” until long after U.S. officials invented the name and inserted it into the public lexicon. As we know from earlier chapters of this series, Osama bin Laden was, prior to September 11, 2001, better known as a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood and chairman of a Muslim Brotherhood outfit called the Islamist International).

In 2003, Mr. Alamoudi (co-founder of Mercy International, and one of Elgindy’s closest associates) was arrested at London’s Heathrow airport when customs officials found that he was carrying a suitcase with a secret compartment containing $350,000 in American cash. At this point, U.S. officials went to lengths to cover-up Mr. Alamoudi’s ties to Osama bin Laden, and in 2004 (the same year when the judge prohibited prosecutors in the Elgindy trial from elaborating on Mercy International and Elgindy’s ties to terrorism), the Department of Justice issued a press release stating that Mr. Alamoudi was a Saudi “dissident” who had been indicted for illegal financial transactions with the government of Libya, and who had been involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, described by the DOJ press release as “an important ally in the war on terror.”

Subsequently, many news organizations (citing U.S. officials who wished to remain anonymous, perhaps because no U.S. official wished for his name to be attached to this outlandish story) reported that the conspiracy to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia had been hatched by Moammar Qadaffi, then leader of Libya, and that it was Qadaffi himself who had delivered the suitcase full of cash to Mr. Alamoudi, who was to use the cash to finance the assassination plot. Like the DOJ, the major news organizations reported that Mr. Alamoudi was a Saudi “dissident,” and that other unnamed Saudi “dissidents” in London were involved in the conspiracy (hatched by Qadaffi) to assassinate the crown prince. Since the major U.S. news organizations had rarely reported on “dissidence” in the context of Saudi Arabia, the implication of this big story about Mr. Alamoudi and Qadaffi was that Saudi dissidents were, as general rule, undesirables who hatched assassination plots with tyrants.

Meanwhile, in 2004, the major U.S. news organization were reporting that the Qaddaffi regime was a leading state sponsor of terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, and that same year, 2004, The New York Times broke the big news that Qadaffi was developing a nuclear weapons program. Not long before, of course, the major U.S. news organizations (most notoriously, The New York Times) had reported that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a leading sponsor of Al Qaeda, and that Saddam was developing a nuclear weapons program, possibly with plans to deliver a nuke to Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, every major U.S. news organization, including the New York Times, reported that the war on terror was necessary to defend our freedoms and democracy, and that our important ally in the war on terror was the government of Saudi Arabia (i.e. the most totalitarian state on the planet).

It was soon learned that most everything reported by the major U.S. news organization concerning Saddam Hussein was patently false, but this did not result in much introspection on the part of the major U.S. news organizations, including The New York Times, whose star reporter, Judith Miller, it was revealed, had done nothing more than take dictation for the White House. And after the stories about Saddam Hussein were shown to be false, the major U.S. news organizations continued to report essentially the same party line, which was that U.S. troops in Iraq were fighting an alliance of Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein loyalists, and that this was a war in the name of freedom and democracy.

Some years later, in 2011, The New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations reported that President Barrack Obama had ordered the U.S. military to go to war in support of “Arab Spring” rebels who were fighting for freedom and democracy in Libya. At this time, one important story still circulating was the story that Qadaffi had hatched a conspiracy to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and had delivered a suitcase full of cash to Mr. Alamoudi, a Saudi “dissident” who was to carry out the plot. In addition, nobody had forgotten that the Qaddaffi regime was a state sponsor of terrorist organization, or that Saudi Arabia was American’s “important ally in the war in on terror.”

Moreover, it was reported that the Arab Spring rebels in Libya had received their sophisticated weaponry from Washington’s close allies, namely the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar (i.e. totalitarian states that apparently supported freedom and democracy in Libya).

It is not the purpose of this story to provide all of the facts concerning the “Arab Spring” and the war on terror, but there are some facts that need to be clarified because, as we will see, these facts pertain to the present state of the global financial system. It is also necessary for us to come to terms with the fact that reporting by the major U.S. news organizations, and most notoriously The New York Times, has been not just false (as in containing errors) but precisely the opposite of the truth, and quite deliberately so. It has, indeed, become apparent that outfits like The New York Times have done nothing other than publish the eminently creepy sort of black is white, up is down, doublethink propaganda that was portrayed by Orwell in books that were, until now, presumed to be fiction. Therefore, we need to clarify the following:

1)       Saudi Arabia is not “an important ally in the war on terror.” Saudi Arabia is the leading state sponsor of terrorist organizations, including the one called Al Qaeda.

2)      Terrorists do not hate our freedoms. To the contrary, terrorists led the “Arab Spring” campaign for freedom and democracy. Nearly all of the “Arab Spring” rebels in Libya were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was the name of the Al Qaeda franchise in Libya.

3)      As of 2004, the Qadaffi regime, like Saddam’s regime, was not a sponsor of Al Qaeda. To the contrary, Al Qaeda (i.e. the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) was preparing to overthrow the Qaddaffi regime (with support for the regime in Washington and its totalitarian allies).

4)      Court documents produced during the trial of Mr. Alamoudi make clear that Mr. Alamoudi did not receive his suitcase full of cash from Qadaffi, and that Qadaffi was not involved in any conspiracy to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Rather, Mr. Alamoudi received the suitcase full of cash from an outfit called the World Islamic Call Society. Previously, the World Islamic Call Society had been sponsored by Qadaffi, but as of 2004, when it was delivering suitcases full of cash to Mr. Alamoudi, the World Islamic Call Society was sponsored by the Saudi government, and it was (in partnership with Al Qaeda and the regime in Washington) leading the opposition to overthrow the Qadaffi regime.

5)      After Qadaffi was deposed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Libya, where she spent most of her time in the offices of the World Islamic Call Society. Clinton congratulated the World Islamic Call Society for leading the opposition against Qadaffi, but she did not repeat the fact that the World Islamic Call Society also delivered suitcases of full of cash to Mr. Alamoudi, an Al Qaeda operative who formerly worked in the White House for Clinton’s husband, then President Bill Clinton. In addition, Clinton said nothing more about the fabricated story about Mr. Alamoudi being a “dissident” but nor did she correct the fabricated story about Qaddafi’s supposed involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

6)      Mr. Alamoudi was not a Saudi “dissident.” To the contrary, he was among the co-founders of numerous financial institutions, Islamic organizations, and charities (including Mercy International) all of which were sponsored by the Saudi royal family, and some of which were also sponsored by the regime in Washington. In addition, of course, Mr. Alamoudi (who had, at various times, been employed not only by the White House, but also by other U.S. government agencies) was one of the most important figures in Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization (whose leading sponsor was the Saudi royal family).

7)      U.S. officials had known that Mr. Alamoudi had ties to Osama bin Laden since at least 1993 (while Mr. Alamoudi was working in the White House), and U.S. officials covered up this information long after Mr. Alamoudi was caught at Heathrow with his suitcase full of cash. It was not until 2005, when earnest U.S. government whistleblowers had already gone public with the information, that the U.S. Treasury Department (quietly) issued a press release (ignored by the media) reporting that Mr. Alamoudi was, in fact, one of the most important funders of Al Qaeda. Even then, the DOJ declined to charge Mr. Alamoudi with any crime related to terrorism, and instead moved ahead with the false charge that Mr. Alamoudi had received his suitcase full of cash from the government of Libya. (Mr. Alamoudi is now serving a 29 year prison sentence, but some U.S. officials say that he will be released on short order, because, after all, he is innocent of the crime for which he was charged).

8)      Neither Qadaffi nor Saddam had any intention to provide Osama bin Laden with nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. However, in 2001, earnest FBI agents announced that at outfit in Chicago called Benevolence International (described by the earnest FBI agents as an “Al Qaeda front”) had worked with a Chechen organized crime (and terrorism) syndicate to obtain a nuclear bomb for Osama bin Laden. One of the Chechens in that syndicate, Shamil Basaev, had once planted radioactive materials in a Moscow park and informed the Russian police that he had done so, promising that next time it would be exploded as a so-called “dirty” nuclear device.

9)      Benevolence International was co-founded by prominent Saudi billionaires, some of whom, including Sheikh Mahfouz and Mr. Alamoudi, had formerly been involved with the BCCI enterprise. Its overseas offices, including its office in Chechnya, were managed by top Al Qaeda operatives. However, neither Benevolence International nor any of its principals were ever charged with any crime related to terrorism or trying to obtain nukes for Osama bin Laden. Benevolence International remains open for business today. It is headquartered in Chicago, and partly funded by the U.S. government.

10)   The U.S. government also sponsored the leaders of that same Chechen organized crime syndicate, which was (in addition to being an organized crime syndicate) a terrorist organization trained by Osama bin Laden & Co, though the New York Times reported that those same Chechens were freedom fighters interested only in obtaining Chechen independence from Russia.

All of which brings us back to Anthony Elgindy.

* * * * * * * * *

As we know, Elgindy’s prosecutors began to argue that Elgindy had ties to terrorism and advance knowledge of the September 11 conspiracy, but the judge forbade the prosecutors from further discussion of Elgindy’s ties to terrorism soon after the prosecutors mentioned that Elgindy had delivered a large sum of money to an outfit called Mercy International. We also know that Mercy International was co-founded by prominent Saudi billionaires, among them Sheikh Mahfouz and Mr. Alamoudi, some of whom were previously involved with the BCCI enterprise. At the time of Elgindy’s trial in 2004, U.S. officials were not keen for the public to know much about Mercy International, and, of course, U.S. officials were covering up the fact that Mr. Alamoudi was a key figure in Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, earnest U.S. government investigators had learned that another of Mercy International’s co-founders had been none other than Osama bin Laden. In addition, earnest U.S. government investigators had linked Mercy International to the following: 1) Ramzi Yousef, said by U.S. officials to have been the “mastermind” of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; 2) the terrorists who carried out the simultaneous 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa; 3) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged “mastermind” of the September 11 conspiracy (and uncle of Ramzi Yousef).

The top official in Mercy International’s Pakistan office was Zaid Sheikh Mohammed (brother of Khalid and uncle of Ramzi). Back in 1998, meanwhile, earnest FBI agents also linked Mercy International (and the Chicago based Benevolence International) to a Chicago company called Global Chemical, which was (according to the earnest FBI agents) in the business of manufacturing explosives and chemical weapons for Osama bin Laden.

However, neither Mercy International nor any of its principals has ever been charged with any crime related to terrorism, and Mercy International remains in business to this day. In addition, Mercy International has tax-free status as a “charity.” But we, the people, do not have tax-free status. We pay taxes, and the regime in Washington uses some of our taxes to fund…Mercy International. I will repeat: the government of the United States has for many years been funding an outfit—Mercy International—that was co-founded by Osama bin Laden.

Global Chemical is still doing business in Chicago as well, though it is unclear whether it is still manufacturing chemical weapons for terrorists.

Anthony Elgindy, as I mentioned, is presently serving an 11 year sentence on charges of securities fraud and bribing FBI agents (he is expected to be released from prison this year, 2013, having served only eight years). However, Elgindy is in prison thanks only to the perseverance of a few honest FBI agents, his prosecutors (who were lambasted for linking Elgindy to terrorism), and most of all, a businessman whose company was destroyed by Elgindy’s short selling syndicate. After his company was destroyed, the businessman (who would later do work for DeepCapture, the website you are now reading) discovered that Elgindy operated a private internet chat site on which he, Elgindy, and other short sellers plotted and coordinated their short selling attacks on public companies.

Having made this discovery, the businessman secretly gained access to Elgindy’s private internet chat site and hired a secretary to work full-time printing out transcripts of the conversations that Elgindy and his short selling crew were having on that chat site. Soon enough, these transcripts were so numerous that they filled the businessman’s garage. In addition, the transcripts provided clear evidence of multiple crimes in progress, and so the businessman handed the transcripts over to some earnest FBI agents, who discovered not only that Elgindy had at least two FBI agents on his payroll, but also that Elgindy and his short selling crew had “busted out” (i.e. destroyed) at least two hundred publicly listed companies. If it were not for those transcripts, it is doubtful that Elgindy would ever have been indicted.

In addition, as I noted, few of the other people involved with Elgindy’s short selling syndicate were ever charged with any crime. It is unclear why they were not charged with any crime, but it is worth recalling that a few top FBI and DOJ officials were responsible for covering up the BCCI scandal and related scandals, such as Iran-Contra and the employment as U.S. government agents of various global terrorists (e.g. Abu Nidal and Monzer al-Kassar) who had involvement with the BCCI enterprise. As we will see, some of those same officials (including the FBI’s chief of counter-terrorism; the chief of the FBI’s organized crime task force; and the director of the FBI) subsequently became employed by people who were key figures in Anthony Elgindy’s short selling syndicate.

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It is also worth recalling that soon after BCCI collapsed in 1991, a Muslim Brotherhood leader (and Sudanese government official) named Hasan al Turabi established the Islamist International, appointing Osama bin Laden to serve as chairman. Recall also that Osama bin Laden’s first order of business as chairman of the Islamist International was to assist a Muslim Brotherhood initiative—known as “The Financial Jihad”—to replace the BCCI enterprise with a global financial network that would exceed the BCCI enterprise in scope and destructive power.

Yossef Bodansky, then director of the House Task Force on Terrorism, reported (in a 2000 book on Osama bin Laden): “The collapse of BCCI…could not have come at a worse time…. Turabi [and the Islamist International] urgently needed an expert to salvage whatever was possible and rebuild a global financial system [to replace the BCCI enterprise]. By then Osama bin Laden was the most qualified individual in Khartoum to untangle this financial mess. In late summer 1991, Turabi approached bin Laden and asked for help.”

Osama bin Laden agreed to help—and he pursued his task with enthusiasm. By 2000, he had successfully rebuilt “a global financial system,” and he had done more than merely replace the BCCI enterprise. He and other Muslim Brotherhood oligarchs more important than him had built what was, without doubt, one of the greatest financial empires the world had ever known. And it was not only one of the most powerful financial empires on the planet, but also one the world’s leading transnational organized crime syndicates, involved in all of the activities—from narco trafficking and the smuggling of radioactive materials, to terrorism and the perpetration of destructive financial crime—that characterized the BCCI enterprise of the 1980s.

Linked to this financial empire was Anthony Elgindy’s short selling syndicate.

Elgindy’s private internet chat site for short sellers was hosted by a company called Infocom, which had been founded by a man named Mousa Abu Marzook. Although Marzook was best known as the political chief of Hamas, responsible for the notorious Hamas death squads, he was also a key figure in the Islamist International, the chairman of which was, of course, Osama bin Laden. In 1993, earnest FBI agents had linked Marzook to the bombing that year of the World Trade Center, and in 2000, the director of the House Task Force on Terrorism reported that Marzook was among the terrorists who were, along with Osama bin Laden and other key figures in the Islamist International, planning to perpetrate a “spectacular” terrorist attack inside the United States.

However, Marzook remained a free man, traveling often to the United States.

In addition to being a global terrorist, Marzook was a prominent banker and the co-founder of numerous financial institutions. For example, Marzook co-founded an outfit called Al Aqsa Bank, which operated a joint venture in the United States with Citibank until 2011, when Al Aqsa Bank collapsed. Marzook was also a co-founder of a major financial institution in Geneva called Bank al Taqwa and its U.S. affiliate, an outfit called BMI, Inc., which was itself a sizeable financial institution (and an investor in Global Chemical, the outfit in Chicago that was manufacturing chemical weapons for Osama bin Laden).

Among the other co-founders of Bank al Taqwa and BMI, Inc. were Mr. Alamoudi (a key figure in Osama bin Laden’s organization), the Blind Sheikh (a global terrorist and banker who was linked to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and who also co-founded Faisal Islamic Bank, formerly the most important affiliate of BCCI), a Muslim Brotherhood oligarch and Islamist International banker named Yasin al Qadi (later described by the U.S. Treasury Dept. as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”),  several of Osama bin Laden’s family members (all of them members of “Al Qaeda”), and multiple other  global terrorists.

In 1999, Bank al Taqwa established the Islamic Cultural Center, later said by the U.S. Treasury Department to be “Al Qaeda’s main operating base for the movement of men, weapons, and money around the world.” That same year, 1999, Bank al Taqwa was linked to the Bank of New York scandal, which saw the Bank of New York (and Bank al Taqwa) laundering upwards of $10 billion for (among others) Russian organized crime syndicates. Numerous people linked to the Bank of New York scandal (e.g. Marc Rich, Gene Phillips, Michael Milken, Abbas Gokal, Adnan Khashoggi, and several of Bank al Taqwa’s co-founders, among others to be discussed) were formerly involved with the BCCI enterprise. In addition, that money laundering involved pump and dump schemes, with much of the manipulative short selling on the “dump” end of the schemes perpetrated by Anthony Elgindy’s short selling syndicate.

See Chapter 1 of this series for a fuller description of how pump and dump schemes and manipulative short selling are deployed for the purpose of money laundering, but the short version is that dirty money is invested in target companies , and comes out partially clean in the form of short selling profits, which are delivered onwards to cooperative financial institutions (such as Bank al Taqwa and the Bank of New York). In a variation on the same theme, money is invested in a company as “death spiral” finance (see chapter 1 of this series), which causes the company’s stock price to fall, at which point affiliated short sellers attack the stock, triggering a “death spiral.”

In both scenarios, the target companies are destroyed (i.e. busted out), and again, Elgindy’s short selling crew “busted out” at least 200 publicly listed companies in the United States.

Lawyers for some of these victim companies have assembled evidence that Elgindy and his short selling syndicate perpetrated a number of “bust outs” in league not only with Bank al Taqwa, but also with a major investment fund called Faisal Finance, which provided the victim companies with death spiral finance. Faisal Finance was a subsidiary of a Muslim Brotherhood outfit in Geneva called Dar al Maal al-Islami, which was (and is) one of the largest financial institutions on the planet, boasting partnerships with some of Wall Street’s most notorious brokerages and investment houses.

One person who helped build Dar al Maal al-Islami into one of the largest financial institutions on the planet was none other than Osama bin Laden. In addition, Osama bin Laden founded at least one of Dar al Maal al-Islami’s subsidiaries, a bank in Sudan called al Shamal, and he had involvement with Faisal Finance, the outfit that was dealing with Elgindy’s short selling syndicate.

The most important of Faisal Finance’s principals (and a board member of both Faisal Finance and Dar al Maal al-Islami) was Yasin al Qadi, the Muslim Brotherhood (and Islamist International) figure who was among the co-founders of Bank al Taqwa. After the September 11 attacks of 2001, the U.S. Treasury Department reported that Yasin al Qadi had funded Osama bin Laden through Faisal Finance. In addition, Yasin al Qadi became one of only a few dozen people (another being Marzook, owner of the company that hosted Elgindy’s private internet chat site for short sellers) whom the Treasury Department labeled as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”

In explaining why Yasin al Qadi had been named a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” the Treasury Department noted not only that he had co-founded Bank al Taqwa (which established “Al Qaeda’s main operating base in Europe”), and not only that Osama bin Laden had dealings with Yasin al Qadi through Faisal Finance, but also that Yasin al Qadi had operated an “Al Qaeda front” called the Muwafaq Foundation. The man who founded the Muwafaq Foundation was Sheikh Mahfouz, who had been one of Yasin al Qadi’s most important business  partners since BCCI days. In addition, of course, Sheikh Mahfouz co-founded Mercy International and other “Al Qaeda fronts.”

However, Sheikh Mahfouz was never charged with any crime related to terrorism. Nor was Yasin al Qadi charged with any crime related to terrorism, and nor were any of three dozen or so other bankers labeled as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” ever charged with any crime related to their banking or their status as “Global Terrorists.” Meanwhile, neither Faisal Finance nor Bank al Taqwa nor BMI Inc. nor Dar al Maal al-Islami nor any of their other principals nor any other bank has ever been charged for doing business with Osama bin Laden, and nobody has ever been charged for establishing an “Al Qaeda front” or establishing chemical weapons factories for terrorists, or establishing “Al Qaeda’s main operating base in Europe for the movement of men, weapons, and money around the world.” (that operating base is still in business, though most of the men are now Arab Spring freedom fighters).

In addition, with the exception of Anthony Elgindy, no terrorist financier has ever been charged with any crime related to their perpetration (in partnership with prominent American oligarchs) of destructive financial schemes that have wrought havoc on the American markets.

* * * * * * * * *

Earnest Treasury officials and FBI agents exposed numerous “Al Qaeda fronts” and named a select number of bankers as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” as part of Operation Green Quest, which was billed by FBI Director Robert Mueller as the largest law enforcement effort ever undertaken by any nation or combination of nations in the entire history of the world. As of 2002, thousands of earnest U.S. government investigators were employed by Operation Green Quest, which was led by the Treasury Department, with important supporting roles played by the FBI and other government agencies.

Operation Green Quest was focused largely on what earnest government investigators described at the time (see Chapter 2 of this series) as the “Safa Group,” or sometimes the “SAAR Network”—a global network of interconnected Islamic organizations, “charities” (e.g. Mercy International, Benevolence International, and many others), investment funds, brokerages, and financial institutions, all of which were linked to Osama bin Laden and other terrorists. In fact, U.S. officials had been aware of this global network for many years, and information about some components of the global network had long been part of the public record.

In his 2000 book on Osama bin Laden, Bodansky (then director of the House Task Force on Terrorism) had, of course, noted that Osama bin Laden had played a key role in building global network—and the network described by Bodanksy was essentially the same thing as the “SAAR Network” that would later become a principal focus of Operation Green Quest. Bodansky also reported (in 2000) that the financial network organized by Osama bin Laden and his billionaire associates, along with other Muslim Brotherhood leaders and terrorists who were key figures in the Islamist International, stretched from the Middle East, Pakistan, and Sudan to Geneva, Antwerp, the Bahamas—and onwards to Wall Street.

Meanwhile, as noted by the director of the House Task Force on Terrorism in 2000, the Muslim Brotherhood, working with Osama bin Laden, had  “gained control and influence over several major Islamic financial institutions operating in the West, such as the Islamic Holding Company, the Jordanian Islamic Bank, the Dubai Islamic Bank, the Taqwa Bank (a.k.a. Bank al Taqwa, which had established “Al Qaeda’s main operating base Europe”), and Faysal Islamic Bank.”

Faysal [a.k.a. Faisal] Islamic Bank, we know, had formerly been the most important affiliate of the BCCI enterprise. It was, recall, co-founded by the Blind Sheikh (a key figure in the Islamist International, linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) and a Saudi prince named Mohammed bin al-Faisal. After BCCI collapsed in 1991, Faisal Islamic Bank was folded into Dar al Maal al-Islami, which, we know, soon became one of the largest financial institutions on the planet, and which counted among its subsidiaries a  bank that was founded by Osama bin Laden, and other financial firms that did extensive business with Osama bin Laden. Also involved with Dar al Maal al-Islami, of course, was Prince Mohammed and other members of the Saudi royal family, including Prince Mohammed’s brother, Prince Turki bin al-Faisal, who served as the chief of Saudi intelligence from 1977 until 2001, when he resigned just a few weeks before the September 11 attacks. (Prince Turki subsequently became Saudi ambassador to Washington).

The party line put forth by the New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations maintains that the Saudi government disowned Osama bin Laden and stripped the terrorist leader of his Saudi citizenship in the mid-1990s, which was when Osama bin Laden began issuing manifestos denouncing the corruption of the Saudi royal family. That might be true, so far as it goes, and it is certainly true that Osama bin Laden often railed against the corruption of the Saudi royal family, but it also true that Osama bin Laden had eminently close (and corrupt) relationships with at least one faction of the Saudi royal family, and more particularly with the faction of the royal family (including Prince Turki, chief of Saudi intelligence) that had previously been involved with the BCCI enterprise.

Moreover, the party line fails to take into account that while these Saudi princes denounced Osama bin Laden’s violent terrorism, they fully sponsored his more important mission—the mission to build a global financial network.  Indeed, these Saudi princes were, of course, business partners of Osama bin Laden. In addition, Prince Turki, chief of Saudi intelligence, was fully supportive of Osama bin Laden’s business dealings with a close knit group of Saudi billionaires, including Sheikh Mahfouz, who regarded themselves as servants of the Saudi royal family. We might also consider that Washington regarded these business relationships as being kosher, or so it would seem given that Osama bin Laden’s business partners continued to receive VIP treatment in Washington long after earnest U.S. government officials exposed the relationships.

Meanwhile, as the director of the House Task Force on Terrorism noted in 2000, the Pakistani government had “agreed to expand the use of Karachi as a center for the clandestine financing of the international Islamist movement. To be managed by Osama bin Laden, the new financial system would be based on a wide network…to conceal the flow of cash to the various terrorist networks in the West.” Towards this end, and with the endorsement of the Pakistani government, “the Karachi center linked up with numerous Pakistani landowners, financial companies, and business people close to narcotics circles to utilize their international financial relations and contacts…”

Most of those “business people close to narcotics circles” had previously been involved with the BCCI enterprise, and though we will meet all of them in due course, it is, for now, enough to know that the most important of them was a man named Dawood Ibrahim who was (and is) much more than just your average businessman close to narcotics circles. He has regularly featured on Forbes magazine’s list of the “50 Most Powerful” people in the world, and he is the single largest trader on the Karachi stock exchange. In addition, he is one of the biggest (and most destructive) traders on U.S.  stock exchanges, and we will see that he continues to this day to have extensive business with Wall Street brokerages and investment houses. In addition, Ibrahim is dangerous mobster, a global terrorist, and a Pakistani intelligence asset who operates an organized crime (and terrorism) syndicate called D-Company (which is, in turn, closely intertwined with others of the world’s organized crime and terrorism syndicates).

Dawood Ibrahim and D-Company have been linked to multiple terrorist atrocities, including the 2008 assault that saw terrorists storming luxury hotels and a synagogue in Mumbai, and then systematically murdering 175 people, seven of them Americans, one a girl only 13 years old. For a time in 2002, Dawood Ibrahim was the only person in the world listed by the U.S. government as both a “Global Narcotics Kingpin” and a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” though he was hardly the only person who deserved both those appellations, and the U.S. government no longer applies them to Dawood Ibrahim. Presently, Ibrahim resides quite openly in Karachi, with the protection of Pakistan’s intelligence service, and he travels often to the United States, where he conducts his business unmolested by the homeland security apparatus (which is apparently more interested in harassing law-abiding Americans).

In addition, of course, the U.S. government knew long before September 11, 2001, that Osama bin Laden had, with the help of Dawood Ibrahim and others, established the “Karachi center.” Meanwhile, Prince Turki and other Saudi royals were fully on board with the plan for Osama bin Laden and prominent narco-oligarchs to establish a financial network in Karachi. In addition, the chief of Saudi intelligence, though he publicly denounced violent terrorism, informed the Pakistani government that the Karachi financial network (which was, in turn, linked to the global network that had been established earlier) could use Saudi financial institutions to finance terrorist operations, including operations inside the United States.

Bodansky (then director of the House Task Force on Terrorism) wrote in 2000 that Prince Turki was not initially aware that Osama bin Laden had been assigned to run the Karachi-based financial network, but “when Riyadh was later informed of bin Laden’s role in the Karachi center, Prince Turki ignored the information and continued to allow the use of Saudi financial institutions [to support the Islamist International’s terror network].”

As the director of the House Task Force on Terrorism also reported in 2000, Osama bin Laden, in assembling a global financial network, collaborated closely with what he and others in the Islamist International referred to as “The Brotherhood Group,” a close-knit network of no less than 130 extremely wealthy financial operators in the Persian Gulf states. The director of the House Task Force reported further that: “The key members of the Brotherhood Group have a well-known and established financial presence in the West—sixty five of them have major companies and businesses in the United States.”

One of the most important people in “The Brotherhood Group” was Sheikh Mahfouz, who, of course, was also one of the billionaires (see Chapter 2 of this series for the names of others) whom Osama bin Laden referred to as his “Golden Chain.” Other people in the “Brotherhood Group” were prominent bankers who had, like Sheikh Mahfouz, previously been involved with the BCCI enterprise. Among them were key BCCI figures Adnan Khashoggi, Sheikh Abdullah Taha Baksh, Gaith Pharoan, Yasin al Qadi, Mr. Alamoudi and others who were, like Sheikh Mahfouz, important business partners of “Washington insiders.” It should be noted further that U.S. officials had been well aware that these billionaires were building a global financial network with Osama bin Laden since the 1980s, but they (with help from a cooperative media) sought to keep the information hidden from the American public (though the information can, with some effort, now be found in the public record).

* * * * * * * * *

To the extent that some of the facts have reached the public, the facts have been distorted by what seem to have been carefully orchestrated disinformation campaigns. Typically, these disinformation campaigns see prominent American pundits with ties to the regime in Washington coming forward with some pertinent facts, but presenting the facts in such as way as to distort the larger picture.

For example, there has been much discussion among American pundits about a report that French intelligence had monitored a meeting that Osama bin Laden’s chief financial officer held with Prince Turki (chief of Saudi intelligence) and leading Saudi billionaires at the Royal Manceau hotel in Paris. This meeting took place in 1996, two years after the Saudis had ostensibly requested Osama bin Laden’s extradition from London (yes, Osama bin Laden resided for a time in London), and the same year that the Saudis had ostensibly requested the government of Sudan to “expel” Osama bin Laden (with “expel” being something altogether different from “arrest” or “prosecute”).

One of the billionaires in attendance at this meeting was Sheikh Mahfouz. Other billionaires who attended the 1996 meeting with Osama bin Laden’s chief financial officer (according to the French intelligence report) were Adnan Khashoggi, Abdullah Taha Baksh, and Gaith Pharoan, all of whom, we know, had been key figures in the BCCI enterprise during the 1980s. Which is important information, except that the information was delivered in such a way as to obscure the truth.

In other words, it was widely reported that the meeting in Paris was monitored by French intelligence, and that a French intelligence report concluded that the Saudi billionaires and Prince Turki attended this meeting only “to determine who would pay how much to Osama bin Laden.”  In addition, the French intelligence report stated that the payments to Osama bin Laden were “not so much an act of support but protection—a payoff to keep the mad bomber away from Saudi Arabia.”  And thanks to this report, that has remained the official party line: any payments by Saudi billionaires to Osama bin Laden were nothing more than protection money paid by people worried that the “mad bomber” would attack them.

But, of course, the party line is pure nonsense.

All of the billionaires who attended that meeting (and no doubt many similar meetings besides) did not merely deliver protection money to Osama bin Laden. They were also important business partners of Osama bin Laden. And they were business partners of Osama bin Laden not because he was a “mad bomber,” but because he was sophisticated financial operator who was fully capable of helping those billionaires carry out the mission (i.e. “The Financial Jihad”) to replace the BCCI enterprise with something bigger and better. Former BCCI figure Adnan Khashoggi, for one, played a key role, along with Osama bin Laden, in establishing the “Karachi center.”

Former BCCI figure Abdullah Taha Baksh was a principal with multiple financial institutions (e.g. Middle East Capital Group, Beirut Ryad Bank) that had extensive business with Osama bin Laden, according to U.S. government investigators (though not official U.S. government spokesmen). Sheikh Baksh also had extensive involvement with Dar al Maal al-Islami, the major financial institution that was built with help from Osama bin Laden. Sheikh Mahfouz, meanwhile, operated numerous financial firms—e.g. Al Khaleejia, Saudi Sudanese Bank, and others to be discussed–that did business directly with companies that had been founded by Osama bin Laden, and which were operated by Osama bin Laden.

National Commercial Bank (one of the largest financial institutions on the planet, founded by Sheikh Mahfouz and his family) also had business with Osama bin Laden.

In addition, these billionaires and others were, of course, among the principal sponsors of the Islamic organizations, charities, and other financial entities that were part of the “SAAR Network.”  Sheikh Mahfouz, we know, founded the Muwafaq Foundation, said by the U.S. Treasury Department to be an “Al Qaeda” front. He was a co-founder of Benevolence International, said by earnest FBI agents to be an “Al Qaeda front.” And he was among the co-founders of Mercy International, which was an Al Qaeda front, albeit one that was also funded by the regime in Washington.

Sheikh Mahfouz and other billionaires (e.g. Khashoggi, Sheikh Baksh, Yasin al Qadi, Mr. Alamoudi, and others to discussed in Chapter 2 of this series) were also the principal sponsors of numerous other SAAR Network entities—i.e. the entities that were, as of 2002, the principal targets of Operation Green Quest, the largest law enforcement in history.

To cite just one more example, all of the above-mentioned billionaires were involved with an outfit called the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a “SAAR Network” entity based in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.  Among the board members of the IIRO were Mr. Alamoudi (a key figure in Osama bin Laden’s organization) and Khalid Elgindy (brother of short seller Anthony Elgindy). Meanwhile, the IIRO’s offices in Macedonia, Kosovo, the Philippines, and Pakistan were all “Al Qaeda fronts” managed by top “Al Qaeda” operatives, according to earnest Operation Green Quest investigators and the United Nations officials, some of whom have reported that Osama bin Laden himself was an IIRO co-founder.

As of 1999, the IIRO office in Macedonia was operated by Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Aymen al Zawahiri, who were, at the time, training the Kosovo Liberation Army from bases in Macedonia. Also in Macedonia as of 1999, working with the Kosovo Liberation Army, was Anthony Elgindy, who had taken a break from his career as a destructive short seller. Upon his return from Macedonia, Elgindy posted a letter from a Kosovo Liberation Army leader thanking him, Elgindy, for sponsoring his travels to the United States.  At the time, of course, President Bill Clinton (who then employed multiple IIRO officials, including not only Mr. Alamoudi, but also Elgindy’s brother, Khalid, in the White House) had ordered the U.S. military to go to war in support of the Kosovo Liberation Army (a terrorist organization trained by Osama bin Laden), and the IIRO was sponsored not only by the Saudis, but also by Washington.

Two years later, of course, the September 11 attacks occurred, and Saudi Arabia became Washington’s “important ally in the war on terror.” That same year, 2001, we know, Robert Mueller (who had been appointed director of the FBI just weeks prior to the September 11 attacks) announced that Operation Green Quest was the largest law enforcement effort in history, and that its sole mission was to prosecute terrorists and the people who sponsor them. By 2002, Operation Green Quest investigators, we know,  were focused largely on the SAAR Network entities and associated billionaires, but that same year, 2002, there occurred several strange events that we should discuss because they have not been discussed by The New York Times or any other organ of state propaganda.

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In 2002, while the director of the FBI was still calling Operation Green Quest the largest law enforcement effort in the history of the world, an FBI special agent named Robert Wright held a press conference to announce the results of his investigations into terrorist organizations. There were not many journalists from the major U.S. news organizations at this press conference, as they were all busy writing whatever the director of the FBI had told them to write, but those who bothered to attend the press conference learned that Special Agent Wright had led some of the FBI’s most important investigations into terrorism, and concerning these investigations, Agent Wright had some important—and sad—news to report.

Indeed, agent Wright literally broke down in tears as he announced that he and his team of FBI investigators had, in all their year of investigating terrorism, failed to apprehend or secure the prosecution of even one of the people whom they had deemed to be key figures in Osama bin Laden’s organization. And in explaining why he and the others in his FBI team had failed to apprehend any terrorists or their sponsors, agent Wright stated (and others in his FBI team would later confirm it to be true) that FBI management and the Department of Justice had  “intentionally and repeatedly thwarted and obstructed my attempts to launch a comprehensive investigation to identify and neutralize terrorists.”

It might be worth recalling that Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau had previously alleged that FBI and DOJ management had intentionally and repeatedly “thwarted” his efforts to prosecute the BCCI enterprise. It might also be worth recalling that the DOJ official who had done most to thwart the DA’s investigation of BCCI was Robert Mueller. It was this same Robert Muller who had “intentionally and repeatedly thwarted” special agent Wright’s investigation, only to assume the directorship of the FBI just a few weeks prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001. And many of the terrorists whom Special Agent Wright and his FBI team were investigating had formerly been involved with the BCCI enterprise.

One person whom agent Wright investigated was “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” Yasin al Qadi, whom agent Wright described as “Al Qaeda’s banker.” As agent Wright knew, Yasin al Qadi was operating an “Al Qaeda front” (the Muwafaq Foundation) that had been founded by Sheikh Mahfouz. In addition, agent Wright had investigated Bank al Taqwa and BMI Inc., the financial institutions that had been co-founded by (among others) Yasin al Qadi, the Blind Sheikh, “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” Mousa Abu Marzook (host of Elgindy’s short selling chat site), and Mr. Alamoudi (formerly White House employee and key figure in Osama bin Laden’s organization).

As we know from earlier chapters of this series, earnest FBI agents learned in 1998 that BMI Inc. not only had partly funded the “Al Qaeda” terrorist attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa, but also was financing Global Chemical, the outfit deemed to have ties to Osama bin Laden, and which was in the business of manufacturing explosives and chemical weapons. But, of course, neither BMI Inc. nor Bank al Taqwa (which established “Al Qaeda’s main operating base in Europe”) nor any of their principals were charged with any crime. To the contrary, FBI management deliberately “thwarted” efforts to investigate the bankers, many of whom were also terrorists.

Meanwhile, of course, both Bank al Taqwa and BMI Inc. perpetrated a host of financial schemes that did extensive damage to the U.S. economy. We will discuss the financial schemes in greater detail, but for the purposes of our present discussion it should first be noted that BMI, Inc. was also in the mortgage business, and it had provided mortgages (at steep discounts to market price) to some of the top officials at the FBI and other government agencies in Washington. Numerous politicians on Capitol Hill were also recipients of BMI, Inc.’s discount mortgages, as was Thomas Kean, then Governor of New Jersey, and later chairman of the September 11 Commission.

Governor Kean also sat on the boards of several companies (e.g. Hess Corp.) that had business with Sheikh Mahfouz and Mr. Alamoudi. When the September 11 Commission issued its report in 2004, the report (purportedly the product of a thorough investigation into Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization) did not name BMI Inc. or any of its principals, including Mr. Alamoudi. In fact, the report did not identify any of Osama bin Laden’s banking partners or funders, and the report concluded that identifying the financiers of terrorism was “a matter of no importance.”

* * * * * * * * *

At his press conference, agent Wright, of course, noted that FBI management had deliberately “thwarted” his efforts to prosecute terrorists and their banking partners, but he also expressed some optimism. After all, Yasin al Qadi and Mousa Abu Marzook, among other banking oligarchs whom agent Wright had investigated, were, as of 2002, listed by the U.S. Treasury Department as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” and agent Wright had reason to believe that FBI management would heed his advice to begin more vigorously to investigate the bankers/global terrorists who were key figures in Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization. The day after agent Wright gave his press conference, however, the FBI management instead initiated a major investigation into…agent Wright.

More specifically, FBI management initiated a so-called “Office of Professional Responsibility Investigation” into Wright. FBI management did not inform Wright what rules of professional responsibility he had violated but this investigation effectively ended Wright’s career.  As Judicial Watch, a prominent public interest group, reported at the time: “FBI Special Agent Robert G. Wright, Jr., is facing retaliatory treatment from FBI management for telling the truth about dereliction of duty and negligence within the FBI.”

Meanwhile, a former FBI special agent named Nancy Floyd had come forward with a story about her own investigation into terrorists. Floyd, in the course of carrying out her duties as an FBI special agent, had, back in 1992, placed a mole inside the Blind Sheikh’s terrorist cell. The mole, a former Egyptian army officer name Ehud Salem, had, meanwhile, been instructed by FBI management to help the terrorists in the Blind Sheikh’s cell build a bomb. Ostensibly, this was part of a sting operation, and the FBI was to arrest the Blind Sheikh and the other terrorists before they could use the bomb. But when the mole and agent Nancy Floyd informed FBI management that the terrorists were preparing to explode the bomb under the World Trade Center, FBI management initiated a full-scale investigation into…agent Floyd.

More specifically, FBI management launched a so-called “Office of Professional Responsibility Investigation” into agent Floyd. Management did not inform Floyd what rules of professional responsibility she had violated, but the investigation effectively brought Floyd’s career as an earnest FBI agent to a grinding halt. FBI management also promptly fired the mole. Meanwhile, FBI management shut down all other investigations into the Blind Sheikh (co-founder of Faisal Islamic Finance, Bank al Taqwa, BMI, Inc., and other prominent financial institutions) and his terrorist cell.

A few weeks later, and on the day predicted by the mole, the conspiracy to bomb the World Trade Center was successfully carried out. Six people were killed, and more than 1,000 were injured. In addition, the heart of the New York financial district was paralyzed for a week, the stock market nosedived, and massive damage was inflicted on the U.S. economy. Of course, during the years immediately prior to the 1993 bombing of the WTC, the BCCI enterprise had inflicted massive damage on the U.S. economy, and there is more we need to know about the WTC bombing.

There is also more we need to learn about other strange occurrences in the weeks after the director of the FBI described Operation Green Quest as the largest law enforcement effort in history because, as we shall see, this is directly pertinent to the present and deteriorating state of the global financial system.

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After the 1993 bombing of the WTC was carried out, earnest FBI agents secretly monitored a meeting that was held at a Marriot Hotel in Philadelphia. All of the people at this meeting were leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and many of them were prominent bankers. One person at the meeting, Omar Ahmad, was, at the time, providing housing to the Blind Sheikh. The man who was expected to chair the meeting, meanwhile, was Mousa Abu Marzook.

As we know, Marzook was also the co-founder of several financial institutions, including BMI Inc. and Bank al Taqwa, and he founded Infocom, the outfit that hosted Elgindy’s private internet chat site for short sellers. In addition, Marzook was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, political chief of Hamas, and a key figure in the Islamist International, the chairman of which was, of course, Osama bin Laden.

As it happened, Marzook did not appear at the meeting in Philadelphia, but he was represented at the meeting by his deputy, Mohammad Saleh, and phone records showed that Saleh had been in regular contact with the terrorists who had parked the bomb under the World Trade Center. Naturally, the earnest FBI agents suspected Saleh and others at the meeting in Philadelphia of having been involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. They also suspected Marzook.

As the earnest FBI agents discovered, one purpose of the meeting at the Marriot in Philadelphia was to discuss ways in which to keep the terrorists who had perpetrated the bombing out of prison. Another purpose of the meeting was to discuss additional measures that could be undertaken to sabotage the United States. Abu Baker, one of the Muslim Brotherhood (and Hamas) operatives in attendance summarized the strategy as follows:  “War is deception…Deceive, camouflage…Deceive your enemy.”

Another purpose of the meeting of the 1993 meeting at the Marriot Hotel in Philadelphia was to discuss ways in which to undermine the Oslo Peace Accords that had been signed that year by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). As we know from earlier chapters of this series, Israeli politicians were also hoping to undermine the Oslo Peace Accords because they, the Israelis, believed that the Accords granted too much legitimacy to the PLO. So, at the time, the Israeli government was sponsoring Marzook and other Hamas leaders reckoning (correctly as it would turn out) that Hamas would suck support away from the PLO.

For the same reasons, the Israelis were sponsoring a PLO splinter group called Fatah-Revolutionary Guard (or sometimes Black September), the leader  of which was a notorious terrorist named Abu Nidal, who was an avowed enemy of PLO leader Yassir Arafat. Abu Nidal and the leaders of other PLO splinter groups, recall, were formerly involved with the BCCI enterprise and aside from being terrorists, they were sophisticated financial operators and criminals whose operations were closely intertwined with  the organized crime (and terrorism) syndicate operated by prominent oligarch (and global terrorist) Monzer al Kassar, formerly a key figure in the larger BCCI enterprise. In addition, as of 1993, Abu Nidal and the other leaders of the PLO splinter groups were, like Marzook and other leaders of Hamas, key figures in the Islamist International, the chairman of which was, of course, Osama bin Laden.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, anonymous U.S. officials fed to the media a story that Abu Nidal was running an Al Qaeda terrorist training camp in Iraq. This story maintained further that Abu Nidal was running the terrorist training camp in cahoots with Saddam Hussein, then leader of Iraq, and that Abu Nidal had personally overseen the training of Mohammad Atta, leader of the terrorist cell that  had allegedly carried out the September 11 attack. According to U.S. officials, Atta had been the pilot of the first airplane the crashed into the World Trade Center.

That story could not possibly have been true because at the time (see earlier chapters of this series) Abu Nidal was employed as an agent of not just the Israelis, but also the U.S. government, as was later reported by Robert Fisk of The Independent, a prominent newspaper in Britain, and by Janes, a prominent publication that covers national security issues. However, it was true that Abu Nidal had previously dispatched one of his deputies, Ahmed Ajaj, to help carry out the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Ajaj flew to the United States with a Muslim Brotherhood terrorist named Ramzi Yousef.  Upon landing at JFK airport in New York, customs officials noticed that Ajaj’s passport was blatantly fake (his photograph was peeling off of the passport, and there was a photograph of another person easily visible below it). Customs officials also discovered that Ajaj had in his possession a terrorist training  manual and instructions on how to build a bomb. Ajaj was taken into custody and charged with illegally entering the country, but for some reason his traveling companion, Ramzi Yousef, was allowed to enter the country, and soon after, he was among the perpetrators of the WTC bombing.

Presently, U.S. officials describe Yousef as the “mastermind” of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and he is serving a life sentence at the SuperMax prison in Colorado. However, after carrying out the WTC bombing, Yousef was able easily to leave the country, and he operated for several years under the auspices of Mercy International and the IIRO, both of which were co-founded by Osama bin Laden and (for reasons that are not clear) funded by the U.S. government. That’s the same U.S. government, of course, that had (because, we must assume, the U.S. government is incompetent, supplied Yousef and his terrorist associates with the bomb that they had exploded under the World Trade Center).

Yousef’s traveling companion, Ajaj, meanwhile, was released from detention and it remains unclear what came of him.

In 1993, Robert Friedman, one of the nation’s best journalists, reported in the Village Voice that Ajaj had been employed as an agent of the Israeli government. Meanwhile, the FBI arrested a man named Mohammed Salameh, who had rented the Ryder truck that was used to park the bomb under the World Trade Center, and which, along with the bomb, had exploded. Salameh (who played just a bit part in the terrorist attack) was arrested when he returned to Ryder to report that the truck was stolen and to ask Ryder to return his $400 deposit. The International Herald Tribune reported that the telephone number and apartment address listed on the rental agreement for the truck belonged to man named Josie Hadas, who had been identified as an agent of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency.

None of this is evidence that Israel had a hand in the 1993 WTC bombing, but it is notable that none of the people whom earnest FBI agents regarded as the masterminds of the WTC bombing were immediately arrested. Yousef was arrested only three years later. More specifically, he was arrested at a Mercy International guest house in Pakistan, and when he was arrested, his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was staying in the same guest house, emerged from his room and gave a speech protesting the arrest. Khalid also gave an interview to a Time magazine reporter who was on hand for the arrest.

However, Khalid himself was not arrested, though there was already at that time evidence (possibly  manufactured) that linked him to a conspiracy to fly airplanes into tall buildings, including the World Trade Center. In addition, Yousef was arrested not by the FBI, but by Pakistani police  working with U.S. embassy State officials who received considerable resistance from FBI management and from Pakistani intelligence. Neither Marzook nor any of the others who had attended that meeting at the Marriot Hotel in Philadelphia were ever arrested. In addition, FBI management went to great lengths to protect the Blind Sheikh from prosecution.

That the Blind Sheikh was protected was noted by Nancy Floyd (the FBI special agent who had planted the mole in the Blind Sheikh’s terrorist cell), and even after the 1993 WTC bombing had been successfully carried out, FBI management still refused to arrest the Blind Sheikh. As a result, Floyd and the mole threatened to go to the press with their story that they had provided FBI management advance warning about the Blind Sheik’s involvement in the conspiracy to bomb the WTC.

FBI management responded to this threat in two ways. First, FBI management paid the mole a lump sum of $1 million cash. And second, FBI management leaked to the press an outlandish story alleging that Nancy Floyd, the earnest FBI agent, had been having an illicit sexual affair with a man named Ehud Salem (who was, of course, the mole whom the FBI had just paid $1 million, probably as hush money, but in the story that FBI management told the media, Salem was a terrorist). Amazingly (or unsurprisingly), major U.S. news organizations, including the New York Post, published the salacious story about the seedy FBI agent, Floyd, who had been having a salacious affair with Salem.

Fortunately, the mole had tape recorded the conversations during which he had explicitly warned FBI management of the conspiracy to bomb the WTC. It was also apparent from these taped conversations that FBI management not only knew about the conspiracy, but had instructed Salem to help build the bomb for the terrorists who were plotting to blow up the WTC. And despite the $1 million he had received in hush money, the mole threatened to deliver the tapes to the press. At this point, FBI management paid the mole still more cash, and once again deployed him to investigate the Blind Sheikh.

By now, though, FBI management had already insisted that the Blind Sheikh was not involved in the WTC bombing, and at the same time, FBI management knew that it would be necessary to arrest the Blind Sheikh to prevent the mole from delivering his tapes to the media. So FBI management hatched a plan, instructing the mole to volunteer to the Blind Sheikh his help in carrying out a new plot (a plot hatched by FBI management) to blow up multiple New York landmarks, including FBI headquarters. The mole took the plan to the Blind Sheikh, and the Blind Sheikh said he had no interest.

Nonetheless, FBI management announced to the press that the Blind Sheikh had now been linked to a new terrorist plot—namely, the one (hatched by FBI management) to bomb multiple New York landmarks and FBI headquarters. FBI management gave this new terrorist plot a catchy name—“The Day of Terror”—and meanwhile assured the media that the Blind Sheikh had not been linked to the bombing of the World Trade Center. For the time being, the mole kept his tapes to himself, and the major U.S. news organizations reported extensively on FBI management’s heroics in not only apprehending all of the people linked to the World Trade Center, but also foiling the even worse “Day of Terror” plot.

But, of course, the “Day of Terror” plot was not a real plot, and most of the terrorists and bankers linked to the 1993 WTC bombing had not been arrested.

The Blind Sheikh, meanwhile, had been arrested only because FBI management was worried that the mole would go public with his tapes. As it turned out the mole went public with the tapes anyway, and the Blind Sheikh was eventually charged for his role in the World Trade Center bombing. Later, U.S. officials acknowledged that the Blind Sheikh was, as of 1993, on the payroll of the U.S. government, though U.S. officials say the Blind Sheikh was on the payroll only because he had helped America fight the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.  Meanwhile, Marzook and other terrorists linked to the 1993 WTC bombing continued to live openly in the United States.

In 1996, the FBI briefly arrested Marzook at his home in Texas (location also of Infocom, host of Elgindy’s private internet chat site for short sellers), but Marzook was immediately released at the request of the Israeli government, which issued a statement saying that Marzook was “important to the peace process.”  The truth, of course, was that Marzook and other Hamas leaders in the United States had undertaken a major initiative to sabotage the peace process, and more specifically to undermine the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords that the Israeli government had signed with the PLO.

Presently, Marzook resides in Qatar, where he has the full protection of the Qatari ruling family (one of Washington’s closest allies). That’s the same ruling family that formerly employed Ramzi Yousef’s uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now said to be the “mastermind” of the September 11 conspiracy. Marzook is also helping direct the  “Arab Spring” rebellion in Syria. The “Arab Spring” rebels in Syria, of course, have ties to not only Hamas (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood) but also Al Qaeda (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood) and other jihadi outfits (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood), but they are now regarded as “freedom fighters,” sponsored by Washington and its totalitarian allies (e.g. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, all of them the leading state sponsors of terrorism).

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Back in 2002, Marzook was a key target of Operation Green Quest, partly because he had co-founded BMI Inc. and Bank al Taqwa, both of which were considered to be key components of the SAAR Network. The other co-founders of those financial institutions, including Mr. Alamoudi and Yasin al Qadi, were, of course, also key targets of Operation Green Quest. Marzook (though he was most famous as political chief of Hamas) had, recall, been among those who, along with Osama bin Laden and other key figures in the Islamist International, were (as of 2000) planning to perpetrate a “spectacular” terrorist attack inside the United States. Naturally, Marzook was therefore suspected of involvement in the September 11 conspiracy, just as he had previously been suspected of involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing.

In the course of carrying out their Operation Green Quest duties, earnest U.S. Treasury officials named not only Marzook and Yasin al Qadi, but also several other co-founders of Bank al Taqwa and its U.S. affiliate, BMI, Inc., as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”  Meanwhile, we know, the Treasury Department  announced that Bank al Taqwa had established “Al Qaeda’s main operating base in Europe for the movement of men, weapons, and money around the world.” In addition, Operation Green Quest investigators targeted a major financial institution called Al Aqsa Bank.

The Operation Green Quest investigators determined that Al Aqsa Bank had extensive ties to  Osama bin Laden, and the Treasury Department noted that Al Aqsa Bank was controlled by prominent bankers who were also global terrorists. Al Aqsa Bank’s most important principal was Marzook, who was, of course, a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”

Al Aqsa Bank had a massive presence in the United States, and as mentioned earlier, it operated in this country as a joint venture with Citibank.  Earnest Treasury officials, in the course of carrying out their Operation Green Quest duties, informed Citibank executives that they were operating a joint venture with a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” and Treasury officials notified Citibank that Citibank’s joint venture partner had direct ties to Osama bin Laden himself. The earnest Treasury officials even advised Citibank that Citibank might like to disband its joint venture with a bank that was operated by a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” who was a suspect in both the 1993 WTC bombing and the September 11 conspiracy.

Citibank, however, ignored the advice.

Citibank maintained its joint venture with Al Aqsa Bank until 2011, when the bank was “busted out” (i.e. looted and destroyed) by its owners, including “Global Terrorist” Mousa Abu Marzook and others who had been linked to Osama bin Laden’s organization. This, incidentally, was the same Mousa Abu Marzook who, in his capacity as political chief of Hamas, had reacted with glee when the American financial system melted down in 2008, declaring that the economic cataclysm marked “The End of the American Empire.”  However, by that time, Marzook was no longer described as a “Global Terrorist.” He was working for the “Empire” and preparing for his new career as an “Arab Spring” freedom fighter.

Back in 2001, of course, Marzook’s company Infocom was hosting Anthony Elgindy’s private internet chat site for short sellers, and as earnest FBI agents knew, Elgindy’s short selling syndicate had been involved in a scheme that resulted in the September 18, 2001 collapse of MJK Clearing, then the largest clearing brokerage in America. A later chapter of this series will discuss this scheme in greater detail, but for now it is enough to know that the collapse of MJK Clearing necessitated the largest ever bailout by the Securities Investors Protection Corp. and contributed mightily to the damage that had been caused to the global financial system by the September 11 terrorist attack just a  few days prior.

Others linked to the collapse of MJK Clearing (according to the SEC, which leveled small fines) were former BCCI figure Adnan Khashoggi; a notorious financial operator named Rafi Khan (the son of a Pakistani intelligence official and a principal at a brokerage called J.B. Oxford, operated by former BCCI figure Irving Kott); a man named Rami al Betrawi (formerly involved, along with BCCI and Khashoggi in the Iran-Contra affair); Carl Icahn (who rose to prominence with finance from Michael Milken); a woman named Valerie Red Horse (formerly Milken’s office manager at Drexel Burnham Lambert); and multiple others with ties to organized crime.

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The Treasury Department no longer describes Marzook as a “Global Terrorist,” and all of the other people formerly identified as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” are no longer called “Global Terrorists.” Most of them continue to have extensive business in the United States. Same goes for the “Golden Chain” billionaires and all of the other people who were targeted by Operation Green Quest, and who were (as of 2002) regarded as key figures in the SAAR Network. Most of those people were (and are) sophisticated financial operators, many of them are among history’s most destructive financial criminals (previously involved with the BCCI enterprise), and most of them not only continue to have involvement in the U.S. markets, but also presently boast partnership with some of Wall Street’s leading brokerages and investment houses.

This is owing to some other strange events that occurred in 2002, one year after the director of the FBI pronounced Operation Green Quest to be the largest law enforcement effort ever undertaken by any nation, or combination of nations, in the entire history of the world—a law enforcement effort whose only purpose was to prosecute terrorists and the people who sponsored them.

One of the other strange things that occurred in 2002 was that a United States congressional committee issued a report outlining the results of its investigation into Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization. This investigation had, of course, been assisted by earnest U.S. government investigators tasked to Operation Green Quest, and so, of course, the report contained 28 pages containing the names of all the billionaires who were key figures in the SAAR Network, members of the “Golden Chain,” and “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.” However, those 28 pages were completely blacked out—censored, so that nobody could read them.

Fortunately, earnest Operation Green Quest investigators subsequently went public with the names of the billionaires, and so we are able now to report their names, though their names (see chapter 2 of this series for a fuller list of billionaires with ties to Osama bin Laden) have never been reported in connection with Osama bin Laden by The New York Times, which seems happy enough to censor itself, and we cannot hope that Operation Green Quest investigators will capture any of the sophisticated financial operators who were the key targets of Operation Green Quest. We cannot hope that they will be captured owing to some other strange events that occurred in 2002, not long after the FBI director described Operation Green Quest as the largest law enforcement effort in the history of the world.

One strange occurrence in 2002 was the decision of the FBI director and other top officials to call an end to Operation Green Quest.

That is to say, Operation Green Quest lasted for a total of one year before it was completely dismantled. It was completely shut down, and as a result of Operation Green Quest (the largest law enforcement effort ever undertaken, according to the director of the FBI, who stressed that the sole objective of this massive law enforcement effort was to prosecute terrorists and their sponsors) the number of terrorists and major terrorist financiers who were, in fact, prosecuted came to a grand total of…ZERO.

Since then, there have been no other major “Operations” aimed at prosecuting terrorists and their bankers (or bankers who are also terrorists).

* * * * * * * *

Soon after shutting down Operation Green Quest, the director of the FBI appeared as the guest of honor at the 2002 annual convention of an outfit called the American Muslim Council. In the speech that he gave at this annual convention, the FBI director described the American Muslim Council as “the most mainstream Muslim organization in America.” Which was a surprising way to describe an outfit founded by the terrorist organization that had (according to the director of the FBI) recently massacred close to 3,000 mainstream Americans by crashing airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania.

Indeed, earnest FBI agents had known about the American Muslim Council’s ties to Osama bin Laden since at least 1993, when they received information from an informant that Osama bin Laden was using the American Muslim Council to funnel money to the Blind Sheikh (the terrorist and banker who had co-founded numerous financial institutions, including BCCI’s most important affiliate). As of 2002, the director of the FBI was also aware that the American Muslim Council had been an important target of the aborted Operation Green Quest, partly because the founder of the American Muslim Council was Mr. Alamoudi (who was a top operative in Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization).

In addition, the director of the FBI was aware that the American Muslim Council’s top officials included former White House official Khalid Elgindy (brother of Anthony Elgindy, the short seller who had advance knowledge of the September 11 conspiracy) and a terrorist named Sami al Arian, who had been settled in the United States by the Elgindy family. At the time in 2002 when the FBI director was Sami al Arian’s guest of honor at the 2002 annual convention of the American Muslim Council, it was widely known that Sami al Arian and a man named  Ramadan Shalleh (both Shalleh and Sami al Arian worked for a time as professors at the University of South Florida) were the top leaders of a terrorist organization called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which was a key component of the Islamist International, the chairman of which was, of course, Osama bin Laden.

In 2000, the director of the House Task Force on Terrorism had reported (publicly) that Palestinian Islamic Jihad was a key component of the Islamist International, the chairman of which was, of course, Osama bin Laden. At that time in 2000 (and in the years that followed), Sami al Arian (widely known to  be co-leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad) was highly regarded in Washington and held regular meetings with top U.S. officials, including multiple FBI directors. Meanwhile, according to the director of the House Task Force on Terrorism, Ramadan Shalleh (the other co-leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad) was (in 2000) among the terrorists who were, along with Osama bin Laden and other key figures in the Islamist International, including Marzook (host of Elgindy’s private internet chat site for short sellers) planning to perpetrate a “spectacular” terrorist attack inside the United States.

After such a terrorist attack occurred on September 11, 2001, earnest U.S. government investigators learned that Sami al Arian (settled in the United States by the Elgindy family) had incorporated a financial firm called Baraka Exchange, which had funded some of the terrorist-hijackers who had (according to the director of the FBI) carried out the September 11 attack. In addition, Sami al Arian was involved with numerous other SAAR Network entities, and he had been a principal target of Operation Green Quest. However, Operation Green Quest had, of course, been shuttered with no prosecutions, and Sami al Arian was never charged with any crime related to the September 11 attacks or  ties to “Al Qaeda.” To the contrary, he was invited to the White House to meet with the president.

Some years later, after a former DOJ prosecutor named John Loftus had filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, accusing U.S. officials of thwarting investigations into Sami al Arian, the DOJ did indict Sami al Arian for funding a terrorist attack in Palestine, but he spent only a few months in prison, and he now resides in a mansion located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Judicial Watch, the public watchdog group, has filed a lawsuit seeking information on the continuing and apparently warm relationships between the director of the FBI (still Robert Mueller) and multiple people (including not only Sami al Arian, but also some of those who attended that meeting at a Marriot Hotel way back in 1993) with ties to terrorism.

In 2002, when the FBI director was the guest of honor of not only Sami al Arian, but also Mr. Alamoudi, at the 2002 annual convention of the American Muslim Council (“the most mainstream Muslim organization in America”), the FBI director was well aware that not only Sami al Arian, but also Mr. Alamoudi (founder of the American Muslim Council) were key figures in Osama bin Laden’s organization, and the FBI director knew that both Mr. Alamoudi and the American Muslim Council had been among the most important targets of Operation Green Quest (the largest law enforcement effort ever aborted without any prosecutions). In addition, the FBI director knew that Mr. Alamoudi had founded the American Muslim Council in partnership with Osama bin Laden.

Court documents also show that the FBI director knew that the vehicle which Mr. Alamoudi used to found the American Muslim Council was an important financial firm called SEDCO, which operated several  joint venture businesses in partnership with Osama bin Laden (a famous terrorist and fringe fanatic who was also a prominent banker, oligarch, and co-founder of “the most mainstream Muslim organization in America”). Perhaps more important, the FBI director knew that SEDCO was principally controlled by Sheikh Mahfouz, formerly the largest shareholder (and executive director) of BCCI.

Sheikh Mahfouz, of course, was one of history’s most destructive financial criminals, and he was Osama bin Laden’s most important business partner. In addition, we know, Sheikh Mahfouz was a prominent oligarch and an important business partner of Washington insiders. Indeed, he had captured many of America’s leading politicians, including every politician who served as president of the U.S.A. between the year of 1972, when BCCI was founded, and the year 2009, when Sheikh Mahfouz passed away.

* * * * * * * *

Which brings us back to The New York Times obituary commemorating the life of Sheikh Mahfouz. In that otherwise flattering obituary, the Times was obliged to report that Sheikh Mahfouz had faced a “barrage of accusations” that he had ties to terrorist organizations These accusations did not, however, conform to the party line that  Sheikh Mahfouz was nothing more than a prominent banker and a legitimate partner of “Washington insiders,” so the Times, of course, was quick to assure its readers that the accusations of Sheikh Mahfouz’s ties to terrorism had no merit whosoever.

The Times also noted with approval that Sheikh Mahfouz had filed lawsuits against journalists who had written of Sheikh Mahfouz’s ties to terrorism. The New York Times  gloated with further approval that Sheikh Mahfouz had filed his lawsuits in London to take “advantage of Britain’s pro-plaintiff libel laws.”  Those libel laws, for those who do not know, are the most repressive libel laws anywhere in the Western world. They not only make a mockery of the notion that Britain has a free press, but they amount to a regime of censorship that makes it difficult for British journalists to report stories that powerful people or the British government deem to be harmful to their interests. And, of course, the British government (like the regime in Washington) is not interested in exposing the ties between prominent billionaires and terrorism, because such billionaires also have ties to the Anglo-American establishment.

Some of the journalists whom Sheikh Mahfouz attacked with libel lawsuits, however, were not British—they were American citizens. Indeed, there has developed a disturbing trend (known to advocates for press freedoms as “libel tourism”) that sees powerful people (a surprising number of them actually former BCCI figures) filing lawsuits against American journalists in the British courts, which almost always rule in favor of the plaintiffs.

As for The New York Times—well, that newspaper is not exactly what the founding fathers had in mind when they made freedom of the press a cornerstone of the new republic. There are some excellent and honest journalists at The New York Times, but we might be justified in asking whether The Times as an institution considers it to be its mission to prevent the voting public from being fully educated. This, after all, is the essential meaning of the famous slogan—“All the News That’s Fit to Print”—with its implication that there cannot possibly be any other news that is fit to print, and that there must be no diversity of opinion, nor debate about the facts. It might be that there really is just one Truth, and one Truth only, but are we to believe that the one and only Truth is the party line of The New York Times?

The New York Times believes that is so, and a large segment of the population believes it, too. It is the segment of the population that is preternaturally inclined to trust authority—even to revere authority–and it is the segment of the population that is ever prepared to accept authoritative diktats as to what constitutes right-belief. It is the segment of the population, like so many of history’s tragic populations, that marches in lockstep with the party line–and in present day America, it is this segment of the population that defines polite society, while everyone else has been relegated to the fringes.

As a result, we now live in a nation where one must be careful with his words, for to deviate in any way from the party line is to be cast aside, scorned and ridiculed. Indeed, one must say nothing at all unless it has been approved by The New York Times.

If you doubt that this is true—if you doubt that it has a profound effect on our nation and our democracy—try this simple experiment: at your next dinner party, introduce an idea, a commentary, a story or a new set of facts. If what you have said did not come from The Times, or has been disputed by The Times, witness the reaction of your friends and interlocutors—your fellow citizens.

Try, for example, to discuss with a group of ten people the story of BCCI and Sheikh Mahfouz. Try to challenge the final word on Sheikh Mahfouz, as it was published in 2009 by The New York Times—which noted with approval bordering on glee that Sheikh Mahfouz had (as a result of one of his London lawsuits) won a default judgment ordering one American writer, a woman named Rachel Ehrenfeld, to apologize for linking Sheikh Mahfouz to terrorism. The Times did not mention this, but Rachel Ehrenfeld is no slouch. She is the director of the Economic Warfare Institute. She has also worked as a visiting scholar at the Columbia University Institute of War and Peace Studies; a research scholar at New York University School of Law; and as a fellow at John’s Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

In addition, Ehrenfeld (author of the book, “Funding Evil,” which provoked the lawsuit) is one of the world’s reigning experts on billionaires who have ties to terrorism, and who are themselves terrorists—financial terrorists who have, with much success (and in partnership with the American elite) waged economic warfare against the United States and other nations. But that is not a subject for polite society. In polite society, one must toe the party line, which is that all terrorists are “fringe” fanatics who occupy their every moment conceiving new and inventive ways to hide bombs in their underpants, desiring nothing more than to blow themselves to Kingdom Come and its harem of vestal virgins.

According to the party line, there are no billionaire terrorists. In polite society, all billionaires are, by definition, themselves members of polite society, deserving of our respect and admiration. Anyone who says otherwise must be expelled from polite society, and if the dissident has credentials that threaten to lend her credibility, she must be excoriated or at least subtly discredited by The New York Times.

So it was with Rachel Ehrenfeld, whom Sheikh Mahfouz  sued with the help of London’s oppressive libel laws. The New York Times reported: “Mrs. Ehrenfeld has called his [Sheikh Mahfouz’s] legal actions ‘financial jihad.’ But Sheikh Mahfouz’s criticisms were sometimes irrefutable. He was widely referred to as the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden, which he was not. Sheikh Mahfouz did acknowledge contributing $270,000 to Mr. bin Laden’s forces when they were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. At the time, the United States also supported the insurgents there.”

And that was the end of the story, so far as the Times was concerned. Clearly, we are left to conclude that Sheikh Mahfouz was innocent of all charges linking him to terrorism.

We are also left to conclude that people, including Ehrenfeld, who have linked Sheikh Mahfouz to terrorism are a little bit nutty. After all, these people, including Ehrenfeld (or so it was suggested by The New York Times) went so far as to report the outlandish falsehood that Sheikh Mahfouz was Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law. In fact, Ehrenfeld never reported any such thing. It was the director of the CIA, then George Tenet, who first stated that Sheikh Mahfouz was Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, at which point official U.S. government spokesmen quickly issued a “correction,” saying that it had not yet been confirmed that Sheikh Mahfouz had married off his sister to Osama bin Laden.

The spokesmen did not explicitly deny that the CIA director’s information was correct, and since then, the official spokesmen have not been forthcoming with confirmation one way or another, so we do not know the truth of the matter. Either way, the former CIA director’s supposed error served the interests of Sheikh Mahfouz and his friends in Washington, as they and cooperative media outlets such as The New York Times seized upon this one supposed falsehood, suggesting that since this one fact has ostensibly been proven to be false, it must necessarily be the case that all of the other facts (see above) linking Sheikh Mahfouz to Osama bin Laden are equally false. This, of course, is twisted logic, made all the more twisted by the fact that the Times failed to address all of the other facts (see above) linking to Sheikh Mahfouz to terrorism.

We can see the twisted logic because we are examining it with care, but most readers of The New York Times conduct no such examination. And make no mistake: the twisted logic of The New York Times is not evidence merely of faulty thinking or lazy reporting. The New York Times was, without doubt, aware of the other facts linking Sheikh Mahfouz to terrorism. The omission of these facts—and the twisted logic suggesting that one supposed falsehood justifies the omission of all the other facts—was not accidental. It was twisted logic by design—and such twisted logic works as it is intended. Indeed, twisted logic is the most effective all propaganda. It is the essence of the twisted dystopia about which we have been warned by Orwell, Huxley, H.G. Wells, and so many others.

Consider further that while the New York Times reported that Sheikh Mahfouz had won (in a British kangaroo court) a “default” judgment ordering Ehrenfeld to apologize for linking Sheikh Mahfouz to terrorism, the Times failed to report that Ehrenfeld had made no such apology and indeed Ehrenfeld had refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the British court over her case, which is why the judgment was a “default” judgment. In addition, though there was not a word about this in The New York Times, Ehrenfeld had preemptively countersued Sheikh Mahfouz in New York to obtain a declaration that the British judgment would not be enforced in the United States.

Ehrenfeld also maintained that her book was not defamatory under United States defamation law. The New York courts ruled that they lacked jurisdiction over Sheikh Mahfouz, but immediately thereafter, the New York State legislature unanimously passed the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, and the legislature even named the new Act after Rachel Ehrenfeld herself.

It is called “Rachel’s Law.”

In 2008, when Rachel’s Law was enacted, New York Governor David Paterson stated that Rachel’s Law “offers New Yorkers greater protection against libel judgments in countries whose laws are inconsistent with the freedom of speech granted by the United States constitution.” In other words, this was a victory for both Ehrenfeld and free speech, but The New York Times (supposed guardian of our freedoms and “All The News That’s Fit to Print”) failed to mention a word about it in its story gloating that Ehrenfeld had been asked to apologize for linking Sheikh Mahfouz to terrorism.

Meanwhile, billionaires with ties to terrorist organizations continue to this day to wage a “Financial Jihad” in partnership with some of Wall Street’s most notorious (or “prominent,” in the vernacular of The New York Times) brokerages and investment houses–and with the apparent approval of officials in Washington, who have shown zero inclination to stop them. None of which, of course, is regarded by The New York Times as news that is “Fit to Print,” but there is, nonetheless, hope for the republic, for at least some among the citizenry have come to know that if it’s fit to print–then it probably isn’t true.

To be continued…Click here to read Chapter 7

Mark Mitchell is a journalist who spent most of his career working as a correspondent for mainstream media publications before joining DeepCapture.com. He is the author of the book entitled “The Dendreon Effect: How Felons, Con-Men and Wall Street Insiders Manipulate High-Tech Stocks”.

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The Global Bust-Out Series (Chapter 4): The BCCI Enterprise: Prelude to Our Present Predicament

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The Global Bust-Out Series (Chapter 4): The BCCI Enterprise: Prelude to Our Present Predicament


This is Chapter 4 of a multi-chapter series. On your right is a Table of Contents to all chapters so far published.

* * * * * * * * *

Henry Kissinger, who served the Nixon administration as national security advisor and secretary of state, has commented that the 1973 oil embargo was “one of the pivotal events in the history of the [twentieth] century.”

Kissinger did not refer specifically to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) in that statement, but there is no doubt that one of the most important outcomes of the oil embargo was to fill the coffers of BCCI, making it one of the more powerful financial institutions in the world. There is also no doubt that the idea for the oil embargo was hatched by the ruler of Abu Dhabi (then one of BCCI’s controlling shareholders) in consultation with other BCCI principals, including BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi. Also playing a role in implementing the oil embargo was BCCI principal Sheikh Kamal Adham (who served concurrently as chief of Saudi intelligence) and the Saudi royal family, which had involvement with the BCCI enterprise.

Others who helped implement the oil embargo included Sheikh Ahmad Turki Yamani, then the Saudi minister of petroleum; and Sheikh Abdel Hadir Taher, then governor of the Saudi state oil company Petromin, both of whom we met in chapter 2 of this series, wherein it was noted that Sheikh Yamani and Sheikh Taher were among the select few billionaires (another being Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, BCCI’s largest shareholder in the 1980s) whom Osama bin Laden referred to as his “Golden Chain.”

All of those sheikhs also had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ruler of Abu Dhabi (who masterminded the oil embargo) was one of the leading sponsors of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, we know, BCCI had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and we might consider the founding of BCCI in 1972 and the enforcement of the oil embargo a year later to have marked the beginning of what Muslim Brotherhood leaders now (see earlier chapters of this series) describe as “The Financial Jihad.”

As noted in an earlier chapter of this series, Muslim Brotherhood leaders say that the manipulation of oil prices are an important component of the “Financial Jihad.Muslim Brotherhood leader Yussuf al Qardawi, for one, has spoken often of the imperative to deploy  Silah al Naft – i.e. “the weapon of oil” – against the U.S. economy. This was precisely in line with the thinking of Osama bin Laden, who stressed  “the absolute necessity to use the oil weapon.”  And according to a report that was prepared for the Department of Defense, the oil weapon was deployed against the U.S. economy in the years leading up to the great meltdown of 2008.

Indeed, the report for the Defense Department (see chapter 1 of this series) concluded that while a variety of financial weapons have been deployed against the U.S. economy, much of the destruction of 2008 could be attributed to two particularly effective financial weapons: 1) the manipulation of the oil markets that caused oil prices to nearly quadruple in the five years leading to 2008; and 2) the manipulative short selling that was one (though not the only) component of the “bust-outs” (i.e. destruction) of some major financial institutions, including Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and others.

Similarly, the oil embargo of the 1970s quadrupled the price oil, and a few years later, the BCCI enterprise helped “bust out” some of America’s largest savings and loan banks, contributing to the savings an loan crisis that began in the late 1980s, eventually costing U.S. tax-payers billions of dollars (a mighty sum at the time) in bailouts.

* * * * * * * * *

The 1973 oil embargo was an act of economic warfare against the United States, said to be retaliation for America’s support of Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Henry Kissinger was no doubt justified in describing this economic warfare as “one of the pivotal events in the history of the [twentieth] century,” but what Kissinger failed to mention was that he and then President Richard Nixon opted to do nothing in response to the economic warfare that was waged against our nation.

This might have been partly because higher oil prices benefited U.S. oil companies and partly because the Gulf states had agreed to use some of the new oil wealth that they were to acquire as a result of the oil embargo to support the U.S. dollar. Nixon would also have been aware that the oil embargo was transforming BCCI into a global powerhouse, and that BCCI and its owners would become important business partners for certain elements of the American establishment, including America’s leading weapons manufacturers, and some of the most powerful people on Wall Street.

In addition, BCCI and/or its partners effectively “captured” Washington. One famous story describes a BCCI partner named Adnan Khashoggi visiting Nixon in the Oval Office, and “accidentally” leaving behind his briefcase, which was found to contain $1 million in cash. The story might be apocryphal, but there is no question that Khashoggi was one of the largest financiers of Nixon’s political war chest. Khashoggi would also later establish himself as one of history’s most destructive financial criminals, but he would remain on close terms with officials in Washington, including multiple U.S. presidents.

Not long after Nixon left power, BCCI employed (as a consultant) a man named Bert Lance, who would soon be appointed director of the office of management and budget in the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Lance brokered BCCI’s secret acquisition of a prominent financial institution called National Georgia Bank, and that acquisition likely had something to do with the fact that National Georgia Bank was the principal financier to Carter’s family peanut business.

After Carter left office, the former president traveled the world with BCCI founder Aga Hasan Abedi. BCCI was also the largest donor to the Carter Presidential Library. The major U.S. news organizations, however, found nothing untoward about this relationship, and after BCCI was revealed to be (in the words of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau) “the largest banking fraud in world financial history,” the major U.S. news organizations (and some books on the BCCI scandal) suggested that Carter was oblivious to the fact that BCCI was a criminal enterprise. Some reports also maintained the party line that one of BCCI’s missions was to end global poverty, and so it was natural that Carter, who also desired to help the poor, would join forces with BCCI in this philanthropic endeavor.

Anyone who believes this party line is either dangerously innocent, or guilty of the sort of apathy and lack of inquisitiveness that poses a threat to our democracy. It is possible that Carter genuinely believed that BCCI (which had helped kleptocratic government leaders  “bust out” the economies of poverty stricken nations in the non-developing world) was on a “philanthropic” mission to end global poverty, but that is beside the point. Or, rather, it is  precisely the point. Because if you genuinely believe that the perpetrators of the “largest banking fraud in world financial history” are engaged in a philanthropic mission, you are, by definition, so friendly with those perpetrators as to be wholly incapacitated.

This is the essence of what we call “deep capture.”

One of BCCI’s most important business partners in the 1980s was a leading oligarch named Jackson Stephens, who was one of the largest contributors to both the Democratic and Republican parties. Stephens was also one of Bill Clinton’s closest associates, and Stephens would later figure in some of the scandals that plagued the Clinton presidency. One of the more famous Clinton scandals saw a Chinese spy donating large sums to Clinton campaign coffers and stealing U.S. nuclear weapons secrets, all the while working in some capacity for a brokerage called Stephens, Inc., which had been founded by Jackson Stephens, and which, in the 1980s, had maintained a close business relationship with BCCI. Stephens had, in the 1980s, also been among those who brokered BCCI’s “secret” acquisition of a financial institution called First General Bankshares, later renamed First American Bankshares.

First American Bankshares was the most prominent financial institution in Washington, DC, and it counted among its clients a large number of America’s leading politicians. In addition, First American Bankshares had extensive ties to the U.S. national security community, and it was no accident that BCCI principals controlled First American in partnership with a man named Clark Clifford, whom BCCI also appointed to run the day-to-day operations of First American and its affiiliates. Clifford, a former Secretary of Defense, was, at the time, one of the most influential people in Washington, and he was the eminence gris of the Democratic Party.

After BCCI collapsed in 1991, the major U.S. news organizations focused almost exclusively on BCCI’s “secret” acquisition of First American Bankshares as being the most salient feature of the BCCI scandal, though the major U.S. news organizations seemed to find nothing more scandalous about it than the fact that the acquisition was “secret,” and therefore illegal. Many earnest U.S. government investigators (including Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau), meanwhile, had determined that there was nothing particularly “secret” about it. Top officials in Washington were aware that BCCI had acquired First American Bankshares, and it is likely they were also aware (as even the whitewashed Congressional report on the BCCI scandal would suggest) that BCCI principals (including the chief of Saudi intelligence) had acquired First Commerce as a way to peddle influence in Washington.

Meanwhile, of course, the BCCI enterprise was carrying out other missions, one of which was to provide a full package of services to leading jihadi terrorist organizations, another of which was to wage the “Financial Jihad” against the American economy. But, of course, captured regulators  in Washington allowed BCCI and its partners to “bust-out” the American economy, and the major U.S. news organizations published not a word about it.

Noteably, the Congressional report into the BCCI scandal also revealed that a BCCI subsidiary called Capcom Financial (whose principals included Saudi intelligence official Sheikh Kamal Adham) had formed business relationships with leading American telecommunications and media companies, including CNN, likely for the purposes of influencing (through the media organizations) American public opinion. Unsurprisingly, the major U.S. news organizations, including CNN, did not report on this aspect of the BCCI scandal. Nor, for some reason, did the major U.S. news organizations report the Congressional finding that Capcom Financial had meanwhile transacted around $90 billion (an astounding sum in those days) in illegal “wash” trades through the trading desk of Michael Milken, who was then the most prominent and powerful financial operator on Wall Street.

Such “wash trades” are usually accompanied by manipulative short selling, and they do extensive damage to the markets. In addition, “wash” trades are usually a component of larger money laundering schemes (hence the term “wash”), and it should be stressed that nearly every serious investigator of the BCCI scandal (including the Manhattan District Attorney; the director of the Senate committee tasked with investigating BCCI; the director of the House Task Force on Terorrism; and others) has reported that one of BCCI’s principal lines of business was to launder money not for the world’s leading terrorist organizations, but also for leading transnational organized crime syndicates. Some of BCCI’s executives, including  Ziuddin Ali Akbar, who served as BCCI’s treasurer and as director of Capcom Financial, were indicted for laundering money that belonged to Colombian drug cartels.

Aside from Milken, another of BCCI’s most important business partners in the 1980s was Bank of America, which was, in fact, among BCCI’s founding shareholders. According to the party line delivered to the public by the major U.S. news organizations (and by some books on BCCI), Bank of America sold its shares in BCCI in the 1970s because Bank of America had concluded at that early date that BCCI was a criminal enterprise. But this failed to explain why Bank of America did not report the criminality. And more recently, in 2007, Morgenthau (who was still district attorney) concluded that Bank of America had laundered huge sums for drug dealers in Latin America who had ties to Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. Most of the major U.S. news organizations failed to report this news.

Meanwhile, the major U.S. news organizations seemed to believe that people like Jackson Stephens and Michael Milken (i.e. one of history’s most destructive financial criminals) were prominent figures of the American establishment, deserving of our respect and admiration. Thus,we are left to contemplate the state of the republic.

To be continued…Click here to read Chapter 5

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The SAC Capital Scandal–Made For TV

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The SAC Capital Scandal–Made For TV


The SAC Capital Advisors insider-trading scandal has inspired an episode of the fictional television program “Person of Interest.” The show features a plotline that was probably taken from recent media headlines about SAC Capital, but we might humbly suggest that the show instead feature a plotline that DeepCapture published more than three years ago.

The CBS crime drama told the tale of insider-trading at a hedge fund called “VAC Capital,” a clear reference to SAC Capital, and just as the real SAC trader Mathew Martoma has been accused of earning for SAC Capital a massive sum ($276 million) from trading on tips about Alzheimer’s drug trials that he received from a University of Michigan professor, so too does the VAC trader turn a massive profit (inflated to $500 million for the purposes of television titillation) from an inside tip. However, readers of DeepCapture might recall that the full (true) story is a lot worse than just that.

In 2009, DeepCapture published a book-length story (“Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and The Story of Dendreon”) demonstrating that Milken had worked with “captured” doctors to derail FDA approval for a promising cancer treatment while promoting less-than promising treatments from which they stood to profit. That story also demonstrated that there was a high probability that a small group of hedge funds, including SAC Capital, had not just traded on inside information about the FDA’s decisions, but had perpetrated manipulative short selling attacks on the stock of the company, Dendreon, that was manufacturing the promising cancer treatment.

I am no TV producer, but it seems to me that Wall Street miscreants trying to destroy companies with promising medical treatments (i.e. killing people, which is exactly what they are doing) is better television than miscreants merely “making a killing” on inside information. Or maybe not. It could be that the old narrative of Gordon Gecko, the greedy but charming rogue scoring the big bucks from his clever reading of inside information, is what people want to see on their TV screens—not the far uglier truth. Even the major U.S. news organizations seem intent upon portraying SAC Capital’s insider traders not as destructive miscreants, but as basically harmless rogues, perhaps even worthy of our respect and admiration.

During the three years while hedge funds were attacking Dendreon’s stock price and Milken was successfully scheming with FDA doctors to derail Dendreon’s cancer treatment (more specifically, a treatment for prostate cancer), more than 60,000 men who would have benefited from that treatment instead died before their time. In fact, Wall Street miscreants nearly destroyed Dendreon, but thanks largely to citizen activists (and not the media) who exposed the corruption that led to the FDA initially denying approval to Dendreon’s cancer treatment, the FDA did (albeit three years too late) finally approve the drug–so maybe it was a Hollywood ending, after all.

Either way, Wall Street miscreants are attacking many other companies with promising medical treatments…and nobody (aside from a few citizen activists) is watching.

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Notes on David Einhorn: The Predator in a Cute T-Shirt

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Notes on David Einhorn: The Predator in a Cute T-Shirt


I received an email a while back from Jim Brickman, a crony of short selling hedge fund manager David Einhorn, demanding that I post the Securities and Exchange Commission inspector general’s report on the commission’s investigation of Allied Capital. According to Brickman, the report proves that Einhorn was right about Allied being a massive fraud. Moreover, says Brickman, the report definitively establishes that Einhorn did not seek to drive down Allied’s stock price. The report, which I gladly post below, does nothing of the sort. I will discuss the report in further detail, but first a little history.

Eight years ago, Michael Milken, the famous financial criminal, appeared in the offices of a top Allied Capital executive. “You know,” Milken told the executive, “I already am quite a large shareholder of your stock – but my name will never show up on any list you’ll see.”

This might have been a reference to a practice called “parking stock” (owning stock but “parking” it in the accounts of friends with whom one has made under-the-table arrangements), a practice that figured in the high-count indictment that sent Milken to prison in the 1980s. It appeared to the Allied executive that Milken was fishing for inside information about Allied and threatening an attack. For a variety of reasons, short-side stock manipulators in the Milken network often accumulate large numbers of shares in the companies that they seek to destroy.

Not long after Milken’s strange appearance, David Einhorn was at a hedge fund luncheon, sitting next to Carl Icahn, one of Milken’s closest cronies. Einhorn launched his career working for Gary Siegler, who was formerly a top partner in Icahn’s investment fund, and is certainly part of the Milken network. So, it was not surprising to Allied’s executives when, halfway through the luncheon, Einhorn declared that “Allied Capital is going to zero!”

For the next eight years, Einhorn led a vicious campaign against Allied, loudly and publicly pronouncing that the company was a massive Ponzi scheme and an all-around fraud that could be as big as Enron. Of course, Einhorn’s vituperative remarks had nothing to do with the massive profits that Einhorn stood to earn from short selling Allied’s stock. Rather, Einhorn was just doing his duty as a concerned citizen – or so his slick public relations operation would have us believe.

I will give Einhorn credit. He is a master of spin. In 2008, he published an aptly titled book, “Fooling Some of the People All of the Time”, wherein he provided an ingeniously self-serving portrait of himself as a tenacious hero doing battle against not only the evil Allied Capital, but also powerful Washington insiders, financial journalists, and government regulators – i.e. all the people who reviewed his “evidence” and concluded that Allied was by no means a massive fraud.

Really, Einhorn’s book should be placed in a glass case at the Museum of Contemporary Propaganda, as it is such a work of art. Anyone familiar with the world of abusive short selling will read this book and see that Einhorn engaged in all manner of shenanigans to obtain inside information and drive down Allied’s stock price. But the dark genius of Einhorn’s book is that it manages to portray his malefaction as par for the course – just another day in the life of a noble fraud-buster.

For example, Einhorn admits in his book that he invested in a fund run by a man who had recently served as the chairman of Allied Capital’s board of directors. Could this investment have been a bribe? Was Einhorn seeking inside information about Allied? Certainly not. The investment was purely incidental, Einhorn assures us. And you, dear reader, should be ashamed of yourself for even asking such questions. Indeed, your suspicions make you part of the problem. You are an ignorant thug who wants to “intimidate” Einhorn and other short selling “critics” who selflessly do battle with public corporations.

In his book, Einhorn notes the SEC initiated an investigation into his short selling of Allied Capital. In the course of this rather cursory investigation, an SEC official sought to determine whether Einhorn was colluding with other hedge funds, including William Ackman’s Gotham Partners (now called Pershing Square Capital) and Whitney Tilson’s T2 Partners, to drive down Allied’s stock. The official asked this question:  “Mr. Einhorn, have you ever compensated [short selling hedge fund] Gotham Partners…for providing you with an investment idea?”

Einhorn answered, “Except in-kind, no.” Then Einhorn consulted with his lawyer and changed his mind. He went back to the SEC official and said, “I think the more correct answer to your question is that there’s been no compensation for the ideas.” The moral of this story, according to Einhorn’s book, is that the investigator was a bumbling idiot for asking such a question. And, you, dear reader – don’t even think of asking the same question. If you do, you’re part of the problem. You’re trying to “intimidate” Einhorn.

You see, it is perfectly natural for hedge funds to share ideas. Of course, hedge funds must not be required to report their short positions to the SEC or otherwise disclose their “proprietary trading strategies.” Hedge fund trading is top-secret so far as the public is concerned. But, says Einhorn, when we hedge funds “share ideas,” it’s just us pros talking shop. Really, says Einhorn, you can trust me…and, oh, did I say “payment in-kind”? Oops — slip of the mind.

Is it possible that hedge funds exchange “ideas” because it is profitable for them to do so? Surely not. Is it possible that these “idea” exchanges are nothing more than collusion – hedge funds agreeing to pile on to the same companies to put downward pressure on stock prices? How dare you ask such a question. Allied Capital asked that question. And Allied is very bad, says Einhorn — Allied tried to “intimidate” me!

Really, Einhorn says this all the time – people tried to “intimidate” him. He was hurt. But he’s a hero. He stood up to the critics. And, he assures us in his book, it was perfectly natural for him to collude (sorry, “share ideas”) with not just Tilson and Ackman, but also Eastbourne Capital’s Jim Carruthers. You see, Carruthers is really smart guy who does good research.

What Einhorn does not mention in his book is that Carruthers has sometimes spelled his name with a ‘K’ to disguise his identity while passing himself off as a friendly private investigator in order to deceptively acquire inside information from companies like Allied Capital. But let’s not criticize Carruthers. We don’t want to “intimidate” him. We don’t want to be part of the problem.

And shame on the SEC for having the temerity to investigate Einhorn. In fact, the SEC did nothing but ask Einhorn a few questions. Meanwhile, Einhorn convinced the SEC to launch an investigation of Allied. Then Einhorn all but directed this massive but ultimately misguided investigation for a period of three long years.

As Einhorn admits in his book, his hedge fund partner had a “social” relationship with William Donaldson, then the Chairman of the SEC. That’s how Einhorn got the investigation of Allied started. As the investigation progressed, Einhorn says, SEC officials even asked him to be their “cartographer” – outlining all the ways in which Allied was supposedly a massive Ponzi scheme, and also failing to mark its assets to “fair value” (i.e. the arbitrary value at which Einhorn believed the assets could be sold in a fire sale).

Clearly, Wall Street miscreants like Einhorn had captured the SEC to the point where the Wall Street miscreants were virtually running the place. But in the upside down reality presented by Einhorn’s book, the fact that a few SEC officials doubted the hedge fund manager’s sincerity is proof that the commission had been corrupted, not by Wall Street miscreants, but by corporate executives who wanted to “intimidate” Einhorn.

That’s right, the SEC, following Einhorn’s orders in microscopic detail, conducted an investigation of Allied that was so huge that Allied had to create a “Department of Investigations” to handle all of the commission’s requests for new information. But it was Allied’s executives, not Einhorn, who were peddling influence at the SEC. You don’t believe it? Read Einhorn’s book – agitprop at its best.

As for the media – well, Einhorn is deeply disappointed. Of course, Einhorn heaps praise on journalists such as Jesse Eisenger, then of The Wall Street Journal; Carol Remond of Dow Jones Newswires; and Herb Greenberg, formerly of MarketWatch.com and TheStreet.com. These journalists wrote multiple negative and false stories about Allied Capital, precisely mimicking Einhorn’s allegations that the company was a massive fraud.

As it happens, these are the same journalists that Deep Capture has shown to have had too-cozy, and in some instances, outright corrupt relationships with a select crew of short selling hedge fund managers, including David Einhorn. Indeed, it is fair to say that Einhorn and others in his network had captured some of the biggest names in financial journalism to the point where the hedge fund managers were able to virtually dictate the journalists’ stories.

But Einhorn was disappointed – the media failed him. That is to say, a number of honest journalists looked at Einhorn’s “evidence” and concluded that it was balderdash of the highest order. But, no, these journalists were not honest. They were ignoramuses. They are part of the problem. They should be publicly shamed. One of them even investigated Einhorn. This was an outrage. It was hurtful. It was “intimidation.”

Look, lying and cheating short-sellers are essential watchdogs, they add liquidity to the markets, and they are really very fragile people. Nice people, too. They don’t even care about money. You don’t believe me? Read Einhorn’s book. “I remember Grandpa Ben…,” Einhorn writes on page one, and after that he regales with countless folksy anecdotes and assorted other bullshit that – well, believe me, it brings tears to the eyes.

Einhorn even lets us know that he is going to donate some of the proceeds from his short selling of Allied to needy children. “I have been waiting,” he writes, “but the children should not have to wait.”

As far as I know, the children are still waiting. Although Einhorn has made enormous profits from his short selling of Allied, he has provided no evidence that his contributions to charity have significantly increased. But it is clear that the purpose of his book was not to tell the truth. It was to inoculate himself from public criticism and regulatory scrutiny in preparation for his next big project – the destruction of Lehman Brothers.

In May 2008, soon after releasing his book on Allied Capital, Einhorn’s launched his attack on Lehman in a speech that he gave at an event that was ostensibly held for the purposes of – what else? – raising money for needy children. Einhorn began this speech by discussing his supposedly philanthropic fight with Allied. He then  proceeded to give a grossly exaggerated account of Lehman’s problems, suggesting that Lehman was a massive fraud for precisely the same reasons that Allied was a massive fraud – namely, that it had failed to mark down its real estate assets to “fair value,” with “fair value” defined not by any reasonable metric, but by Einhorn himself.

Lest there still be any doubt that Einhorn really was a crusading crime-fighter, rather than a profit-seeking hedge fund manager, he hired an expensive lobbying outfit called the Gordon Group to orchestrate an astounding public relations campaign. The Gordon Group, whose key clients seem to be Einhorn and Einhorn’s network of hedge fund managers (including the above mentioned William Ackman and Whitney Tilson) is staffed by real professionals. Their Einhorn campaign was marked by the sort of hype that normally accompanies the launch of a new teen-idol band.

But it wasn’t just hype. It was also a particularly greasy sort of deception – imagine a pimp marketing a cheap 42nd Street hooker. Really, she’s not in it for the money. She’ a virginal college undergrad who loves her teddy bear.

Well, the media swooned for the cuddly Einhorn. This was the same media that Einhorn had accused of bungling idiocy, but never mind that – now he had glowing profiles in many of the top news publications, and a three-hour appearance on CNBC.  Half-way through his CNBC debut, Einhorn put on a cute t-shirt painted by his young kids — just to show that he was a regular guy and a lover of children, as opposed to a marauding hedge fund manager seeking to obliterate one of America’s largest investment banks.

In all his media interviews, Einhorn reminded journalists that Allied Capital had “intimidated” him. He said he had stood up to the bullies and proven that Allied was a massive fraud. Then he smoothly transitioned into a discussion of Lehman Brothers, suggesting to the journalists that Lehman was just like Allied, a massive fraud. He said Lehman was trying to “intimidate” him, but he would fight on in the name of truth and justice. The journalists swallowed this nonsense without an ounce of skepticism.

I do not mean to suggest that Lehman Brothers was a clean bank. Clearly, it engaged in some shady accounting, including its now notorious Repo 105 transactions. Its brokerage probably catered to criminal market manipulators. But while Lehman was a deeply troubled bank, it is also true that it was subjected to a wave of false rumors, each one accompanied by illegal naked short selling. With all the manipulation that accompanied the attack on Lehman, it was difficult to know what the truth about the company really was.

In the midst of the attack on Lehman, Adam Starr, the manager of hedge fund Gulfside Partners, was moved to write a letter to Lehman’s CFO, stating, “I have never witnessed more disruptive behavior than that displayed over the past year by David Einhorn.” In a recent interview with Reuters, Starr said that Lehman had clearly had serious problems, but that was besides the point. The point, Starr said, was that Einhorn was up to no good – “manipulating the market and running a high publicity business is just not appropriate behavior and disruptive to free and open markets.”

As for Einhorn being “right” about Lehman, it is important to note that the court-appointed examiner’s report on the Lehman bankruptcy does not support Einhorn’s principal claim – that Lehman’s executives fraudulently and massively overvalued the bank’s commercial real estate assets. “With respect to commercial real estate,” says the report, “the Examiner finds insufficient evidence to conclude that Lehman’s valuations of its Commercial portfolio were unreasonable as of the second and third quarters of 2008.”

Lehman’s valuations might have been high, but Einhorn’s shrill exaggerations and insinuations of fraud were clearly designed to induce panic. And sure enough, panic ensued. With potential business partners wondering whether Lehman was, in fact, massively overstating the value of its commercial real estate, the bank was unable to raise new capital.

To protect itself, Lehman sought to spin off the real estate assets, but by that time it had come under a brutal and criminal naked short selling attack, with more than 30 million of its shares failing to deliver. The plummeting stock price and continuing false rumors in the marketplace derailed Lehman’s other efforts to protect itself and triggered a run on the bank that ended with Lehman’s demise.

In short, Lehman was a bad bank. Regulators should have forced it to reform. Instead, they and the media allowed short selling “vigilantes” like Einhorn to manufacture a much bleaker reality and bring a major investment bank to its knees. It is quite possible that if it weren’t for Einhorn and other dissembling investor “activists”, Lehman would have survived, and the financial system would have had a much softer landing.

Lehman has subpoenaed records from Einhorn and his close colleague, Steve Cohen of SAC Capital,  in hopes of determining the extent to which the hedge fund managers had a hand in its demise. Perhaps those subpoenas will give us a clearer picture of what really went down, but meanwhile we can expect Einhorn’s PR machine stay “on message” – constantly repeating that Einhorn was “right” about Lehman, just as Einhorn was “right” about Allied Capital.

Which brings us to the inspector general’s report on the SEC’s investigation of Allied. Given that Einhorn, his minion Jim Brickman, and the rest of his PR machine are waving this report with glee, and no doubt preparing to use it as cover for Einhorn’s next attack on a public company, it is important that we subject the contents of the report to close scrutiny.

The report concludes that “serious and credible allegations against Allied were not initially [my emphasis] investigated” by the SEC, but contrary to Einhorn’s ridiculous claims that nobody listened to him, the inspector general notes that the SEC did ultimately conduct “a lengthy examination of Allied as a result of Einhorn’s allegations…”

SEC officials met with Einhorn on multiple occasions to review his allegations. They also scoured through millions of Allied emails and the cart-loads of other documents that Allied supplied every time Einhorn came to the SEC with a new set of accusations.

Having conducted this gargantuan investigation, the SEC concluded that most of Einhorn’s allegations were bogus. Allied was fined for having mildly inadequate accounting methods that might have overvalued some of the company’s assets, but the SEC determined that Allied certainly was not the “massive fraud” that Einhorn claimed it to be.

In addition, Allied was not, as Einhorn claimed, a massive Ponzi scheme. Einhorn had made the smarmy suggestion that Allied was a Ponzi because it supposedly raised money from the markets to pay its dividends. An SEC official told the inspector general that this claim was patently false – it was perfectly obvious that Allied legitimately paid dividends out of earnings.

The inspector general’s report notes that one SEC official claimed to have gotten “push back” when she tried to dig deeper into the Ponzi scheme allegation. But nowhere in the report does the inspector general conclude that any such Ponzi scheme existed. Clearly, Einhorn is no Harry Markopolos. Markopolos uncovered a $50 billion fraud (that of Bernie Madoff). Einhorn blew the whistle on a crime that didn’t exist. Yet, Einhorn’s slithering PR effort never ceases to amaze – somehow he has managed to attach himself to Markopolos, and even wangled a deal to write the introduction to Markopolos’s blockbuster book.

The inspector general seems to believe that the investigation of Allied could have been more thorough in some respects. For example, SEC officials didn’t visit Allied’s offices, and one SEC official was a bit too quick to believe that Allied was innocent just because former SEC officials worked for the company. But, again, the inspector general does not state that the SEC was wrong to conclude that Allied was innocent of any major crime.

The inspector general’s most damaging conclusions about Allied concern the company’s efforts to lobby the SEC. Apparently, some Allied lobbyists secured an unusual meeting with SEC officials and managed to convince these officials that Allied deserved a lighter fine. It also appears that a former SEC official went to work as an Allied lobbyist and might have gotten his hands on Einhorn’s phone records.

The inspector general is right to suggest that Allied’s lobbyists crossed the line. It is not kosher for a public company to pry into a private citizen’s phone records. But given that Einhorn had all-but moved his offices into SEC headquarters, and given that Einhorn had his own private investigators going to unknown lengths to dig up “dirt” on Allied (he admits in his book that he hired Kroll, a private investigative agency that owes its existence to Michael Milken, who was its first big client), Allied can hardly be blamed for taking steps to defend itself.

In any case, the inspector general’s report is more an indictment of the SEC than of Allied’s lobbyists. The overall picture that emerges is one of a government agency split into two factions, one populated by friends of Allied’s lobbyists, the other populated by officials who were basically taking orders from hedge fund managers like David Einhorn. It seems that nobody at the SEC was capable of conducting an investigation without having his or her hand held by some self-interested party. But it is clear from this case and many others like it that the hedge fund faction won the day.

The inspector general states in his report that it was Allied’s lobbyists who convinced the SEC to investigate Einhorn. The report concludes that the SEC initiated this investigation “without any specific evidence of wrongdoing.” That might be so, but officials do not generally obtain “specific evidence” unless they seriously look for it. And it is clear from the contents of the inspector general’s report that the SEC’s investigation of Einhorn was an unmitigated joke, even though officials had good reason to suspect that Allied’s stock was being manipulated.

The report notes, for example, that the SEC subpoenaed Einhorn’s client list in response to Allied’s complaints and discovered that Einhorn had a certain “celebrity client”, whom the inspector general does not name. Could this “celebrity client” have been Michael Milken? We cannot know for certain, but it seems like a good guess, given that the discovery of this “celebrity client” followed Allied’s complaint to the SEC, and given that Allied had complained that Einhorn might be colluding (sorry, “sharing ideas”) with one specific celebrity – Michael Milken.

In any case, it appears from the inspector general’s report that the SEC did nothing to determine how Milken, who is banned from the securities industry, became “quite a large” shareholder of Allied’s stock. Nor did the SEC seek to determine what Milken was doing that day in Allied’s offices.

Meanwhile, some SEC officials seemed to believe that Einhorn was colluding with other hedge fund managers to drive down Allied’s stock. To see whether the hedge fund managers called each other and then placed their trades at precisely the same time, the SEC subpoenaed Einhorn’s phone records. But according to the inspector general’s report, Einhorn did not bother to comply with this subpoena. He never handed over the phone records, and nobody at the SEC seemed to notice or care. Which is funny, because Einhorn states in his book that he did hand over his phone records. Indeed, he goes to great lengths to describe how hurt he felt about this. The SEC was “intimidating” him.

Perhaps because it was weary of “intimidating” hedge fund managers, the SEC also apparently did nothing to investigate illegal naked short selling of Allied’s stock. From the moment that Einhorn declared that Allied was “going to zero”, and for many months afterwards, Allied’s stock “failed to deliver” in massive quantities – a sure sign of criminal naked short selling. We do not know that Einhorn, others in the Milken network, or their brokers were committing this crime. Maybe it was someone else. Either way, it was not beyond the pale for Allied to ask the SEC to investigate. Or maybe it was. After all, the SEC wouldn’t want to “intimidate” criminals.

It is also notable that literally minutes after Einhorn declared that Allied was “going to zero”, the corrupt law firm Milberg Weiss filed a class action lawsuit against Allied that almost precisely mimicked Einhorn’s allegations. Indeed, Milberg filed a class action lawsuit against nearly every company attacked by short sellers in the Milken network.

A couple of years ago, Milberg’s top partners went to jail after prosecutors determined that the partners routinely bribed the plaintiffs in such lawsuits and knew in advance that some event would collapse the stock prices of the companies named in the lawsuits. Einhorn claims that the timing and contents of Milberg’s lawsuit were coincidences. We’ll never know the truth because the SEC doesn’t want to “intimidate” short sellers and corrupt law firms.

There were other “coincidences”. For example, supposedly “independent” financial research shops, such as Off Wall Street Research and Farmhouse Equity Research, published reports that closely paralleled Einhorn’s negative analysis of Allied Capital. The Motley Fool reported in 2007 that Einhorn’s confederate Jim Brickman helped Farmhouse write its research on Allied, and received a copy of at least one of these research reports one week prior to its publication.

Brickman, who is a bit of a mystery character (he refused to provide me with any information about his background), told the Motley Fool that he and Einhorn didn’t see the advance copies of the reports because of “travel constraints.” Allied complained to the SEC that the research shops were helping Einhorn manipulate its stock price and illegally trade ahead of their research. Einhorn said Allied was trying to “intimidate” the research shops. Who was right? It was all so confusing. The deep thinkers at the SEC picked their noses and tried to figure it all out. Then they went to lunch.

The inspector general has been on a mission to expose ineptitude at the SEC, and for this he deserves praise and gratitude. However, given the facts, I think his report on the investigation of Allied Capital was a bit too kind to David Einhorn. The inspector general notes that his office “conducted a comprehensive investigation of the allegations in Einhorn’s book.” But the report offers no solid verdict as to the accuracy of those allegations, and fails to acknowledge the extent to which the SEC had been manipulated by Einhorn and affiliated Wall Street hedge funds.

It should be noted that not only the SEC, but also the Department of Justice, the Small Business Administration, federal courts, attorneys general, and other government bodies investigated Einhorn’s allegations against Allied. All of these investigations yielded the same conclusion: Einhorn’s allegations were, for the most part, eminently ridiculous.

The only criminal fraud discovered by any of these investigators was committed by executives of Business Loan Express, a subsidiary that represented a tiny fraction of Allied’s overall portfolio. The BLX executives were apparently handing out Allied’s money to unqualified borrowers who were their cronies. In other words, Allied was the victim of this fraud. That anyone at the SEC still gives credence to David Einhorn is, therefore, rather odd.

But this story has a happy ending. Last October, Allied Capital was purchased by Ares Capital Corporation, a company that was founded by Anthony Ressler and John Kissick – both partners in the private equity firm Apollo Management. The head of Apollo is none other than Leon Black, who is Michael Milken’s closest business crony. That could be a coincidence. Or it could be that Einhorn’s attack on Allied was meant from the beginning to drive down Allied’s stock price to the point where it would be ripe for a takeover by Milken’s pals.

In any case, Einhorn mysteriously ended his “crusade” agains Allied as soon as Allied was purchased by his friends. So, for the time being at least, we don’t have to listen to his blather. And we promise – never again will we “intimidate” Einhorn. Really, no more “intimidation” — not from us. Mr. Einhorn, you are noble man. You did it for the children. You did not deserve to be “intimidated.” And, Mr. Einhorn, one more thing — boo!

Oops, did it again.

* * * * * * * *

Click here to read the inspector general’s report

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon


During the past few weeks we have serialized a 30,000 word story about a network of market miscreants that includes disreputable financial analysts, prominent financial journalists, associates of the Mafia, some of America’s best-known hedge fund managers, and Michael Milken, the famous criminal from the 1980s. The story focuses on the travails of Dendreon, a company with a promising treatment for prostate cancer, but it describes market machinations that have affected hundreds of other companies, and it contains a larger message about the the “deep capture” of our nation’s media and regulatory bodies.

Now we publish the full, 15-chapter story as a single document….


This story, like too many others, begins with Jim Cramer, the CNBC personality, making “a mistake.”

On September 26, 2005, Cramer announced to his television audience the sad news (punctuated by funny sound effects – a clown horn, a crashing airplane) that Provenge, an experimental treatment for prostate cancer, had flopped. Thousands of end-stage patients had been pinning their hopes on Provenge, but according to Cramer the treatment had just been rejected by the Food & Drug Administration. It would never go to market.

This seemed odd, because Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN), the company developing Provenge, had not yet submitted an application for FDA approval. As everybody in the biotech investment community knew, Dendreon had, in fact, only recently completed Phase 3 clinical trials and probably would not face scrutiny from an FDA advisory panel for at least another year.

As for the likelihood that the advisory panel would eventually vote in favor of Provenge, the odds looked quite good. The Phase 3 trials had demonstrated that Provenge significantly increased patient survival with only minimal side-effects, such as a few days of mild fever. Moreover, Provenge was an altogether different sort of treatment – one that fought tumors by boosting patients’ immune systems rather than subjecting them to the ravages of chemotherapy.

Provenge was not a magical elixir of life, but Dendreon was doing more than just developing a new technology. It was pioneering a treatment that could revolutionize the way that doctors fight prostate cancer. By some conservative estimates, the market for Provenge alone could reach more than $2 billion a year. If the treatment could be applied to other cancers, the market would be even larger.

The morning after Cramer declared Dendreon and Provenge to be dead in the water, Mark Haines, the anchor of  CNBC’s “Squawk Box” program, apologized for Cramer’s “mistake.” That afternoon, at an important UBS investor conference, Dendreon presented still more promising data. This would normally have given a significant boost to the company’s stock price, but the value of Dendreon’s shares stayed flat for the day, and then began a gradual decline.

This had partly to do with Cramer. The next evening, on his “Mad Money” program, the journalist (or entertainer, or self-confessed criminal, or… whatever Cramer is) acknowledged that the FDA had not yet rejected Provenge, but drawing upon his medical expertise, Cramer maintained that Provenge was not effective. In characteristically level-headed fashion,  he announced that Dendreon shareholders were drunken, carousing, gambling Falstaffs who “might as well take their money to Vegas.”

Dendreon, Cramer added (rather ominously), was  a “battleground stock.”

* * * * * * * *

What Cramer meant by “battleground ” has since become all too apparent. For the past four years, Dendreon has been one of the most manipulated stocks on NASDAQ. During some periods the volume of trading in the shares of this little company has exceeded the trading in America’s largest corporations – a good sign that hedge funds have been churning the stock to move the market.

And with every burst of good news, the company has faced waves upon waves of naked short selling – hedge funds illegally selling millions of shares that do not exist to flood the market and drive down the stock price. Along with the phantom stock, people seeking to diminish Dendreon have deployed false financial research, biased media, bogus class action lawsuits, Internet bashers, dubious science, and other familiar weapons of the “battleground.”

The denouement of this stock market “battle” occurred recently, on April 28, 2009, when Dendreon was to present all-important results at the American Urological Association’s annual meeting in Chicago. Some days prior, Dendreon’s CEO, Mitch Gold, had announced that the results of an Independent Monitoring Committee study were “unambiguous in nature…a clear hit” for Provenge.

If a CEO uses language like that and does not produce the data to back it up, he is guaranteed a visit from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Unless the CEO or his allies have juice with the SEC, the commission will usually charge the CEO with making false statements to pump his stock.  Gold was unlikely to take that risk, so it was clear to most people that the meeting in Chicago was going to be a triumph for Dendreon.

And it indeed it was.  The data presented that day showed that Provenge lowers the risk of prostate cancer death by 22.5 percent, with little or no toxicity. With a few notable exceptions (some of whom are to appear as prominent characters in this story), nearly every medical professional on the planet now concurred that Provenge was a blockbuster drug – one that should receive FDA approval and make Dendreon a highly profitable company.

But the hedge funds weren’t finished. In the days following Gold’s announcement, short sellers piled on with a vengeance, returning Dendreon to the leagues of the world’s most heavily traded stocks. The firm once again found itself on the SEC’s “Reg Sho” list of  companies whose stock was “failing to deliver” in excessive quantities –a sign of illegal naked short selling.

On CNBC, meanwhile, Cramer had hammered Dendreon. On April 6, 2009,  amidst ear-rattling sound effects –dogs fighting, and (inexplicably) a baby crying — Cramer had said “I don’t like Dendreon.”  He had shouted that Provenge had no chance of getting FDA approval and Dendreon shareholders should “SELL! SELL! SELL!”

Then, on April 28, at 10:01 am Central time — just hours before Dendreon’s triumph in Chicago – an anonymous message board author on Yahoo! Finance posted this message: “HIGH PROBABILITY OF MASSIVE BEAR RAID…DNDN [Dendreon] could easily drop 50% on a massive bear raid…its coming today@12:30 pm central.”

Just minutes before 12:30 pm central, Dendreon’s stock price began to fall. It didn’t just fall–it nosedived from $24 to under $8 … in 75 seconds.  That’s correct, during a period of 75 seconds, more than 4,000 trades were placed, totaling 3 million shares, or about 50% of Dendreon’s (spectacularly high) average daily volume. Given that the message board poster knew what was coming more than two hours beforehand, and predicted the timing almost precisely, it is a safe bet that this was a coordinated, illegal naked short selling attack. And just in case you still didn’t get this – it caused Dendreon’s share price to lose more than 65% of its value – in just 75 seconds flat.

“My desk was floored,” one trader wrote on a message board. “We all just stood up swearing, headsets and other assorted desk items being thrown at monitors…I haven’t heard that much swearing in years…”

It was, say others, one of the strangest occurrences in Wall Street history.

* * * * * * * *

In fact Dendreon had witnessed even stranger occurrences – brutal naked short selling attacks occurring simultaneously with antics that simply have no precedence in the world of medicine. As will be described presently, these strange occurrences very nearly destroyed Dendreon in 2007.  These strange occurrences have also prevented patients from having access to Dendreon’s treatment – a treatment that, as will become clear, should have reached the market some time ago.

And from the day of that first strange occurrence in September 2005, when Cramer predicted that Dendreon would become a “battleground” stock, to the latest strange occurrence in April 2009, when Dendreon’s stock nosedived by 65% in 75 seconds, more than 60,000 men in the United States died of prostate cancer.

So we must ask: Who did this? Who stood to profit from Dendreon’s demise? Were the extremely odd delays in getting Provenge to market purely accidental? Or, were the remarkable trading patterns and volatility accompanying those delays in fact an expression of stock manipulation, and if so, who were the manipulators?  Since we know that Dendreon experienced naked short selling, and naked short selling is a crime, who are the criminals?  And when much of the medical community rallied around Provenge last month, which manipulators crashed the stock to single digits – possibly to make the company ripe for a hostile takeover by the very people who once sought to destroy it?

* * * * * * * *

It is one of the peculiarities of the Securities and Exchange Commission that while it is ever-eager to hassle CEOs of small companies, it goes to considerable lengths to protect billionaire hedge fund managers. The SEC has publicly stated that naked short selling is a crime. It has said that it has evidence that illegal naked short selling occurs on a large scale and does serious damage to public companies. But it almost never says which hedge funds are responsible. It never says who is flooding the market with  phantom stock.

As far as the SEC is concerned, it’s all a big secret. As the commission states on its website, the naked short selling statistics “of individual firms and customers is proprietary information and may reflect firms’ trading strategies.” It seems not to matter to the SEC that those “proprietary” trading strategies are illegal.

Meanwhile, the SEC does not require hedge funds to disclose even their legal short positions. As a result, it is impossible for any journalist to present photo-perfect portraits of attacks on companies like Dendreon.

But brokers and other sources can tell us who some of the short sellers are. And by analyzing public information (such as data that hints at various hedge funds’ options strategies) we can make educated guesses as to who has the most to gain from a company’s decline. We can also come to understand the relationships that bind certain hedge fund managers and miscreants, and ask whether these people might have been acting in concert.

If the relationships are few in number, or separated by six degrees, we must abandon the project – a spatter of dots on the wall is not a work of art. But if the dots are plentiful, precise, and show a recognizable pattern, then we have something valuable – a sort of pointillist painting of market behavior.

In the case of Dendreon, we have such a painting. And when we look at this painting, with its dozens of data points, we can see quite clearly the familiar smirk of Michael Milken, the famous “junk bond king” and criminal stock manipulator.

During the times when Dendreon has been most evidently a “battleground stock,” nearly every hedge fund known to have placed large bets against Dendreon and a significant number of Dendreon’s detractors — esteemed medical professionals, financial research analysts, government officials, and Jim Cramer himself – have been tied to Milken or his close associates.

Most of the hedge fund managers who appear in this story are part of a tight network that has been in operation – exchanging information, attacking the same stocks, employing the same tactics – for upwards of twenty years. This is the same network that attacked the major financial institutions in 2008, possibly contributing to the collapse of the American financial system. And though I recognize that some people find this hard to absorb, I will present further evidence that a good number of the people in this network have ties to organized crime – the Mafia.

As for Milken, he was released from prison in 1993, at which point he went to considerable lengths to rebrand himself as a “prominent philanthropist.” One of the “philanthropic” outfits that he founded is the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and for this he has received widespread applause from the media, government officials, and the business elite. Because Milken has effectively bathed himself in the glow of his “philanthropy” (and because his public relations machine is so indisputably clever), many people find themselves saying that Milken’s financial crimes were but misdemeanors – the slight over-exuberance of a “market innovator.”

But the Dendreon story raises serious questions about the nature of Milken’s “philanthropy” – and about a society that venerates and even seeks guidance and favor from the most destructive financial criminal the world has ever known.

* * * CHAPTER 2 * * *

In January 2007, some 15 months after CNBC’s Jim Cramer announced that the FDA had rejected Provenge (even though the agency had not yet reviewed Provenge), the FDA assigned “priority review status” to Dendreon’s application to have the drug approved. Such status is typically granted to drugs whose trials suggest that they can significantly improve the safety or effectiveness of treating a serious or life-threatening disease. Some weeks after receiving “priority review status,” Dendreon announced that an FDA advisory panel would meet on March 29 to vote on whether its treatment for prostate cancer should be approved.

FDA advisory panels are made up of doctors and scientists who are employed on a one-time basis to review a new drug. Their decisions are not binding, but in 97 percent of all cases, the FDA follows the advisory panel’s recommendations. Given that Dendreon’s data results had been strong enough to cause the FDA to fast-track things by granting “priority review status”, it was widely expected that the advisory panel would vote in favor of Provenge, and that the drug would get FDA approval soon after. This was very good news.

Normally, this would be a time for short sellers to close out their trades. Companies receiving priority status (moving them down the road to FDA approval) generally see their stocks soar in value, and typically the prices stay at peak levels, at least until the companies present plans for how they are going to bring their drugs to market.

But in the middle of that March, there was a strange occurrence: short selling in Dendreon began to increase at an unprecedented rate. Illegal naked short selling increased as well.

SEC data shows that on March 16, 2007, over 1 million Dendreon shares “failed to deliver” – because they were sold short by people who did not possess any shares. That is, these naked short sellers took investors’ money but delivered…nothing.

The numbers rose steadily, so by March 28, the day before the advisory panel vote, more than 9 million phantom shares were circulating in the market. And consider that the SEC data might understate “failures to deliver” by factors of ten or more. So by that point the market may actually have been flooded with about 90 million phantom shares – in a company that had only 100 million shares outstanding.

On the night of March 28, 2007, Cramer commented on Dendreon again. He did not mention the phantom stock  (in May, 2008, he began a “crusade” against naked short selling, but he started this “crusade” just one day after he was exposed by Deep Capture as a central player in a media cover-up of the naked short selling scandal). Instead, Cramer offered the long-shot prediction that the FDA advisory panel would not approve Provenge. He advised Dendreon’s shareholders to “SELL, SELL, SELL!!!”

This was the “battleground.” And Dendreon was under attack.

* * * * * * * *

The next day—March 29, 2007–the FDA’s advisory panel decided overwhelmingly in Dendreon’s favor. Every one of the 17 scientists and doctors on the panel voted that Provenge was safe, and 13 of the 17 panelists voted that there was substantial evidence that the treatment effectively lengthened the lives of prostate cancer patients.

As you will recall, the FDA had followed the recommendations of advisory panels in 97 percent of all cases. So at this point it seemed extremely likely that Provenge was on the fast track to approval. Most experts expected that Dendreon could begin delivering its treatment to prostate cancer patients within six months. The company’s stock price, which the short sellers had depressed to $4 before the panel vote, now soared.

By the first week of April, Dendreon was worth more than $20 a share.

But the short sellers did not relent. The more the stock rose in value, the more they piled on, flooding the market with still more phantom stock. On the day after the advisory panel meeting, at least 9 million phantom shares were sold, according to the SEC’s unforgivably incomplete data. During the following two weeks, between 9 and 10 million shares were “failing to deliver” on any given day. And on one day, April 5, the total number of shares sold short more than quadrupled.

This was unprecedented, and by any reckoning, it was sheer insanity. Given Dendreon’s prospects for FDA approval, it seemed like the short sellers were flushing money down the toilet. Some observers racked it up to psychology – the short sellers had grown emotionally tied to their positions, and simply could not give them up.

But I offer several other possible hypotheses, which are all mutually compatible. The first is that the short sellers believed that they could generate enough phantom shares to drive the stock price back down, despite Dendreon’s fantastic news. The second is that the short sellers were aware that there was about to be released a wave of lopsided negative financial research and media reports (including more from Cramer) that they expected would crack the stock.

And the third explanation is that the short sellers who made this long-shot bet perhaps knew something that the rest of the world did not. They perhaps knew that some strange occurrences were imminent, and that these strange occurrences would diminish Dendreon’s prospects. And given the especially sharp increase in short selling on April 5, they might have expected that the strange occurrences would begin on that particular day, or soon after.

Alas, something strange would indeed occur on the next day, April 6. And after that, there was another strange occurrence – then still more strange occurrences, one after the other until it seemed that Dendreon and its treatment for prostate cancer would no longer exist.

I will describe these strange occurrences, but first we must understand a bit more about a network of smooth market operators and a “prominent philanthropist” named Michael Milken.

* * * * * * * *

As mentioned, we do not know who was responsible for the illegal naked short selling of Dendreon. The SEC keeps that a secret.

But while the SEC is of no help, most any Wall Street broker can describe several “proprietary” strategies that are popular with unscrupulous hedge funds.

One such strategy is known as a “married put.” Normally, a hedge fund buys from a market maker a certain number of put options—the right to sell a stock at a specified price at a specified date. If on that date the stock has lost value to the point it is below that specified price, the buyer of the put option (the hedge fund) makes money, and the seller (the market maker) loses money. To hedge the risk that he might lose money, the market maker, at the same moment that he sells the put option,  also short sells the stock. This is perfectly legal.

But some market markers conspire with hedge funds to drive the stock price down. Instead of merely shorting the shares into the market, the market maker naked short sells the shares, and, importantly, sells those phantom shares to the same hedge fund that bought the puts. As a result, the hedge fund manager winds up with the puts and a matching number of shares (actually phantom shares that are never delivered to him, but about which he never complains, or forces delivery, as that would create upward pressure on the stock, the precise opposite of what he wants).  Because the puts and the phantom shares are equal in number and arrive together at the hedge fund, they are known as “married puts”.

Once in possession of the phantom shares, the hedge fund manager proceeds to fire them into the marketplace. But he is able to say that he never naked shorted because all he has done is sold the shares that he bought (wink wink) from the market maker.

Either way, the effect is to flood the marketplace with phantom stock. The hedge fund makes money. And the market maker is rewarded with more business selling married puts.

Incidentally, the fee charged for such puts do not follow any normal option model pricing (in fact, the exchanges search for married puts by looking for options that are mispriced in relation to Black-Scholes, the standard formula that prices options). That is because their pricing is not really a function of any math or statistics, but is a function of the willingness of the hedge fund to pay the option market maker to help him break the rules against naked short selling. And that willingness is a function of how difficult it is for the hedge fund to use other loopholes to break those rules.

In the slang of Wall Street, these married puts are known as “bullets.” Through their maneuverings, the option market maker and hedge fund manager synthesize a naked short position that puts “bullets” into the hands of the hedge fund. The hedge fund fires those “bullets” at the stock to make it collapse, timing the last “bullet” to fire as the hedge fund’s put option expires profitably. If the option position nears expiration and looks like it will expire at a loss (“out of the money”), the hedge fund manager goes back to the option market maker, and together they reload by synthesizing more “bullets.”

Until recently, this behavior flourished owing to a rule called the “options market maker exemption” which is said to have been enacted thanks partly to the pleadings of a “prominent” market maker and investor named Bernard Madoff, who had considerable influence at the SEC. Madoff also obtained an exemption allowing market makers to sell short on a down-tick. The SEC was so grateful for his help in this regard that the commission named the new rule the “Madoff Exemption.” This was before Mr. Madoff became famous for orchestrating a $50 billion Ponzi scheme with help from the Mafia (CNBC’s Charles Gasparino has reported that Madoff might be tied to the Russian Mafia; whistleblower Harry Markopolis stated in Congressional hearings that Madoff appeared to have ties to the Russian Mafia and Latin American drug gangs; and Deep Capture’s own investigations suggest that Madoff did business with multiple people with ties to both Russian and Italian organized crime).

The options mark maker exemption permitted market makers (e.g. Madoff) to sell stock that they did not possess, so long as they were doing so temporarily to “maintain liquidity.” Abusing that exemption in order to facilitate naked short selling in cahoots with hedge funds looking to drive down stock prices was blatantly illegal, but the SEC looked the other way, even as market makers failed to deliver shares for weeks, months, and even years at a time. If anyone raised a fuss, the hedge funds would say that the phantom shares didn’t originate with them, the SEC would say that stock manipulation is hard to prove, and the market makers would say that they weren’t breaking any rules.

* * * * * * * *

At any rate, in March 2007, with Dendreon seemingly on the fast track to FDA approval, most traders were rushing to buy the company’s shares. A specific set of hedge funds, however, purchased large numbers of put options in Dendreon. Without a subpoena, we cannot say for sure whether the put options they bought were married to naked short sales, but simply from their put activity it is clear that these hedge funds were placing quite large bets against Dendreon, and they maintained these positions even after the FDA advisory panel voted in favor of Provenge on March 29.

To understand how completely anomalous these bets were, consider that in the entire universe of 11,500 hedge funds, only ten held put options on large numbers (more than 150,000) of Dendreon shares at the end of March 2007. Two of those ten funds held put options on relatively few (200,000 each) Dendreon shares and cashed out soon after the FDA advisory panel meeting. They do not appear to have otherwise been major traders in Dendreon, so I will not mention their names.

One of those ten hedge funds is Apollo Medical Fund Management, which is managed by a man named Brandon Fradd.  Fradd was once accused of burning documents relevant to a civil court case. Fradd was also once the limited partner of a criminal named Reed Slatkin, who was indicted for orchestrating the third largest Ponzi scheme in history. But Slatkin seems to have had minimal involvement in Apollo’s trading, and I have yet to uncover any evidence proving that Apollo is tied to naked short sellers or others in the network that this story intends to document. So let us give Fradd the benefit of the doubt.

Let us focus instead on the remaining seven of the ten hedge funds that held large numbers of put options immediately after the FDA’s advisory panel handed Dendreon its fantastic news, which was right at the time that Dendreon was bombarded by illegal naked short selling (phantom stock), and just before Dendreon was to experience some strange occurrences.

The managers of these seven hedge funds all know each other well. They have all worked with Michael Milken or Milken’s close associates. They include the following:

  1. a fraudster and naked short seller who is believed to have stolen billions of dollars with help from Russian and Italian organized crime;
  2. a trader working for a man who once managed, along with his father-in-law, the dirtiest, Mafia-linked brokerage on Wall Street.
  3. a trader who co-founded his fund with a man who was jailed for plotting to murder Michael Milken’s famous co-conspirator, Ivan Boesky;
  4. a man who became the “most powerful trader on the Street” after working for one of the most notorious, Mafia-linked brokerages on the Street;
  5. an accused naked short seller who was at the center of the greatest scandal in SEC history, and is now under criminal investigation;
  6. a fellow who once owned a fund that was charged in a massive naked short selling fraud and was later mixed up in a Mafia-connected, criminal naked short seller’s scheme to bribe agents of the FBI; and
  7. a Russian “whiz kid” who was the top trader for a man who once worked at a notorious Mafia-linked brokerage—the same brokerage that once employed the criminal naked short seller who bribed those agents of the FBI.

Again, judging from SEC disclosures of put option holdings, these seven colorful traders (plus Fradd, whom I have yet to definitively tie to this network) were the only hedge fund managers on the planet who were placing serious bets against Dendreon after the FDA’s advisory panel voted in support of Provenge.

So let’s get to know more about these seven colorful traders–and then let’s try to surmise whether they knew about the strange events that were about to occur in the Spring of 2007, and whether those strange occurrences had anything to do with a “prominent philanthropist” named Michael Milken.

* * * CHAPTER 3 * * *

The first of the seven “colorful” hedge funds that held Dendreon put options (right when Provenge was on the fast track to FDA approval) was Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, managed by the Mafia-connected criminal who orchestrated a $50 billion Ponzi scheme while helping the SEC write a short selling rule that came to be known as the “Madoff Exemption.”

According to SEC filings, Madoff owned put options on 180,000 shares of Dendreon as of March 31, 2007, which was two days after the FDA’s advisory panel voted in Dendreon’s favor. That is fewer than the numbers of put options bought by the other six hedge fund managers, but again, the SEC does not require hedge funds to disclose their short selling, so we do not know whether Madoff had a larger short position in Dendreon, along with these puts.

In any case, Madoff’s bet against Dendreon was significant. Given the positive data Dendreon had released and the subsequent vote of the FDA advisory panel, the trading position was not only counterintuitive, it was also (given some strange events which occured shortly thereafter), prescient to a degree one could only describe as “improbable.”

It has been widely reported in the media that Madoff’s criminal activity was confined to his fund management business, and that this business did not execute any real trades — that Madoff merely pocketed the money of his investors, all of whom were “victims.” According to the media reports, Madoff’s market making operation was legit.

These claims may well be false. Again, the fact that Madoff was one of only ten people on the planet who owned large numbers of put options in Dendreon suggests a certain degree of foresight (especially when one understands those subsequent strange occurrences, which we will be getting to in due course).  The trade was so counterintuitive, and timed so precisely to coincide with Dendreon’s triumphant news (and the brutal naked short selling attack that accompanied it), that the claim that Madoff was merely pocketing investors’ money and falsely reporting random trades seems unlikely, given how remarkable this one trade turned out to be.

Madoff had to have meditated on the Dendreon trade. He had to have had information – some reason to record a bet against Dendreon at a time when there was every reason to be optimistic for Dendreon. And if Madoff thought about making this long shot bet against Dendreon enough to report it in his SEC filings, it is likely that he did, in fact, place the bet. That is, he probably purchased those put options. If so, the theory that his Ponzi fund did not execute any trades is false.

A Deep Capture source who has seen some of Madoff’s records says that Madoff’s fund management business was, in fact, executing a great number of trades. According to the source, the fund would place buy orders, and these orders would be filled by Madoff’s market making operation, which would sell stock to the fund without first borrowing or purchasing it.

In other words, it is probably correct to say that Madoff  stole a lot of his investors’ money, but he seems to have used at least some of that money to generate phantom stock. Why would he do this? There is one obvious explanation: to drive down prices, adding to his short selling profits, and contributing to the profits of his short selling friends.

It is reasonable to speculate that Madoff’s market making operation derived business from executing manipulative naked short sales for unscrupulous hedge funds. After all, remember, the SEC’s loophole allowed market makers, such as Madoff, to engage in naked short selling. Madoff had a reason for advocating for that loophole. Perhaps he knew that it would allow him to help high-paying hedge funds create married puts – the phantom stock “bullets” that market makers and hedge funds have used to obliterate stocks.

Consider also that Madoff’s prosecutors note in their case that Madoff funneled at least $250 million from his investment fund to his market making division. I can think of only three reasons for his doing so:

  1. the money was used to buy securities — trades that weren’t executed, according to the press; or phantom stock, according to our source;
  2. the money came from hedge funds who, far from being victims, were paying off the market maker for helping them generate phantom stock; or
  3. the money was used to buy stock that Madoff used to cover some of his open naked short positions.

The authorities have been rather slow to provide details of Madoff’s fraud, but there is other evidence to consider. For example, Madoff’s secretary recently wrote in Vanity Fair magazine that Madoff’s stock loan operations (the division of his brokerage responsible for locating and borrowing shares to be sold short – or, more likely, responsible for  not really locating or borrowing those shares) — was segregated in an area that Madoff called “the cage” – on the 17th floor of the Lipstick building.

Stock loan operations are integral parts of brokerage businesses. One would normally expect Madoff’s stock loan operations to be housed in his brokerage. But Madoff’s brokerage business was on the 14th floor of the Lipstick building, separate from “the cage” on the 17th floor, which was home to Madoff’s “Ponzi” fund management business.

Multiple reports (including a recent story in Fortune magazine) state that Madoff was maniacally secretive about the activities on the 17th floor, and kept the employees who worked there strictly isolated from visitors and other employees. This is because the 17th floor was the heart of Madoff’s criminal enterprise. The secretary’s information seems to indicate that this criminal enterprise involved both the fund management business and the stock loan cage (i.e. the division that helped manufacture phantom stock by not actually borrowing shares that were sold short).

As for Madoff’s “victims,” it is clear that some of his investors and “feeders” were to a significant extent participants in his fraud. As Madoff’s chief lieutenant, Frank DiPascali, seems prepared to testify,  Madoff conspired with a few “special” clients to alter the returns that they received on their “investments.”  However much the “special” clients wanted to earn in a given month, Madoff would give it to them.

DiPascali identified one particularly “special” client:  Jeffry Picower, who seems to have  netted around $5 billion from the Madoff scam. Picower gained some renown in the 1980s. At the time, nobody had any idea who he was or where he got his money. He was a big mystery.

Then, one day, it was learned that he was the single largest limited partner in the arbitrage fund run by Ivan Boesky, who was later jailed for being a principal co-conspirator in the stock manipulation frauds of a famous criminal.

That famous criminal is now a “prominent philanthropist,” too.  And his name is Michael Milken.

* * * * * * * *

By most accounts, Madoff had just a few key “feeders”– hedge funds and individuals who raised money to “feed” his  $50 billion Ponzi scheme. For some time, the press suggested that these “feeders” were “victims” of Madoff’s fraud, but in an increasing number of cases, authorities are suggesting otherwise.

A lawsuit filed by the State of Massachusetts against “feeder” fund Fairfield Greenwich makes it clear (by supplying copious transcripts of phone conversations, etc.) that Fairfield had more than an inkling of what was going on in Madoff’s shop. And on June 22, 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged several Madoff “feeders” with securities fraud related to their participation in the Madoff Ponzi. One of those charged was Robert Jaffe, who was also a partner with Madoff in a brokerage called Cohmad Securities. Earlier in his career, Jaffe was found to be running money for the Anguilo brothers, the Boston dons of the Genovese Mafia family.

Madoff’s other key “feeders” have not yet been charged with wrong-doing. Perhaps, they will never be charged. But it is interesting to note that a number of them were close associates of a famous criminal and “prominent philanthropist” named Michael Milken.

One of the most important Madoff “feeders” was Rene Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, a French aristocrat who worked on deals in the 1980s with Drexel Burnham Lambert, which was the headquarters of Milken’s junk bond and stock manipulation empire. During this time, Monsieur Rene Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet came to know not just Milken, but also Leon Black, who was the head of Drexel’s mergers and acquisitions department.

Most every account of those days suggests that Black was Milken’s closest ally at Drexel. Black argued vehemently that Drexel should not cooperate with Milken’s prosecutors and he defended Milken to the end. Today, there are few people closer to Milken than Leon Black.

After Milken’s crimes bankrupted Drexel, Black joined forces with Monsieur Rene Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet to launch an investment fund called Apollo Management. As you will recall, a certain Apollo Medical was one of the ten hedge funds that owned large numbers of put options in Dendreon. I have not yet been able to determine whether Apollo Management is affiliated with Apollo Medical. Neither Black nor Apollo Medical manager Brandon Fradd returned my phone calls seeking comment.

But we do know that Monsieur Rene Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet provided the initial capital to Leon Black’s Apollo Management. And in its early years, the French aristocrat was Apollo’s biggest fundraiser. Indeed, it is correct to say that in addition to being one of Madoff’s most important “feeders,” Monsieur Rene Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet was Milken crony Leon Black’s single most important business partner.

Unfortunately, in December 2008, soon after the Mafia-connected Madoff turned himself in to the authorities, Monsieur Rene Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet was found in his Madison Avenue office – dead.

They said it was a suicide.

* * * * * * * *

Another of Madoff’s most important “feeders” was J. Ezra Merkin, who managed the Ariel Fund, which seems to have been designed specifically to raise money for Madoff’s fraudulent investment business. In this regard, the New York attorney general has described “Merkin’s deceit, recklessness, and breaches of fiduciary duty…”

While Merkin was “deceitfully” feeding the Madoff Ponzi, he was also a co-owner, along with Steve Feinberg, of Cerberus Capital Management, a fund named after the mythological three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hell.

Previously, Feinberg was a top trader for Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham Lambert. After Drexel, Mr. Feinberg moved (on Milken’s recommendation) to a brokerage called Gruntal & Company.

Gruntal owed its existence to the generous junk bond finance that its parent company, the Home Group, received from Michael Milken. Its options department was founded by Carl Icahn, who later became a “prominent” billionaire owing to the junk bond finance that he received from Michael Milken.

When Icahn left Gruntal, he was replaced by a Milken crony named Ron Aizer, who proceeded, on the recommendation of Milken, to hire two traders.

The first trader hired by Aizer was, according to a reliable source, investigated by the SEC for trading on inside information that he received from Milken’s operation at Drexel Burnham Lambert. This trader is now a “prominent” billionaire and the manager of a well-known hedge fund. The second trader hired by Aizer is now also a “prominent” hedge fund manager, though he is not quite a billionaire. Both of these traders play important roles in the story of Dendreon. Carl Icahn, the founder of Gruntal’s options department, has a cameo role, too.

So I will return to all three – the two former Gruntal traders and Icahn – in upcoming chapters.

* * * * * * * *

I know people who used to work at Gruntal. They are honest people who have gone beyond the call of duty to contribute to Deep Capture’s reporting. They also confirm that Gruntal’s New York operation (as opposed to some of its offices in other states) was among the more disreputable brokerages in America. As Fortune magazine once put it, Gruntal was firmly situated on the “shabby side of the Street.”

Gruntal’s senior vice president, Maurice B. Gross, was found to be running money for Thomas Gambino, a capo in the Gambino Mafia family. Another New York Gruntal trader, Samuel Israel III, later launched his own hedge fund, and in 2008, it emerged that this hedge fund was the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Israel was charged on multiple counts of fraud, and briefly faked his own suicide before handing himself over to the authorities.

Soon after, the Mafia-connected Bernard Madoff admitted to running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, so Israel’s Ponzi scheme was no longer the largest in history. It was the second largest. The third largest Ponzi scheme, remember, was orchestrated by Reed Slatkin, the criminal who was a limited partner in Apollo Medical, which was one of those ten hedge funds that owned large numbers of put options in Dendreon.

It has been reported that Israel ran his Ponzi scheme with help from “feeders” who had ties to the Genovese Mafia family. So it is perhaps noteworthy that after he left Gruntal, and before he started his own criminal operation, Israel worked for JGM Management, a hedge fund owned by “prominent” investor Michael Steinhardt. As Steinhardt belatedly admitted a few years ago, his father, Sol “Red” Steinhardt, once worked for the Genovese Mafia family. Steinhardt Sr. spent a number of years in Sing-Sing prison after a New York state prosecutor pegged him as the “biggest Mafia fence in America.”

* * * * * * * *

The key limited partners in Steinhardt Jr.’s first hedge fund, Steinhardt Partners, were the Genovese Mafia family, Ivan Boesky, Marc Rich, and Marty Peretz.

Ivan Boesky, was, of course, the famous co-conspirator in many of Michael Milken’s stock manipulation schemes. As noted, Boesky’s biggest investor and limited partner was Jeffry Picower, the mysterious “special” client of the Mafia-connected Bernard Madoff — who authored one of the SEC’s naked short selling loopholes, orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history, and held 180,000 put options in Dendreon.

Steinhardt’s other key limited partner, Marc Rich, was eventually indicted for tax evasion and trading with Iran and Libya. He fled to Switzerland, where he has ever since lived as a fugitive from U.S. law. Rich later received a pardon from Bill Clinton for some of his crimes, but he remains in Switzerland, from where he now runs a securities and commodities trading empire.

According to the Vanity Fair article written by Bernard Madoff’s secretary, Rich was one of the last people with whom Madoff met before handing himself over to the FBI. Given that Rich avoids travel to the U.S. for fear of certain arrest (for crimes not covered by Bill Clinton’s generous pardon), it would appear that Madoff, in the days immediately preceding turning himself over to U.S. law enforcement, made time to visit Rich in Europe. Apparently, before going away for what he likely knew would be the rest of his life, Bernie Madoff had something vitally important to discuss with Rich.

Steinhardt’s third key limited partner, Marty Peretz, was later a co-founder, along with CNBC’s Jim Cramer and a certain hedge fund (which I will soon name), of TheStreet.com, a financial news website. Cramer, a former hedge fund manager, once planned to run his business out of the offices of Milken co-conspirator Ivan Boesky. When Boesky was indicted, Cramer instead ran his hedge fund out of the offices of Michael Steinhardt.

A lot of names have been thrown at the reader. But stick with me, for I think you will come to see that these relationships matter. And I think you will come to agree that most of these people –Bernard Madoff, those two Gruntal traders (whom I will soon name), Jim Cramer, Michael Steinhardt, Carl Icahn, Marty Peretz, that hedge fund manager who co-founded TheStreet.com, Michael Milken, and some folks who are tied to the Mafia – deserve prominent mention in the story of Dendreon.

* * * * * * * *

So, again, as far as we can ascertain from public records, there were ten hedge fund managers on the planet who were betting heavily against Dendreon as of March 31, 2007, shortly after the FDA advisory panel put Provenge on the fast track to approval, and during the time that Dendreon was under an unprecedented, illegal naked short selling attack, and right before Dendreon would be derailed by some strange occurrences. Seven of those ten hedge fund managers are quite “colorful,” all are part of the same network, and one of them was Bernard Madoff.

The second of the seven “colorful” hedge fund managers was…as a prelude to introducing the second hedge fund manager, it helps to understand some things about a man named Felix Sater, who is alleged (by a former business partner and other reports) to be affiliated with the world’s most murderous organized crime outfit – the Russian Mafia.

In the early 1990s, Sater (who has since changed the spelling of his name to Satter) was charged with aggravated assault after he stabbed a fellow broker in the face with the broken stem of martini glass. Soon after, he founded a brokerage called White Rock Partners.

Felix had previously worked as a trader for Gruntal & Company, the brokerage that owed its existence to generous junk bond financing from Michael Milken – the same brokerage whose options department was founded by Milken crony Carl Icahn, later replaced by Milken crony Ron Aizer, who quickly hired two Milken cronies, both of whom, we will see, figure prominently in the story of Dendreon.

In the mid-1990s, several of Gruntal’s top managers were accused of embezzling millions of dollars. The managers were indicted and Gruntal agreed to pay $6.5 million in fines – one of the stiffest penalties that had ever been levied by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Around this time, many of Gruntal’s traders moved to White Rock Partners, the firm run by Felix Sater.

A book called “The Scorpion and the Frog,” which was co-authored by a former business partner of Felix, states that there was a time when Felix (given the pseudnym Lex Tersa in the book) announced that he (Felix) might murder a man named Alain Chalem, who was the boss of Toluca Pacific, a Mafia-controlled brokerage that was then one of the most notorious naked short selling outfits on the Street. Toluca and White Rock had previously worked together, but Sater was angry that Chalem had begun to sell short a stock that Sater was trying to pump.

Fortunately, the book notes, Sater didn’t end up killing Chalem.

But not long after, several men arrived at Chalem’s New Jersey mansion. The men told Chalem to kneel down on the floor. Then the men fired several rounds of bullets – one bullet into Chalem’s chest, one bullet into Chalem’s forehead, one into Chalem’s face, and a number of bullets into each of Chalem’s ears. According to a man who was with Chalem just hours before his death, the murder was the work of the Russian Mafia.

And it involved a dispute over naked short selling.

* * * * * * * *

In the late 1990s, the FBI launched Operation Uptick, which resulted in the arrest of more than 120 Wall Street stock manipulators linked to organized crime – the biggest Mafia bust in FBI history.

That effort led to other operations and many more cases that collectively came to be known at the FBI as the “Mob on Wall Street” campaign. In one such case, prosecutors charged that Felix Sater’s White Rock Partners was tied to Russian mobsters and the Italian Mafia and had engaged in multiple stock manipulation schemes.

According to the prosecution’s case (in which Sater was named as an “unindicted co-conspirator”), the Mafia thugs who worked with White Rock included Frank Coppa, who was a capo in the Bonanno Mafia family; Edward Garafola, a soldier in the Gambino Mafia family; and Ernest Montevecchi, a soldier for the Genovese Mafia family. The prosecutors described White Rock as employing threats of physical violence and other forms of thuggery.

Nowadays, Sater is the behind-the-scenes owner of the Bayrock Group, a real estate development company. Among his 11 partners in this venture are a number of  investment fund managers who are tied to Michael Milken. Most notable of Sater’s business partners is Apollo Real Estate Advisors, which is run by Leon Black.

As you will recall, Black was Milken’s closest ally at Drexel Burnham Lambert, and started Apollo Management with considerable help from Monsieur Rene Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, who was one of the most important “feeders” to the Ponzi scheme run by the Mafia-connected Bernard Madoff (who authored the SEC’s naked short selling loophole and owned 180,000 put options in Dendreon).

In 2005, Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne began a crusade against the crime of naked short selling. A few months later, while working as an editor for the Columbia Journalism Review, I began work on a story about the naked short selling scandal, and started asking a lot of questions about the ties that bind various hedge funds to Michael Milken and his famous co-conspirator, Ivan Boesky.

In the fall of 2006, I received several threats and was once ambushed by three men, punched out, deposited on my doorstep, and told to stay away from Patrick Byrne. Soon after, Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne met with an off-shore businessman who had once worked in the world of Mafia-controlled brokerages, but had since reformed himself and begun to help with our investigation.

This businessman told Patrick that he had received a message. And the message was that the Russian Mafia was going to murder Patrick, and possibly those close to him, if Patrick did not end his crusade against naked short selling.

According to the off-shore businessman, this threat was conveyed by Felix Sater – alleged son of a top Russian Mob boss; former co-owner of the Mafia-infested White Rock Partners; and business partner of Michael Milken’s closest crony, Leon Black.

* * * * * * * *

In their case against Felix Sater’s White Rock Partners, prosecutors noted that the firm not only employed threats and had ties to the Mafia, but also manipulated stocks in close cooperation with other Mafia-affiliated brokerages. According to the prosecutors, White Rock was tied directly to two specific Mafia-affiliated brokerages – A.R. Baron and D.H. Blair.

Again, I apologize for throwing so many names at the reader, but it is worth remembering this name: D.H. Blair.

D.H. Blair was perhaps the dirtiest operator on Wall Street. In various indictments and investigations, the SEC and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan determined that D.H. Blair was at the center of a network of Mafia-affiliated brokerages that included not only Felix Sater’s White Rock Partners, but also Toluca Pacific (the brokerage run by the naked short seller who had bullets shot into both of his ears) and notorious Mafia outfits such as A.S. Goldmen, J.W. Barclay, F.N. Wolf, Stratton Oakmont, Parliament Hill Capital, J.T. Moran, and R.H. Damon.

The founder of D.H. Blair was a man named J. Morton Davis. In his heyday, Davis was known as a “prominent” investor and the “king of penny stocks.” He has yet to be convicted of a crime. But given the subsequent revelations about his firm, it is not surprising that some people now call him the “king of stock fraud.” D.H. Blair was eventually indicted on 173 counts of securities fraud.

Until 1995, the president of D.H. Blair was a man named Richard A. Maio. Prior to joining the Mafia-affiliated D.H. Blair, Maio was a top employee of Michael Milken, the famous criminal and future “philanthropist.” Maio’s deputy at D.H. Blair, Eric Siber, was also a former employee of Milken. At various times both Maio and Siber had been national sales managers for Milken’s operation at Drexel Burnham Lambert.

In 1998, as the FBI was closing in, D.H. Blair went out of business. In 2000, not only was the firm itself indicted on 173 counts, but some of its top executives pled guilty to additional counts of securities fraud. These included two D.H. Blair vice chairmen — Alan Stahler and Kalman Renov — both of whom were sons-in-law of Davis, the founder.

But by then, the Milken boys had scooted. Another top executive of D.H. Blair also avoided prosecution. His name was Lindsay Rosenwald.

Rosenwald was the third son-in-law of D.H. Blair’s founder, J. Morton Davis – the so-called “king of stock fraud.”

Rosenwald was also the third vice chairman and director of finance of D.H. Blair – that is, the third vice chairman of the dirtiest Mafia-affiliated brokerage on Wall Street.

And in March 2007, Rosenwald was the second of those seven “colorful” fund managers who were positioned to profit from the demise of Dendreon, a little company with a promising treatment for prostate cancer.

* * * * * * * *

Lindsay Rosenwald may be the son-in-law of “the king of stock fraud.” And he was once the vice chairman of D.H. Blair, a firm affiliated with the Mafia – a firm that was run by two former top lieutenants of Michael Milken before it found itself at the center of one of the biggest Mafia investigations in the history of the FBI and on the business end of a 173-count federal indictment.

But never mind — Mr. Rosenwald is now a “prominent investor.” In fact, he is not just a “prominent investor”— he is one of America’s biggest biotech investors, if not the biggest biotech investor.

D.H. Blair was known for investing in biotech companies, pumping their stocks, and then short selling them out of existence. Many of those companies were frauds that were nowhere close to producing any medicines.

Rosenwald is more sophisticated. He invests in companies that have real scientists experimenting with real drugs. But in an overwhelming number of cases, these companies prove to have nothing to bring to market. The companies churn out lots of press releases heralding medical breakthroughs, and their stock prices soar. But ultimately they announce that, in fact, their experiments have failed. By the time the bad news hits, Rosenwald will typically have sold all of his stock.

While Rosenwald promotes medical companies that are nowhere near delivering real medicines, hedge funds affiliated with Rosenwald sometimes bet heavily against competing companies that do have medicines. The hope seems to be that the demise of competing companies with promising treatments will increase the market value of Rosenwald’s not-so-promising companies.

That may partly explain Dendreon’s tribulations.

With the exception of big pharma, there are only a few biotech firms that have received significant publicity for developing treatments for prostate cancer. One of these companies, Cougar Biotechnology, was, until last month, controlled by this Lindsay Rosenwald, who aside from running D.H. Blair in cahoots with people tied to the Mafia and Milken’s former national sales managers, is also a close friend of Milken himself. While Rosenwald was in control, Cougar Biotechnology’s scientific advisory board included four individuals affiliated with Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation – Dr. Eric Small, Dr. Michael Carducci, Dr. Philip Kantoff, and Dr. Howard Scher.

Cougar’s prostate cancer treatment was and is in the early stages of development. It is nowhere close to receiving FDA approval. I believe that the scientists and doctors whom Cougar hired to conduct trials into its treatment are earnest about their work. But judging from Rosenwald’s record, it is possible that Cougar’s business model was not to bring a treatment to market – but rather to exaggerate the importance of data obtained in trials, pump the stock, then sell before the trials proved that the drug did not work.

This plan would benefit from forming a scientific advisory board comprised, with help from Milken’s “philanthropy,” of illustrious medical scientists who might not understand how the stock market game is played.

In any case, Cougar has been promoted (by Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation and Cougar) as having a treatment that is a preferred alternative to Dendreon’s. Any Dendreon achievement would negatively affect Cougar’s stock price. Which might explain why a Rosenwald-affiliated hedge fund mauled Dendreon in the days before and after the FDA’s advisory panel voted that Dendreon’s promising treatment should be administered to patients.

As of the end of March, 2007, a hedge fund called Perceptive Advisors held more than 600,000 put options in Dendreon. Perceptive Advisors is run by a man named Joseph Edelman. As of 2008, Edelman was still identifying himself (when donating to political campaigns, for example) as an employee of Paramount Capital, which was founded by Rosenwald. To summarize: Lindsay Rosenwald founded Paramount Capital, which had an employee named Joseph Edelman, who was simultaneously managing Perceptive Advisors, so we can reasonably surmise that Perceptive Advisors is an adjunct of  the Rosenwald biotech trading empire.

SEC filings show that at the end of March, 2007, Perceptive Advisors not only held puts, but also held call options on a whopping 6.2 million shares of Dendreon. Call options are usually a bet that a stock will increase in value. But don’t let this fool you.

According to brokers familiar with his strategy, Edelman worked like this: He bought massive numbers of call options at rock-bottom strike prices. When Dendreon’s stock began to soar in value, Edelman exercised the calls, at which point his broker had to sell him an equally massive number of shares at the rock bottom price. These Edelman would quickly dump, flooding the market with massive selling volume and putting downward pressure on the stock. Meanwhile, according to the brokers, Edelman sold short massive amounts of Dendreon’s stock, profiting from all the selling volume.

I called Edelman and asked him if he was short selling Dendreon while flooding the market with stock from his call options. He did not deny that he was short selling the company, but he hung up on me before I could ask any more questions.

In any case, the strategy I describe above is technically legal. It’s legal so long as Edelman was not colluding with other hedge fund managers, all of whom happened to be generating massive selling volume at precisely the same time. And it’s legal as long as he was not engaged in naked short selling, or, equivalently, conspiring with a market maker to create married puts to synthesize those phantom stock “bullets” that unscrupulous hedge funds spray into the market to drive down stock prices.

As to whether Edelman was in fact either directly naked short selling, or indirectly generating phantom stock by colluding with his option market maker, the brokers are staying mum. The SEC is unlikely to say much either.

As far as the SEC is concerned, remember, illegal naked short selling is a big secret – a “proprietary trading strategy.”

* * * CHAPTER 4 * * *

D.H. Blair, the Mafia-affiliated brokerage founded by Lindsay Rosenwald’s father-in-law (the so-called “king of stock fraud”) and managed for some time by Rosenwald and Michael Milken’s former national sales manager, received much of its finance from the family of a man named Zev Wolfson. Mr. Wolfson was also closely involved with another Mafia-affiliated brokerage, A.R. Baron.

As you will recall, D.H. Blair and A.R. Baron featured prominently in the prosecution’s case against White Rock Partners, the firm that was founded by Felix Sater. Felix Sater, remember, is the alleged son of a top Russian Mob boss. And he  previously worked as a trader for Gruntal & Company, a Mafia-affiliated brokerage that was stacked with cronies of Michael Milken.

You will remember that Sater, the fellow alleged to have blood ties to the Russian Mafia, is currently a business partner of Milken crony Leon Black. You will also recall that Sater is allegedly the man who sent a message that the Mafia would murder Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne if he continued his crusade against illegal naked short selling. And Sater is the same guy whose naked short selling colleague, Alain Chalem, had his ears and face shredded with bullets.

Wolfson, meanwhile, was involved in another “colorful” brokerage, Pond Equities. In 2006, the SEC filed civil charges accusing Pond Equities of participating in a massive naked short selling fraud.

Aside from funding Mafia-affiliated brokerages, some of which were closely tied to Michael Milken, Wolfson was also the key early investor in funds controlled by a number of Milken’s more “prominent” cronies.  For example, Wolfson was an early benefactor of a “prominent billionaire” named Saul Steinberg.

In the 1980s, Steinberg built a company called Reliance Insurance with generous junk bond financing from Milken. Reliance, in turn, became one of the Milken-aligned financial conglomerates that regularly bought the junk bonds that Milken was selling for his other cronies. In other words, Steinberg was a key player in Milken’s junk bond merry-go-round – one of history’s great Ponzi schemes. Eventually, Steinberg looted and bankrupted Reliance, though he has never been charged with any crime.

Today, Steinberg is a founding partner of Wisdom Tree Investments, which is managed by Steinberg’s son, Jono. Jono is married to CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, also known as the “Money Honey.” The Money Honey’s father is the former owner of a Brooklyn catering outfit and private club called the Rex Manor. Residents of Brooklyn know the Rex Manor as a popular hang-out for members of the Bonanno organized crime family (a fact that is merely of biographical interest and not meant to imply that Mr. Bartiromo is tied to the Mob).

The other founding partner of Wisdom Tree Investments is Michael Steinhardt, who is one of the nation’s most “prominent” hedge fund managers. As was noted in Chapter 3, Steinhardt’s father, Sol “Red” Steinhardt, worked for the Genovese organized crime family and spent a number of years in Sing-Sing prison after a New York prosecutor pegged him as “the biggest Mafia fence in America.” According to Steinhardt himself, the key limited partners in Steinhardt Jr.’s first hedge fund were the Genovese Mafia and three “prominent investors” – Marty Peretz, Marc Rich, and Ivan Boesky.

Ivan Boesky, we know, was famously indicted in the 1980s for participating in various stock manipulation schemes with Michael Milken. Also convicted for his participation in these schemes was a man named John Mulheren, who had run an arbitrage fund largely financed by Zev Wolfson (the fellow who also financed Saul Steinberg, the Mafia-affiliated brokerages tied to Milken, and other Milken cronies who will be introduced shortly).

Although Mulheren’s conviction for manipulating stocks was ultimately reversed on appeal, there was a time when he believed that Boesky might squeal on him and his friend, Michael Milken. So one day Mulheren loaded his car with weaponry and set out to assassinate Boesky. Fortunately, the police arrested Mulheren before he could commit the murder.

According to a famous book called “Den of Thieves,” written by Pulitzer Prize winning author James Stewart, Mulheren spent most of his time in jail conversing with Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, who was then the top boss of the Genovese Mafia family. In addition, Scotland Yard has linked Salerno to Steven Wynn, a Las Vegas casino operator. Wynn is Milken’s closest friend, according to Milken, and Wynn’s wife, Elaine, sits on the board of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation, which, we will see, seems to have little interest in promoting effective treatments for prostate cancer, and probably played a role in derailing Dendreon.

After he got out of jail, Mulheren co-founded a hedge fund called Millennium Partners, then promptly died of an early heart attack, leaving his co-founder, Izzy Englander, to continue operating the fund. Izzy Englander secured much of his investment capital from not just Zev Wolfson, but also the Belzberg brothers – William, Sam, and Hymie. Executives at an investment firm called the Bache Group, citing U.S. Customs Service reports, once accused the Belzberg’s of having ties to organized crime.

As we know, only ten hedge funds on the planet owned large numbers of Dendreon put options at the end of March 2007. In other words, after Dendreon received its fantastic news that it an FDA advisory panel had voted in its favor, only ten hedge funds were maintaining long-shot bets against Dendreon (long-shot bets that would, in time, prove strangely prescient). At least seven of those hedge funds are quite “colorful” – and all seven are part of the same network.

So far we have discussed two of the seven “colorful” fund managers who stood to profit from the demise of Dendreon. Those two are Bernie Madoff, the $50 billion Ponzi schemer and naked short seller, and Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly a manager of the Wolfson-financed D.H. Blair, which was founded by Rosenwald’s father-in-law (the “king of stock fraud”). Both D.H. Blair and Madoff had ties to organized crime. Both worked intimately with Michael Milken or his closest associates.

So perhaps it is no surprise that the third hedge fund that was betting heavily against Dendreon in March 2007 was Millennium Management, co-founded by John Mulheren–jailhouse confidante of “Fat Tony” Salerno (the Genovese Mafia boss); co-conspirator of Michael Milken; would-be murderer of Ivan Boesky; and recipient, like other Milken cronies and a number of Mafia-affiliated brokerages; of key finance from Zev Wolfson.

Altogether, Millennium owned put options on 800,000 shares of Dendreon at the end of March 2007 – just after the company’s prostate cancer treatment was endorsed by an FDA advisory panel; right at the time that Dendreon came under a blistering illegal naked short selling attack; and just before Dendreon was to experience some strange occurrences.

* * * * * * * *

Let us return to Zev Wolfson — and because there are readers who might have a hard time following this tangled web, permit me to repeat a few facts.

As we know, Wolfson funded D.H. Blair, the Mafia-affiliated brokerage which became the target of a 173 count indictment, saw two vice chairmen plead guilty to securities fraud, had a president (Richard Maio) who was once Michael Milken’s national sales manager, and had another vice chairman (the son-in-law of the “king of stock fraud”) who is now one of America’s biggest biotech traders and an adversary of Dendreon.

We also know that Wolfson was the key early investor in funds run by Milken cronies Saul Steinberg (partner of Michael Steinhardt, whose father worked for the Genovese family as the “biggest Mafia fence in America”) and John Mulheren, who spent his jail-time conversing with Genovese boss Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, and then co-founded Millennium Management, which later also became an adversary of Dendreon.

In addition, Wolfson was a key early investor in a fund managed by “prominent billionaire” Carl Icahn.

Before he became a “prominent” billionaire, Icahn, remember, founded the options trading department at a firm called Gruntal & Company, which owed its existence to the generous finance that the criminal and future “philanthropist” Michael Milken gave to its parent company, the Home Group. Like Steinberg’s Reliance Insurance, the Home Group was a key player in Milken’s junk bond Ponzi scheme.

As mentioned, Icahn was replaced at Gruntal by Milken crony Ron Aizer, who proceeded to hire as traders two associates of Michael Milken. According to a reliable source, one of those traders was investigated for trading on inside information provided by Milken’s operation at Drexel Burnham Lambert. Both traders are now “prominent” hedge fund managers, and both are important characters in the story of Dendreon, so I promise to name them soon.

As also mentioned, Gruntal was caught embezzling millions of dollars. One of its traders was found to be running money for the Gambino Mafia family. And a large number of its traders went on to work for White Rock Partners, the Mafia firm that was indicted for manipulating stocks with help from the Mafia-affiliated D.H. Blair, founded by the father-in-law of Lindsay Rosenwald, who was one of those seven “colorful” hedge fund managers who stood to profit from the demise of Dendreon.

Recall that White Rock also did business with the naked short seller Alain Chalem. Recall also that White Rock’s co-founder has said that he once worried that White Rock’s other co-founder, Felix Sater, might murder Chalem. As we know, Chalem eventually was assassinated in his New Jersey mansion (which does not, of course, prove that the fears White Rock’s co-founder were correct).

When Icahn left Gruntal, he began a career in “greenmailing” – acquiring large amounts of companies’ stock and threatening to make problems if the companies didn’t buy back the stock at a premium. His greenmailing (a.k.a. blackmailing) exploits were made possible by generous junk bond finance handed to him by Michael Milken. By most accounts, Icahn owes his phenomenal wealth and power to two people – Zev Wolfson (financier to multiple Mafia-affiliated brokerages) and Michael Milken, who is (as should be clear by this point) on close terms with many Mafia-connected investors, and is now considered a “prominent philanthropist.”

Given his association with Milken and Wolfson, it is perhaps predictable that Icahn has relationships with other Mafia-connected goons as well. For example, Icahn once employed a man named Allen Barry Witz, who was later implicated by the U.S. government in a Mafia-run stock manipulation fraud. As it happens, Witz also did business with Alain Chalem, the Mafia-connected naked short seller who was assassinated in New Jersey – his head, face and ears filled with bullets.

According to various reports, Icahn’s former employee, Barry Witz, was one of the last people, other than the killers, to see Chalem alive.

* * * * * * * *

Milken crony Carl Icahn has had multiple brushes with naked short selling. For example, Icahn was the man behind Ladenburg Thalmann, an investment bank that financed many companies through so-called PIPEs – private investments in public equities.

The PIPEs industry is rife with abuse (See Forbes magazine’s story, “Sewer PIPEs,” which describes some of the industry’s ties to the Mafia). Since PIPEs dilute equity, a company that does a PIPEs deal will typically see its stock fall in value. To capitalize on this, hedge funds affiliated with the PIPEs investor (i.e. with the company’s supposed benefactor) will sometimes illegally naked short the company before and after the PIPEs deal is announced.  Often, this naked short selling sends the stock into a “death spiral,” and the company is put out of business.

In one famous case, Icahn’s Ladenburg Thalmann was hired to broker a PIPEs deal for a small software firm called Sedona Corporation. In this capacity, Ladenburg introduced Sedona to a hedge fund called Rhino Advisors, which in turn brought in a hedge fund called AMRO International. According to prosecutors who later charged Rhino with stock manipulation, as soon as AMRO and Sedona entered into their PIPEs deal, Rhino’s owner Andreas Badian, instructed his traders to naked short Sedona with “unbridled aggression.” Rhino’s other owner, Thomas Badian, is now a fugitive from the law living in Austria.

According to the SEC, Rhino’s naked short selling was conducted in collaboration with Pond Equities (also known as Pond Securities), which was financed by Zev Wolfson, the fellow who also financed all those Milken cronies, including Icahn and the folks at the Mafia-affiliated D.H. Blair.

Most of Rhino’s phantom stock was processed through a giant brokerage called Refco Securities, which was later found to be hiding more than $400 million worth of liabilities in off-balance sheet entities. As Deep Capture reporter Judd Bagley detailed in a recent video (click here to watch), those liabilities were likely related to Refco’s rampant naked short selling.

In a series of stories for The Deal, a financial news magazine, reporter Stacy Mosher determined that Amro International had provided PIPEs financing to over sixty companies, many of them biotech firms. At least 29 of those deals involved Carl Icahn’s Ladenburg Thalmann. Soon after announcing their PIPEs deals, every one of those 29 companies were hit with unbridled naked short selling. Every one of those 29 companies saw their stocks go into “death spirals.” And nearly every one of them quickly went out of business.

Icahn is not the most famous player in the world of PIPEs. That accolade belongs to another of Milken and Wolfson’s charges — Lindsay Rosenwald, one of those seven “colorful” hedge fund managers who stood to profit from the demise of Dendreon.

Rosenwald worked for Ladenberg Thalmann before joining his father-in-law (the “king of stock fraud”) at D.H. Blair, the Mafia-affiliated brokerage whose president was Michael Milken’s former national sales manager. In addition to financing medical companies with no medicines, Rosenwald’s Paramount Capital has done some PIPEs deals with companies that did, indeed, have promising medicines. Many of those companies are now gone — drowned by tsunamis of phantom stock.

* * * * * * * *

I promised to return to this: When Icahn left Gruntal, he was replaced by Milken crony Ron Aizer, who proceeded to hire two traders who are cronies of Michael Milken.

The first trader hired at Gruntal by Aizer was a man named Steve Cohen, who later founded a hedge fund called SAC Capital. Cohen has been described (by BusinessWeek magazine and others) as “the most powerful trader on Wall Street.”

In an upcoming chapter, I’ll name the second trader hired by Aizer. Soon after that trader was hired, Cohen was joined at Gruntal by Stephen Feinberg, who had previously been a top trader for Milken’s operation at Drexel Burnham, and now runs Cerberus Capital Management, which was, until recently, co-owned by J. Ezra Merkin, one of the  most important “feeders” to Bernard Madoff’s Mafia-connected $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

While at Gruntal, Cohen grew closer to Milken, and came to be on especially good terms with one of Milken’s top employees, Bruce Newberg, who was later implicated in Milken’s stock manipulation schemes. A reliable source has told Deep Capture that the SEC once investigated Cohen for allegedly trading on inside information provided to him by Milken’s staff at Drexel, Burnham, Lambert.

Nowadays, Cohen is known for demanding strict loyalty from his co-workers, past and present. Some say that these demands border on paranoia (Cohen’s employees are required to sign non-disclosure agreements swearing them to absolute secrecy – for a lifetime), but many of Cohen’s colleagues have benefited. Cohen’s former employees often move to new hedge funds that are in actuality satellites of Cohen’s powerful trading empire.

Sometimes the hedge funds that are staffed by Cohen’s former employees are initially or wholly financed by Cohen himself. Other times Cohen and the hedge funds staffed by his former employees merely trade in tandem – betting for or against the same stocks and precisely the same time. It is fair to assume that, collectively, Cohen, his former employees, and others in his network (traders who are tied to Michael Milken or his close associates) have enough fire power to move share prices.

In the 1990s, Cohen’s SAC Capital sometimes bought stocks that were being promoted by D.H. Blair, the Mafia-affiliated brokerage that figured prominently in the prosecution’s case against White Rock Partners, whose traders were mostly Cohen’s former co-workers at Gruntal. Cohen would hold these D.H. Blair stocks even when they had no revenues and had been delisted from stock exchanges. Generally, these kinds of stocks were held by only two sorts of investors – little old ladies who’d been bamboozled by D.H. Blair, and stock manipulators. But who knows, maybe Cohen did the math and figured they were the next big things.

At any rate, Cohen seems to have had some sort of relationship with the Mafia-affiliated D.H. Blair. But D.H. Blair is gone. In its place, we have Paramount Capital, run by Lindsay Rosenwald, the son-in-law of the “fraud king” who founded D.H. Blair.

One employee of Paramount Capital was Joseph Edelman, who, remember, was simultaneously running one of the seven “colorful” hedge funds that was betting big against Dendreon. Meanwhile, Rosenwald was the controlling shareholder in Cougar Biotechnology, which was promoted (by Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation) as having a promising treatment for prostate cancer, even though that treatment was (and is) largely untested and years away from recieving FDA approval.

Another employee of Rosenwald’s Paramount Capital was a man named David J. Kellman. Mr. Kellman was Paramount Capital’s vice president. Prior to becoming the vice president of Paramount Capital, the hedge fund owned by Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly of the Mafia-connected D.H. Blair, Kellman was a top trader for Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital.

I assume that Steven Cohen has been as diligent about maintaining his relationship with Kellman as he has been with all his former employees (a diligence that some describe as “maniacal”). Presumably Cohen also stays in touch with the folks at Millennium Management, the fund that was co-founded by the fellow who sought to assassinate Ivan Boesky, and later became one of the seven “colorful” hedge funds that owned large numbers of put options in Dendreon.

Over the years, Millennium has employed a number of Cohen’s former traders, including Edmund Debler and Steve Lisi, who ran Millennium’s healthcare trading until 2005, when they set up their own fund, which no doubt served as another satellite of the Cohen empire.

Millennium is a highly secretive fund, so it is difficult to know which of its employees were responsible for its Dendreon trades, but perhaps its current healthcare team, like its previous one, are colleagues of  Mr. Cohen. We do know that Millennium has hired a new vice president. His name is Hanming Rao. And he was previously a top trader for Cohen’s SAC Capital.

Millennium, Paramount, Steve Cohen and others in this network often take similar positions in the same stocks. Many of those stocks have been pummeled by illegal naked short selling.

So it should not surprise that Cohen is the fourth of those seven “colorful” hedge fund managers (the other three being Millennium’s Izzy Englander; Joseph Edelman of Paramount and Perceptive Advisors; and Bernard Madoff) who happened to have the foresight to hold large numbers of put options in Dendreon at the end of March, 2007, right at the time when Dendreon was hit with an unprecedented wave of illegal naked short selling (phantom stock).

Cohen’s lesser known hedge fund, Sigma Capital, held put options on 750,000 shares of Dendreon at the end of March 2007. Another of Cohen’s lesser known hedge funds, JL Advisors, owned 1.3 million shares of Dendreon as of the end of 2006. These shares were dumped sometime before March 31, 2007, contributing to the selling volume that would be created by Joseph Edelman dumping more than 6 million Dendreon shares that he’d recieved by exercising call options  — and by the simultaneous appearance in the marketplace of at least 9 million more phantom shares, the result of rampant naked short selling which the SEC decries as illegal, but refuses to address, except to say that naked short selling is a big secret – a “proprietary trading strategy.”

* * * CHAPTER 5 * * *

“SELL! SELL! SELL!” shouted Jim Cramer on March 28, 2007.

The CNBC “journalist” assured his viewers that the FDA advisory panel would vote that Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer was neither safe nor effective (notwithstanding the fact that the FDA had given the treatment “priority review” status because Provenge had shown strong trial results and was destined for critically ill patients).

On the following day, when the FDA advisory panel voted unanimously that Provenge was safe and overwhelmingly that it was effective, Cramer said, once again, that he had made “a mistake.” By way of explanation, Cramer said that he had mixed up Dendreon’s treatment, Provenge, with Provaisic, the fictional drug from the 1993 Hollywood movie “The Fugitive,” in which Harrison Ford plays a doctor trying to expose an evil pharmaceutical company called Devlin MacGreggor.

But Cramer, again drawing upon his vast medical expertise, continued to insist that Provenge remained unlikely to gain FDA approval.

By this time, a number of bloggers and stock market observers had noted that Cramer, a former hedge fund manager, had recently made a video available to a limited number of high-paying subscribers to his financial news website, TheStreet.com. In this video, Cramer advised his viewers – mostly Wall Street operators — to illegally drive down stock prices.

“Maybe you need $10 million capital to knock [a stock] down,” Cramer had said. “It’s a fun game and it’s a lucrative game…By the way, no one else in the world would ever admit that, but I don’t care…Now, you can’t foment…You can’t create yourself an impression that a stock’s down. But you do it anyway because the SEC doesn’t understand it…This is just actually blatantly illegal…But I think it’s really important to foment…You get [the CNBC reporter]…talking about it as if there’s something wrong [with the stock]…Then you would call The Wall Street Journal and get the bozo reporter…if you’re not doing it maybe you shouldn’t be in the game.”

The bloggers and observers who pointed to this video as evidence of Cramer’s skulduggery also noted that Cramer had once planned to run his hedge fund out of the offices of Ivan Boesky, the famous co-conspirator of the criminal stock manipulator Michael Milken. When Boesky was indicted, Cramer instead went to work with Michael Steinhardt, the Boesky-Milken crony and “prominent” hedge fund manager whose father was the “biggest Mafia fence in America” and who was financier for the fugitive billionaire Marc Rich, for whom Steinhardt later arranged a pardon from Bill Clinton.

By 2007, I had (while working as an editor for the Columbia Journalism Review) spent close to a year  studying the work of Cramer and a clique of influential journalists, most of whom had previously worked in high-level positions for Cramer’s website, TheStreet.com. I had discovered that the existence of short-side stock manipulation was denied by these journalists (including Cramer, when he was communicating to general audiences, as opposed to when he was explaining to select groups of Wall Street operators how to do the thing he was publicly saying does not exist).

The journalists were especially keen to whitewash the crime of naked short selling, and given the threat that this crime posed to so many companies and to the very stability of the financial system, it seemed to me that these journalists were engaged in a cover-up of immense proportions.

I had also discovered that these journalists routinely reported negative stories that contained bias, falsehoods, and well-timed “mistakes.” The vast majority of these stories were sourced from one particular network of hedge fund managers and miscreants. Invariably, these stories were about public companies that the hedge fund managers had sold short. And, invariably, these stories were aired right at the time that the target companies were getting bombarded with phantom stock.

Moreover, most of the hedge funds and miscreants in this network seemed, like Jim Cramer, to be connected in important ways to the criminals Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky, or their close associates. One of them was David Rocker.

Last year, Rocker’s hedge fund, Copper River (previously known as Rocker Partners), was shut down. Soon after, Carol Remond, a Dow Jones Newswires journalist who had close ties to Rocker, revealed that Rocker’s most important trading strategy had been to abuse the options market maker exemption allowing market makers to engage in naked short selling (see “Carol Remond Tells a Joke She Doesn’t Get” for details) .

According to Remond, when the SEC closed this loophole, making it more difficult for Rocker Partners/Copper River to work with option market makers to manufacture phantom stock, the hedge fund went out of business. What she left unexplained, however, was that such exploitation was illegal. Therefore, Dow Jones reporter Carol Remond was in fact bemoaning the tragedy that a hedge fund had to close because it was not able to break the law anymore.

Rocker had previously worked as a top trader for Michael Steinhardt, the Boesky and Genovese Mafia crony whose offices had also housed Jim Cramer’s hedge fund. In later years, Rocker became the largest outside shareholder in Cramer’s financial news website, TheStreet.com.

In 2006, staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission suspected that Rocker and other hedge funds in his network were working with an “independent” financial research shop called Gradient Analytics and a select group of journalists to disseminate false information in order to drive down stock prices. The SEC issued subpoenas to Rocker, Gradient, TheStreet.com, Jim Cramer, Herb Greenberg (a founding editor of TheStreet.com who was then working for MarketWatch.com and CNBC), and that Dow Jones reporter, Carol Remond.

In response, Cramer famously vandalized his subpoena on live television. Other journalists (most of them tied to Cramer) went berserk, claiming that Rocker had done no wrong and the SEC’s subpoenas had violated the media’s first amendment right to free speech. Soon after, the SEC said it would not enforce the subpoenas it had issued to journalists. And a year later, the commission dropped its investigation of Gradient and Rocker.

In May of 2006, shortly after the SEC announced that it would not enforce its subpoenas, a recently dismissed SEC attorney named Gary Aguirre wrote an eye-popping letter to the United States Congress in which he stated that he had led an SEC investigation into allegations of rampant naked short selling and insider trading at a hedge fund called Pequot Capital.

Aguirre said that his rank-and-file colleagues at the SEC believed that Pequot’s naked short selling had the potential to “seriously injure the financial markets,” but before he could complete his investigation, Aguirre’s superiors at the SEC, captured by powerful Wall Street interests, had fired him for political reasons.

Since then, a U.S. Congressional Committee has investigated and issued a lengthy report noting that there seemed to be evidence that Pequot was indeed engaged in “stock manipulation” (naked short selling). As for the SEC’s failure to fully investigate Aguirre’s allegations, the Congressional Committee concluded that the “picture is colored with overtones of a possible cover-up.”

The SEC inspector general also issued a report that backed up all of Aguirre’s claims.

Late in 2008, the SEC re-opened its investigation into Pequot Capital. And in May, 2009, Pequot manager Art Samberg shut down the fund, noting that the investigations had made the “situation increasingly untenable for the firm and for me.”

But from what is known publicly, the SEC is only looking into insider trading at Pequot. As for Aguirre’s investigation into Pequot’s alleged naked short selling – the crime that had the potential to “seriously injure the financial markets”—the SEC has said nothing.

Remember, as far as the SEC is concerned, illegal naked short selling is a big secret – “proprietary trading strategies.”

At any rate, it is worth noting that Cramer’s financial news website, TheStreet.com, had several founding partners. One was Cramer. Another was Marty Peretz, the Milken-Boesky crony who was–along with Marc Rich, Boesky, and the Genovese Mafia—a key limited partner of Michael Steinhardt (the fellow who gave Rocker his start and also incubated Cramer’s hedge fund).

A third founding partner of TheStreet.com was famously alleged to have engaged in rampant illegal naked short selling, just as David Rocker, once the largest outside shareholder of TheStreet.com, was reported (by Dow Jones reporter Carol Remond, unwittingly) to have engaged in rampant illegal naked short selling in cahoots with options market makers.

The name of this third founding partner of Cramer’s website, TheStreet.com, was…Pequot Capital, the hedge fund whose alleged naked short selling and insider trading were the targets of Gary Aguirre’s SEC investigation — the investigation that got quashed, leading to one of the greatest scandals in SEC history.

So it goes almost without saying that Pequot Capital was the fifth of seven “colorful” hedge funds that held large numbers of put options in Dendreon at the end of March, 2007 – right at the time when Cramer was shouting “SELL! SELL! SELL!” and criminal naked short sellers were flooding the market with at least 9 million phantom Dendreon shares.

* * * * * * * *

In addition to Cramer’s rants, there were other indications that Dendreon might be in the sights of some powerful players, and might therefore be in trouble – despite the fact that Provenge, its treatment for prostate cancer, seemed to be on the fast track to FDA approval.

On March 22, 2007, CNBC’s Mike Huckman wrote in a blog that he remembered “sitting at a table at a rare Dendreon analyst meeting a few years ago and someone from a Connecticut hedge fund leaned over and whispered in my ear, ‘It [Provenge] doesn’t work.’” Huckman made no indication of questioning whether the hedge fund might have had a motive for saying that.

There were odd mutterings from other quarters as well. On the day before the FDA’s advisory panel met to vote on Provenge, Matthew Herper of Forbes magazine published an article casting doubts on Dendreon’s prospects. He wrote that “researchers, statisticians and Wall Street analysts are fiercely debating whether there is enough data about [Dendreon’s] radical new treatment.”

In fact, there was no “fierce” debate at all. For most Wall Street analysts, the calculation was rather simple. Given that Dendreon’s trials had shown that Provenge was safe, and given that the treatment was destined for end-stage patients (hence its “priority review” status), the advisory panel was likely to vote in its favor. In 97% of all cases, the FDA had followed the recommendations of its advisory panels. And when FDA advisory panels recommended approval for drugs destined for dying patients, the FDA had accepted its panels’ recommendations 100% of the time.

When the FDA approved treatments, the companies that developed them almost always saw their stock prices go up. So from the perspective of most Wall Street analysts, the future for Dendreon looked bright.

As for those “researchers and statisticians,” most agreed that Provenge was not only safe, but also effective. However, a small number of researchers and statisticians were, along with the hedge funds, whispering in reporters’ ears. They were saying that Provenge doesn’t work.

But there were excellent reasons to doubt the words of the researchers who were critical of Provenge. And, as we will see, the most prominent of them were preparing (with the possible connivance of a criminal “philanthropist” named Michael Milken and seven “colorful” hedge fund managers) to cash in on one of the stranger occurrences in the FDA’s 80 years of existence.

* * * CHAPTER 6 * * *

When the FDA’s advisory panel voted in favor of Provenge, most Wall Street research analysts were predicting a bright future for Dendreon. But as naked short sellers piled on with ever increasing gusto, hedge fund managers continued to whisper in reporters’ ears. And two Wall Street analysts did more than whisper – they shouted, day after day, that Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer was doomed.

One of these analysts is named Jonathan Aschoff, and he works for a financial research outfit called Brean Murray Carret & Co.  The day after the advisory panel vote, in an interview with Reuters, Aschoff made the long-shot prediction that the FDA would not approve Provenge, but would instead ask Dendreon to supply additional data showing that the treatment was safe and effective–a process that could take years. Soon after, Aschoff told other media outlets that the FDA would set a “dangerous double standard” by approving Provenge because the treatment “did not meet its primary goal in two Phase III trials.”

During the first days of April 2007, Aschoff was everywhere, continuously repeating this notion that the FDA would set a “dangerous double standard” by approving Provenge.  On April 9, Aschoff reiterated his “sell” rating for Dendreon, setting a target for the stock at a mere $1.50, which implied that the stock would lose more than 90 percent of its value by the end of the year. Reuters, Associated Press, CNBC and other media dutifully reported Aschoff’s comments as though they shed  light on the merits of Dendreon’s prostate cancer treatment.

Aschoff’s performance raises a few basic questions. The first is, how did a Wall Street analyst know that it would be “dangerous” to approve a medical treatment? It is an odd day, indeed, when the media turns to Wall Street for wisdom on matters of science and health.

The second question is, why was Aschoff so confident that the FDA would not approve Provenge? Given that the FDA had followed its advisory panels’ decisions in 97% of cases, and in 100% of cases involving drugs for dying patients, Aschoff’s prediction seemed rather far out. What did he know that the rest of the world did not know?

The third question is, who is Jonathan Aschoff?

* * * * * * * *

In 2003 – back when journalists still occasionally investigated stories, rather than parroting whatever hedge funds and Wall Street analysts whispered in their ears – The Wall Street Journal won a Pulitzer Prize for a story that nailed Jonathan Aschoff for being a fraud.

According to the Journal, Aschoff often impersonated doctors in order to acquire inside information on the status of drug trials underway at his target companies. A certain Dr. Cunningham, who worked at a cancer center in Dallas, told the Journal that he initially believed that Aschoff was a doctor. But he discovered that he was dealing with a fraud when he mentioned to Aschoff that an experimental treatment had caused some reduction of the “lymphadenopathy.”

“What’s that?” asked Aschoff.  He didn’t have a clue, even though “lymphadenopathy” is a  common medical term. It means, “swollen lymph nodes.”

Aschoff was ultimately sanctioned by the SEC for his fraudulent efforts to obtain insider information.

Nonetheless, some years later, the Associated Press, Reuters, and other media outfits were willing to believe that Aschoff knew enough about medicine to be quoted as a reliable source – a source who had, for some reason, concluded that Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer was “dangerous.”

What reason did Aschoff have for reaching that conclusion?

* * * * * * * *

One more question: Which hedge funds were paying Aschoff’s bills?

There is one particular network of hedge fund managers that is known to pay “independent” financial research shops to publish biased or false negative reports on companies that they are selling short.

Former employees of “independent” financial research firm Gradient Analytics have provided sworn affidavits that hedge fund manager David Rocker–once the largest outside shareholder of TheStreet.com; former employee of  Milken-Boesky crony Michael Steinhardt (who is the son of “the biggest Mafia fence in America”) and Steve Cohen (now “the most powerful trader on Wall Street;” reportedly once investigated by the SEC for trading on inside information provided to him by Milken’s shop Drexel Burnham) heavily influenced, edited, dictated, and in some cases actually wrote Gradient’s false, negative research about public companies. That means, of course, that Cohen and Rocker had copies of “Gradient’s” research before it was published, which is also highly improper.

And emails acquired by Deep Capture show that Cohen and hedge fund manager Jim Chanos, among others in their network, received and traded ahead of biased reports published by a research outfit called Morgan Keegan. After Deep Capture reporter Judd Bagley broke this story, the SEC began (but will probably never conclude) an investigation into the matter.

Were hedge funds in this network dictating Aschoff’s research, too? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it is worth noting that after the SEC sanctioned Aschoff for impersonating doctors, he went to work for an outfit called Sturza’s Institutional Research, which was owned by a fellow named Evan Sturza.

The SEC has launched (but of course never completed) multiple investigations of Sturza’s companies, which catered to a particular network of short sellers by publishing negative commentary on biotech companies. For example, in 1996, the SEC began (but has never completed) an investigation into whether Sturza conspired with the above-mentioned Michael Steinhardt and a firm called Gilford Securities to take down the stock of a biotech company called Organogenesis.

In the 1980s, Gilford Securities employed Jim Chanos (the above-mentioned fellow who is now under SEC investigation for trading ahead of biased research reports). Chanos manages a few hedge funds, the most famous of which is called Kynikos Associates. He is also the head of the short seller lobby in Washington, and a much favored source of information for the New York financial press.

In 1985 – back when Chanos was still at Gilford; back when journalists did investigations rather than parrot whatever Jim Chanos whispered in their ears – way back then is when The Wall Street Journal published a front page story about a “network” of short sellers said to include Jim Chanos and Michael Steinhardt. The story suggested that this network destroyed public companies for profit and described some of the more egregious tactics – espionage; impersonating journalists to get inside information; conspiring to cut off companies’ access to credit; spreading dubious information – that were employed by Chanos and others in his network.

At the time, Chanos made some effort to publicly distance himself from Michael Milken. And he recently told one reporter that lawyers threatened him in the 1980s because he was selling short companies that had been financed by Milken’s junk bonds. However, the truth is that Chanos’s short selling in the 1980s tended to support Milken’s machinations, and in later years Chanos remained very much a part of the old Milken network.

Chanos got his big break in the 1980s by short selling and ultimately destroying a company called Baldwin United. As part of this effort, Chanos and his colleagues at Gilford Securities went so far as to meet with Baldwin United’s bankers, and (through all manner of horror stories) convinced the bankers to cut off Baldwin’s access to credit. Soon enough, the company went bankrupt, and Michael Milken quickly got himself hired as advisor to the bankruptcy.

According to a well-known businessman who was involved in the bankruptcy proceedings, Milken abused his advisory position, handing out confidential information to his network, which ended up owning much of Baldwin’s assets.

As the story goes, Chanos’s take down of Baldwin impressed Michael Steinhardt and Steinhardt introduced Chanos to his key limited partners – including Ivan Boesky (later indicted for manipulating stocks with Milken) and Marty Peretz (a Milken and Boesky crony who would later co-found TheStreet.com, along with Boesky crony Jim Cramer and a few hedge funds in this network).

Peretz, an aristocrat who has long been a part-time professor at Harvard, introduced Chanos to one of his former students, Dirk Ziff, who manages a hedge fund called Ziff Brothers Investments. The emails cited above show that Ziff Brothers, like Chanos and Steve Cohen, was receiving advance copies of those Morgan Keegan reports.

Dirk Ziff is part of the network of which I write. Indeed, Chanos launched his first hedge fund out of Dirk Ziff’s offices. This was a few years after Chanos left his position at Gilford Securities, which had a few key clients, one of whom was Michael Steinhardt, son of “the biggest Mafia fence in America.”

In the 1990s, five Gilford Securities traders–Chester Chicosky, Todd M. Nejaime, Lawrence Choiniere, Kevin P. Radigan, and William P. Burke – were arrested as part of Operation Uptick, the biggest Mafia bust in FBI history. Although some of these traders had left Gilford by the time they were indicted, they were charged with crimes allegedly committed while they were still working for Gilford. Specifically, the Gilford traders were charged with accepting bribes from a Mob-run brokerage called DMN Capital, and for helping to manipulate stocks with a cast of characters that included ten Mafia soldiers and a former New York police detective.

I asked H. Robert Holmes, who was Chanos’s boss at Gilford, whether he had any comment on the  Mafia’s infiltration of his firm. He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about? This is bullshit.” He also said he was completely unaware that any Gilford traders had been arrested for accepting bribes and manipulating stocks with a large cast of Mafia goons and Mafia associates. That is, he claimed to be unaware of an event in his company that had been vigorously publicized by the FBI and the SEC.

By the time of Operation Uptick, of course, Chanos was no longer with Gilford. He was then a “prominent investor” – a member of the world’s most powerful network of financial operators, a network whose members are portrayed by the press as geniuses and heroes, never mind that this is the very network that has been destroying companies since 1980s – the very network that is (as should by now be apparent) comprised of the criminal mastermind Michael Milken and his Mafia-connected cronies.

As a member of this network, Chanos is, of course, on close terms with Jim Cramer, the CNBC personality who once planned to run his hedge fund out of Milken co-conspirator Ivan Boesky’s offices. It was owing to Cramer that Chanos became the largest donor to the political campaigns of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was Cramer’s best friend and former college roommate. When Spitzer was caught with a hooker and forced to resign, it emerged that the hooker, “Ashlee Dupre”, had been living rent-free in Chanos’s beachside villa. Ashlee called Chanos “Uncle Jim.”

I tell you all this only to show the relationships that bind some particularly destructive short sellers and miscreants. It is this network that attacked the big banks last year, helping trigger the collapse of the financial system. And members of this network are the most “prominent” players in the biotech space.

One of those players is Jonathan Aschoff, the doctor-impersonating fraud who was, in the Spring of 2007, making the long-shot prediction that the FDA would not approve Dendreon’s “dangerous” treatment for prostate cancer. As we know, Aschoff previously worked for Sturza’s Institutional Research, run by a fellow who faced multiple SEC investigations (none of which led to any action) for allegedly publishing false information to help short sellers (such as Michael Steinhardt) manipulate stocks.

Under the strain of those investigations, Sturza shut his operation down. Now Sturza helps manage a hedge fund called Ursus. Ursus is owned by Jim Chanos, the Steinhardt protégé who housed the hooker of Cramer’s former college roommate, Eliot Spitzer.

Ursus specializes in shorting biotech stocks. There are Wall Street brokers who say that Ursus was short selling Dendreon while Sturza’s disciple, Jonathan Aschoff, was bashing the company and others in this network were looking to cash in.

But it is difficult to know for sure whether Ursus was selling short. It is difficult to know who was responsible for flooding the market with at least 9 million (and maybe tens of millions of) phantom Dendreon shares. It is difficult to know because the SEC does not require hedge funds to disclose their short positions, and does not release information on who is selling stock and failing to deliver it.

As far as the SEC is concerned, it’s all a big secret.

But we do know that Aschoff was predicting that Dendreon’s stock would sink to $1.50 right after Dendreon received an overwhelmingly positive vote from the FDA’s advisory panel, and right before Dendreon was derailed by some singularly strange occurrences. In addition, we know that at this time only ten hedge funds on the planet held large numbers of Dendreon put options (bets against the company), and that at least seven of those hedge funds can be tied to the famous criminal Michael Milken or his close associates.

Michael Milken, of course, is not just a criminal, but also a “prominent philanthropist” whose Prostate Cancer Foundation has received much acclaim from the world at large. But, as we will see, it was not just those seven hedge funds, but Michael Milken himself, who stood to earn a tidy profit from the strange occurrences that were to derail Dendreon, a company with a promising treatment for prostate cancer.

* * * CHAPTER 7 * * *

It is easy for executives of public companies to know that they are “battleground” targets of the Milken network because the members of this network have quite distinctive characteristics. Whether they be journalists tied to Cramer, financial analysts, or hedge fund managers, they are unusual among financial professionals in that they take overt pride in their thuggish manner.

They let it be known that the executives are in their sights, and sometimes issue outright threats. They let on that they have inside information, influence, and power – and that unforeseen calamities can happen.  (This may have what economists call a “signaling effect,” dissuading potential investors from purchasing a stock, even if they believe in the fundamentals of the company.)

Often members of this network will join companies’ quarterly conference calls, and take turns firing off insinuating and preposterous questions in staccato fashion, giving the targets of their interrogations no opportunity to formulate reasonable replies.

So it was in March of 2007, when Dendreon held a conference call to discuss the FDA advisory panel’s recent vote in favor of Provenge. Nearly every analyst on the call was cheered by the news that the prostate cancer treatment would reach patients. Most of these analysts were advising clients that Dendreon’s stock would hit at least $20 (compared to the $1.50 target set by the doctor-impersonating financial analyst, Jonathan Aschoff).

Here is a representative sample of analysts who participated in the conference call, along with quotations showing how they greeted Dendreon CEO Mitchell Gold, and how they signed off.

Charles Duncan – JMP Securities

Greeting: “A big congratulations!”

Singing off: “Congrats Again.”

David Miller – Biotech Stock Research

Greeting: “Good evening. Warm congratulations.”

Signing off: “Congratulations to everybody on the team.”

Mark Monane – Needham & Company

Greeting: “Good day and congratulations to all.”

Signing off: “Congratulations once again.”

William Ho – Bank of America

Greeting: “Congratulations”

Signing off: “Okay”

Paul Latta – McAdams, Wright & Regan

Greeting: “Good evening & congratulations, Mitch, a great accomplishment for you and your team.”

Singing off: “Congratulations again.”

But then a financial analyst named Elliot Favus appeared on the conference call. Favus worked for Lazard Capital, and announced that he was sitting in for Joel Sendek, who usually covered Dendreon for Lazard. Favus launched into a series of aggressive questions, suggesting that the FDA advisory panel had been a sham, and that the FDA would not approve Dendreon’s prostate cancer treatment.

Then Joel Sendek, Elliot’s colleague at Lazard, got on the call and initiated a similar interrogation. He kept asking whether the FDA advisory panel had asked the “right question” about the effectiveness of Provenge. When Dendreon’s CEO tried to answer, Sendek interrupted and asked again – Did the panel ask the “right question”?  The baffled answer was, “Yes.”  But Sendek kept asking. Do you think it was the “right question”? Do you think the FDA will have to “change the question”?

This was very strange. The FDA panel asked two questions. Is Provenge safe? And, is there “substantial evidence” of efficacy?  Those are the two questions that advisory panels always ask. Federal regulations require them to ask those questions.

It was hard to tell what Sendek was up to. Change the question? Did Sendek believe that the FDA was somehow going to alter its regulatory standards? Did he have information that the FDA might not approve Provenge – never mind that the agency had followed its advisory panels’ recommendations in 97% of cases, and had never in history rejected a panel-approved drug destined for terminally ill patients?

And who was this Joel Sendek?

* * * * * * * *

Sendek is an analyst for Lazard research. He is famous on Wall Street for spending his evenings calling Wall Street investors and shareholders, and literally singing songs into their voicemail. Usually, these songs celebrate the demise of some biotech company or medicine. For example, when Sendek decided that an anemia drug called Erythropoietin wasn’t going to make it to market (or to patients suffering from anemia), he gleefully called everyone he knew on Wall Street and began singing (to the tune of American Pie):

Bye-bye, Erythropoietin pie.

Drove my growth rate with the pipeline,

But the pipeline went dry.

I don’t know what song Sendek sings about Dendreon’s prostate cancer medicine, but his reports on Dendreon have been marked by a similarly cheerful pessimism. Same goes for the reports on Dendreon published by Elliot Favus, who, until recently, worked with Sendek at Lazard. In the long two years that followed that conference call in March 2007, Lazard’s reports have consistently predicted (in tones that seemed almost hopeful) that Dendreon’s treatment would fail to reach patients who were dying of prostate cancer.

In April 2009, a few days before a Yahoo! message board poster predicted, almost to the minute, the“BEAR RAID” that shattered Dendreon’s stock price by 65% in 75 seconds, Lazard put out a statement that said that an “investigator in the current Provenge study” had concluded that Dendreon’s treatment did not work. This was terrible news – assuming that the “investigator” was somebody actually participating in the “current Provenge study” or any other scientific study of Dendreon’s treatment.

But it turned out that Lazard had made “a mistake.”

When Dendreon supporters started hollering that there was no such “investigator,” Lazard changed the statement to read that an “expert” had concluded that Provenge does not work. When Lazard was challenged to produce such an expert, it changed the message again. Now the expert wasn’t exactly saying that Dendreon’s prostate cancer treatment does not work. Instead, it was that Provenge was “mentioned cautiously” by this particular “expert,” who remained anonymous.

If you can spot the similarity between this “mistake” and the “mistakes” of CNBC’s Jim Cramer, it will not surprise you to learn that Lazard’s research operation was then run by a guy named Paul Noglows. Prior to joining Lazard, Noglows was the director of research at IRG Research, an outfit owned by Jim Cramer’s financial news and research company, TheStreet.com.

Elliot Favus, the Lazard analyst who teamed up with the singing Sendek to trash Dendreon, later resigned from that job. Then he went to work for Och-Ziff Investment Management, a hedge fund managed by Dirk Ziff.

As you will recall, Ziff was the guy who helped Jim Chanos (host to Ashlee Dupre, hooker of Jim Cramer’s best friend Eliot Spitzer) start his hedge fund empire – an empire that now employs Evan Sturza, the fellow who used to be in the business of publishing research that predicted, with similar glee, the demise of medicines developed by companies that were under attack by Michael Steinhardt (Cramer’s former business partner; mentor to Chanos) and other cronies of Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky.

Ziff’, remember, was also the fellow who improperly received–along with Chanos, Steve Cohen and others in their network, advanced copies of biased financial research published by Morgan Keegan. And, of course, Chanos met Ziff through Michael Steinhardt and Marty Peretz, who was Ziff’s Harvard professor;  a close friend of Boesky; an ardent defender of Milken; a key limited partner, along with Boesky, in Michael Steinhardt’s hedge fund; and the co-founder, along with Cramer, of TheStreet.com.

Study the world of abusive short selling for three years, as I have, and you will see that these relationships matter. You will see how these people work together. And you will see that the most egregious cases of market skulduggery – the serious damage to public companies done by journalists and analysts through these repeated and precisely-crafted “mistakes”; the hired thugs; the threats; the over-the-top gloom (sung gleefully); the sudden bankruptcies, the orchestrated calamities, the endless litany of strange occurrences – an alarming amount of it can be traced to the same cast of beady-eyed, Milken-loving mischief-makers.

* * * * * * * *

As you may have gathered by now, Provenge has yet to be approved by the FDA. Despite new  evidence that it decreases prostate cancer mortality by 38%, the treatment has yet to be administered to patients, 60,000 of whom have died in the two years since the FDA’s advisory panel voted in Dendreon’s favor.

What strange occurrences have contributed to this outcome? What calamity was awaiting Dendreon as these seven “colorful” hedge fund managers stocked up on put options while naked short sellers flooded the market with at least ten million phantom shares?

Before I answer those questions, we ought to get to know some things about the “philanthropy” of Michael Milken and a firm called ProQuest Investments.

In 1993, Milken founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation, with a stated mission to promote advancements in the treatment of prostate cancer.

In 1998, ProQuest Investments opened for business with the specifically stated mission to invest in companies developing treatments for prostate cancer.

Ostensibly, ProQuest was founded by two men – Jay Moorin and Jeremy Goldberg. But the man who is really behind ProQuest Investments is Michael Milken. Industry reports suggest that Milken is the firm’s rainmaker. It was Milken who delivered  most of ProQuest’s early capital. And it is Milken who brings ProQuest’s deals to the table.

One of those deals was a company called Novacea, now known as Transcept Pharmaceuticals. For a long while, the controlling shareholders in Novacea were ProQuest Investments and a fund called Domain Associates. I believe it is safe to assume that ProQuest and Domain are affiliated, given that the two funds not only invest in the same companies, but actually share the same address.

Industry reports state that Domain was the “mentor” to Proquest, and an investor in the fund. One report states that the two funds “plot strategy” together.  Thus, it would be more accurate to say that the controlling shareholders in Novacea were first, ProQuest Investments, and second, ProQuest Investments (acting through Domain Associates).

But ProQuest and Domain are not like most biotech investment firms, which scout out companies with promising treatments and invest capital in them. Rather, ProQuest and Domain sometimes invest capital in themselves. For example, Novacea was founded by Eckard Weber, who works as an executive and partner of Domain Associates. One day, there was no such thing as Novacea. The next day ProQuest and Domain had invested in a company called Novacea, which ostensibly had a promising treatment for prostate cancer.

This alone should have set off alarm bells. But for a long while, the media and others believed that Novacea was a serious – indeed, the most serious – competitor to Dendreon. An achievement for Dendreon was considered to be a set-back for Novacea. By the same token, a calamity for Dendreon had the potential to be a major boon to Novacea’s shareholders.

In fact, Dendreon suffered just such a calamity. And this calamity did indeed reap a large fortune for Michael Milken’s ProQuest Investments and Domain Associates.

But ProQuest and Domain are no longer shareholders in Novacea.

That is on account of some strange occurrences that I must describe in more detail.

* * * * * * * *

First, though, it is necessary for us to continue learning about Michael Milken’s prostate cancer business,  ProQuest Investments, and Michael Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

As we know, ProQuest Investments was ostensibly founded by two men – Jeremy Goldberg and Jay Moorin.

Prior to becoming the ostensible co-founder of Milken’s ProQuest, Moorin’s most significant achievement had been to serve as CEO of Magainin Pharmaceuticals, a company that later changed its name to Genaera Corporation. In many transactions, the financial advisor to this company was Paramount Capital.

Paramount Capital, as you will recall, is owned by Lindsay Rosenwald, the fellow who used to help his father-in-law (the “king of stock fraud”) run D.H. Blair, which was the dirtiest Mafia-affiliated brokerage on Wall Street – the same brokerage whose president had been Michael Milken’s national sales manager, and whose business model had been to underwrite phony biotech companies, then pump and dump their stocks.

As you will recall, Paramount’s vice president was once a top trader at SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by Milken crony Steve Cohen. You will also recall that Cohen and Paramount employee Joseph Edelman were among those seven “colorful” hedge fund managers who held large numbers of put options in Dendreon as of March 2007.

At the risk of being repetitive, I will also remind you that Lindsay Rosenwald controlled Cougar Biotechnology, a company whose scientific advisory board included four doctors affiliated with Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation.

When Dendreon became a “battleground stock,” Dendreon had no more than three “serious” competitors. One was Milken crony Rosenwald’s Cougar Biotechnology. The other was Novacea, controlled by Milken’s ProQuest Investments. The third was a company called Cell Genesys, which I will return to in due course.

Magainin/Genaera, the company that was run by ProQuest’s ostensible founder, Jay Moorin, had lots of big ideas. For example, it claimed to have developed a way to treat foot ulcers with a substance extracted from the African clawed frog. It also claimed to have discovered a treatment for cancer. This treatment was apparently derived from the livers of tropical dogfish sharks.

Indeed, a great many of Magainin/Genaera’s supposed treatments were derived from exotic wildlife. And many of these treatments were heralded in press releases that suggested that regulatory approval was just around the corner.

Sometimes, the company announced that its treatments had already gained approval – albeit in exotic locales. Genaera’s lung cancer vaccine “was approved Jun 12 by the Cuban regulatory authorities…” noted one of Genaera’s optimistic press releases. Presumably, Cubans are now free of lung cancer.

For three decades, these press releases appeared. Many of them sent Magainin/Genaera’s stock into orbit. Then the stock would sink. After that, there would be another press release and the stock would be back in the stratosphere.

But in three decades, Genaera never brought a treatment to market. In fact, it never had a treatment approved by the FDA.

Three full decades. Countless potions and serums derived from all manner of critter and jungle beast. A stupendous salary for the CEO, and fantastic profits for anyone who spent those 30 years riding the volatility of Magainin/Genaera’s stock. But not a single treatment was brought to market.

In June 2009, Genaera announced that it was going out of business.

* * * * * * * *

Jeremy Goldberg, the other ostensible founder of Milken’s ProQuest Investments, was previously best known for his service as the founding CEO of a company called Versicor, which purported to make anti-viral medicines.

Among Versicor’s biggest early investors was Healthcare Ventures, a fund that was founded by two former Johnson & Johnson executives. It seems that a preponderance of Heathcare Venture’s principals previously worked for Luekosite, a biotech firm founded by Marty Peretz, the Boesky and Michael Steinhardt crony who launched TheStreet.com with Jim Cramer.

Another early investor in Versicor was Schroder Venture Management, a unit of the same company that runs Schroder Wertheim, which was the principal clearing firm for Euro-Atlantic, a Mafia-run brokerage that the Feds shut down in the late 1990s.

But Versicor’s most important investor was a biotech company called Sepracor, which markets Lunestra, the sleeping pill. Sepracor’s chairman, Timothy J. Barberich, was also a major investor in Versicor. Barberich served as Versicor’s founding chairman, while Goldberg served as Versico’s founding CEO.

So Barberich was chair of Sepracor (a company that markets sleeping pills), and founder, along with Goldberg (who later “founded” Milken’s ProQuest Investments) of Versicor (which has yet to produce any drugs fit for human consumption). Curiously, Barberich also bankrolled Atlantic Casino Cruises, a gambling outfit that was being set up by a businessman named Adam Kidan and an alleged mobster named Anthony Moscatiello.

Moscatiello, who travels in an armor-plated Mercedes, has been pegged by the government as being the top bookkeeper to the Gambino Mafia family. As the story goes, Kidan masterminded Atlantic Casino Cruises. Moscatiello set the company up. And Barberich was the principal financier of the project.

Unfortunately, the project never really got off the ground. Soon after Barberich invested his money, Kidan, the businessman, entered into a deal to buy another casino, SunCruz, from a fellow named Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis. In due course, Boulis accused Kidan of financial improprieties in the deal.

Not long after that, Boulis was shot in the head – execution style.

And Moscatiello was arrested.

* * * CHAPTER 8 * * *

Adam Kidan was named as a suspect in the murder of Gus Boulis and was questioned, but never charged. Instead, he went to jail for his dealings with Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Washington lobbyist. Moscatiello, the alleged Mafia bookkeeper, was charged with the murder. When he was released on parole, he disappeared. Lately, he has been featured on the popular television program, “America’s Most Wanted.”

Barberich, chairman of Versicor, said he hardly knew Moscatiello or Kidan, and only got involved as the chief financier of their casino because he’d seen an advertisement in a newspaper. Meanwhile, Jeremy Goldberg left Versicor and “founded” ProQuest Investments, Michael Milken’s vehicle for investing in companies that supposedly have treatments for prostate cancer.

Milken is barred from the securities industry, so even though he seems to have been largely responsible for building ProQuest, it is not surprising that he does not appear on ProQuest’s website. Goldberg’s name isn’t listed either. And there are a few other names that disappeared from the website after people began investigating ProQuest.

Among the missing are the names of the people who sit on ProQuest’s advisory board of directors. Thankfully, we have screenshots of the fund’s website, taken prior to the whitewashing.

The screenshots show that at the time that Dendreon was getting mauled in 2007, ProQuest’s advisory board included the following: Jonathan Simons, president and CEO of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation; Howard Soule, executive vice president of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation; Stuart Holden, medical director of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation; William G. Nelson, a doctor who sits on the “Therapeutic Consortium” of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation; James Blair, manager of ProQuest affiliate Domain Associates and a board member of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation; David B. Agus, a doctor with Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation; and, finally, a doctor (I’ll introduce him shortly) who was the chairman of the “Therapeutic Consortium” of Michael Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation.

In other words, ProQuest Investments, which is Milken’s investment fund (though Milken doesn’t tell people that), enjoys remarkable overlap with  Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Which raises a question: What does the Prostate Cancer Foundation do with the money that it solicits from generous people — not just wealthy donors but also average folks who want to fight cancer and donate what they can?

I do not mean to be dismissive of a philanthropy. I am sure there are well-meaning people who work at the Prostate Cancer Foundation. It has served as a forum for many of the world’s leading doctors to exchange information, and it has raised awareness of a terrible disease. All philanthropy, one can argue, is good. And since Milken himself is a prostate cancer survivor, one is inclined to believe that his interest in battling the disease is genuine.

But that might be to underestimate Milken’s love of “the game” — his desire to be a player in the world. It might also be to underestimate the particular world that Milken inhabits. It is a world of people who desire money, yes, but who perhaps desire in greater measure both stature and influence. For stature and influence blind the public and soothe the conscience.

If you are a miscreant, to play “the game” is fun. To play the game and cheat is more fun still. But it is perhaps also as simple as this: the miscreant desires to feel no shame. He wants to be able to say to himself, “I am important. I am prominent… .I have the approval of others.”

Certainly, Milken has used his “philanthropy” to ingratiate himself with the establishment and the public at large. He is one of the few convicted criminals who has returned to “prominence.” So, it seems, he has gotten one over on us. He has won. But “the game” is never over.  And in the view of Deep Capture, winning matters more to Milken than battling the disease that once afflicted him.

Yes, it’s all about “the game.”

This might explain why Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit snubbed its nose at Dendreon, a company that did not have a cure for prostate cancer, but did boast the most promising new treatment available—a treatment that could have been safely administered to patients right away. This might explain why Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation instead supported Novacea, a company whose controlling shareholders were Milken’s ProQuest Investments and its affiliate. As we will see, Novacea’s treatment was more likely to kill patients than save them, but that does not matter when it’s all about winning “the game.”

To win the game, of course, one must have allies — preferably miscreants who know a good scheme when they see it. Perhaps that is why Perceptive Advisors, which is an affiliate of Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald’s biotech empire, invested a large sum in Milken’s Novacea while serving as one of the seven Milken-network hedge funds that bet big against Dendreon.

As you will recall, Perceptive Advisors didn’t just bet big, it also pounded Dendreon by exercising call options, flooding the market with millions upon millions of Dendreon shares. Simultaneously, Milken crony Steve Cohen, whose former top trader was a vice president of Lindsay Rosenwald’s Paramount Capital, flooded the market with at least 1.6 million Dendreon shares.

But it’s not just about winning the game. It’s about the exhilaration of pushing the limits. It’s about being brazen – brazen to the extreme; brazen to the point of lunacy – and seeing if you can (ha! ha! ha!) get away with it.

Perhaps that is why Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation went to extraordinary lengths (delivering money, organizing conferences, dispatching prominent doctors) to promote a mostly untested prostate cancer treatment – a treatment (Abiraterone) that was ostensibly being developed by Cougar Biotechnology, the company that was controlled until recently by the above-mentioned Lindsay Rosenwald, who is not only the son-in-law of the “king of stock fraud,” but also a former vice chairman of D.H. Blair – a firm whose  president was Michael Milken’s former national sales manager; a firm that was tied to the Mafia and indicted on 173 counts of securities fraud; a firm that was best known for fraudulently pumping and dumping biotech companies that had no real medicine whatsoever.

Yes, it’s all about “the game.”

Perhaps this also explains the strange occurrences that began in the Spring of 2007.

* * * * * * * *

In the weeks after the FDA’s advisory panel meeting on March 29, 2007, there were only three financial analysts on the planet who were giving a “sell” rating to Dendreon’s stock.

The first two you have already met. One was the song-singing Sendek of Lazard research, the outfit run by the former head of research at a subsidiary of TheStreet.com, which was co-founded by Milken crony Marty Peretz, short selling hedge funds, and Jim Cramer, the former hedge fund manager turned “journalist.”

The second was Jonathan Aschoff, the doctor-impersonating fraud who used to work for Sturza’s Institutional Research, a firm that specialized in publishing biased, negative financial research on biotech companies for a network of short sellers that included the likes of Jim Chanos (Sturza’s current employer) and Michael Steinhardt (mentor to Chanos; son of the “biggest Mafia fence in America”; partner of Milken co-conspirator Ivan Boesky; and incubator of Jim Cramer’s hedge fund).

The third financial analyst who was bashing Dendreon in the spring of 2007 was Maged Shenouda of UBS, the investment bank. Shenouda’s arguments against Dendreon matched almost precisely those of Aschoff and the singing Sendek, both of whom we have shown to be part of the Milken network. So it is probably significant that Shenouda’s boss, the president of UBS investment banking, was (until March 2007)  Ken Moelis, who had once been a trader for Michael Milken’s operation at Drexel, Burnham, Lambert. Indeed, Moelis had been one of Milken’s most trusted and favored employees.

While this protégé of Milken was president of UBS, the company had become one of the more crooked banks in the world. According to the Department of Justice, for example, UBS “systematically and deliberately” violated U.S. law by recruiting Americans looking to evade taxes. But, of course, it was not ordinary Americans who hid their money at UBS. It was only the wealthiest of people, including hedge fund managers, who stashed billions upon billions of dollars in secret accounts at UBS, while perhaps taking advantage of the bank’s other “services” as well.

Was one those “services” illegal naked short selling? In 2006, the Louisiana attorney general filed court documents to compel UBS to hand over records that would help answer that question. Specifically, the attorney general suspected that UBS had, along with Refco, processed phantom stock for Rhino Advisors, the hedge fund whose manager became a fugitive from U.S. law, living in Austria, his money undoubtedly stashed in secret bank accounts, after his “unbridled” criminal naked short selling destroyed companies that had been hobbled by fraudulent “death spiral” PIPEs deals, many of which were brokered by Milken crony Carl Icahn’s Ladenburg Thalmann.

In March of 2007, when Dendreon’s prostate cancer treatment appeared to be on the fast track to FDA approval, and a UBS research analyst was trashing Dendreon, another interesting event was unfolding. Specifically, Mitchel Guttenberg, who had sat on an elite 12-member committee that signed off on the contents of UBS’s financial research, had just been arrested by the FBI.

Prior to joining UBS, Guttenberg had not had a distinguished career. He started out in Wisconsin, where regulators determined that he was trading without a proper license. Later, he worked at a second-tier bank called First Albany and put in time at Axiom Capital, a firm that was once censured by the NASD for publishing false financial research on biotech companies. (More recently, one of Axiom’s brokers was charged with systematically defrauding mentally handicapped elderly people).

Moelis, the Milken protégé who was president of UBS, stacked the bank with his cronies, many of them former Milken employees, and had a propensity for hiring and promoting people who were a bit rough around the edges. For example, it would have been Moelis who promoted Guttenberg to the elite committee that signed off of UBS’s financial research.

Soon after joining UBS’s financial research committee, according to the DOJ, Guttenberg began illegally providing inside information about the contents of soon-to-be released UBS research reports to a circle of hedge fund managers and traders. Two of the traders who profited from Guttenberg’s tips worked for a hedge fund called Chelsey Capital. Previously, the SEC had investigated Chelsey Capital and a hedge fund called GLG Partners for allegedly paying investment banks large commissions (bribes) in exchange for privileged access to initial public offerings.

It is clear that GLG Partners (and perhaps, by extension, also Chelsey Capital) is a member of the network of hedge funds that is the subject of this story. Thanks to a lawsuit that Canadian insurer Fairfax Financial filed against SAC Capital (run by Milken crony Steve Cohen); Kynikos Associates (run by the above-mentioned Jim Chanos), and other hedge funds in their network, Deep Capture has acquired copies of emails that Jim Chanos sent to GLG Partners. While it is difficult to tell from these emails whether GLG participated in the network’s attack on Fairfax, Chanos certainly communicated with GLG about the status of that attack.

In March, 2007, when Mitchel Guttenberg, the member of UBS’s elite 12-member financial research committee, was arrested, the SEC stated that Guttenberg was at the center of “one of the most pervasive insider trading rings since the days of [Milken co-conspirator] Ivan Boesky….” A few days later, Moelis, the Milken protege, resigned from UBS to start his own investment bank.

A few months after that, French authorities busted another UBS insider trading ring, this one including UBS subsidiary UBS O’Conner; the above-mentioned GLG Partners; and a hedge fund called Meditor Capital. At the time, one of Meditor’s top traders was Andrew Billet, formerly of SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by Milken crony Steve Cohen, who was one of the seven “colorful” traders who held large numbers of put options in Dendreon.

This connection would not be worth mentioning except for the fact that Steve Cohen is known to include his former employees in his nationwide trading network, and in 2007, Meditor’s trading tended to run parallel to that of Cohen’s hedge funds. Indeed, Meditor’s biggest share purchases were in biotech companies – Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Vion Pharmaceuticals, Atherogenics, and Cypress Bioscience — that were also targeted by Cohen’s SAC Capital.

Moreover, in April, 2007, right before some strange occurrences were to derail Dendreon, Meditor purchased 1.6 million shares in Novacea, the company whose controlling shareholders (Michael Milken’s ProQuest and Domain Associates) must have known, for reasons that I will describe, that they would make money on their investment in Novacea only in the event that Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer failed to go to market.

Aside from Meditor Capital, there was, in the spring of 2007, only one other hedge fund that made a major investment in Milken’s Novacea – a company whose prostate cancer treatment, we will see, had no chance of reaching patients anytime soon. The second hedge fund was Perceptive Advisors, managed by an employee of Paramount Capital, whose vice president was formerly one of Steve Cohen’s top traders.

Perceptive Advisors, we know, was one of the seven “colorful” hedge funds that held large numbers of put options in Dendreon. And Paramount Capital was owned by Lindsay Rosenwald, the Milken crony who controlled Cougar Biotechnology, another Dendreon “competitor” that claimed (with help from Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation) to have a treatment for prostate cancer, though that treatment had almost no data showing that it could be safely administered to patients.

So we can begin to see a pattern – a pattern that is all the more interesting when you consider the strange occurrences that began in April 2007.

* * * * * * * *

I will get to those strange occurrences in a moment. But first let’s learn a bit more about that first UBS insider trading ring — the one that was busted in March 2007, when a UBS researcher was bashing Dendreon.

In addition to the Chelsey traders, the ring included two other miscreants – David Glass and David Tavdy, both of whom received advance notice of the contents of UBS’s financial research. Tavdy, described as a “scrappy” Russian immigrant, was a close friend and former First Albany co-worker of Mitchel Guttenberg, the fellow who was a member of UBS’s elite financial research committee. Tavdy earned a fortune from his trading, but apparently unsatisfied, he had painted on his expensive, high-speed motor boat the name, “Enough is Never Enough.”

Glass had previously spent most of his career at Sterling Foster, which was one of the first brokerages shut down by the FBI when the bureau began its crackdown on Wall Street outfits believed to be tied to the Mafia. Glass quit his job at Sterling Foster right before the FBI raided the firm, arresting 20 of its brokers. Later, Glass helped a close friend write the script for “Boiler Room,” the successful movie about a brokerage that specialized in ripping off investors.

Glass was the first one busted for his role in the UBS insider trading ring. The FBI promptly strapped him with a wire and dispatched him to record a conversation with a Wall Street greaseball named Larry McKeever, who had said that he was going to expose the UBS insider trading ring to the authorities unless Glass paid him a large sum of money.

In the course of this conversation, Glass mentioned Tavdy and Tavdy’s close friend, Mitchel Guttenberg, whom Milken crony Ken Moelis had promoted to UBS’s financial research committee, putting him in a position to illegally disclose the contents of upcoming UBS research reports.

Specifically, Glass told McKeever that the attempted bribe wasn’t a good idea because Guttenberg and Tavdy might find out about it. Glass was especially careful to warn McKeever about Tavdy. As Glass put it, Tavdy “probably knows the name of Larry McKeever.”

In response, McKeever said of Tavdy: “Listen, Glass, I kid you not—he’s a fucking dead man. I don’t give a fuck if he’s tied into the Russian mob or whatever. I’ll find that cocksucker, mark my words. My lips to your ears. He don’t know my name.”

At this point, McKeever appeared to have had second thoughts about issuing threats to Tavdy, a guy who might be tied to the Russian mob.

McKeever nervously added, “How does he know my name?”

* * * * * * * *

In March 2007, after the FDA advisory panel voted in favor of Provenge, the singing Sendek, the doctor-impersonating Aschoff, and the fellow from UBS’s troubled research shop were the only three financial analysts in the world who were dismissive of Dendreon’s prospects. But it is interesting to see what a determined public relations campaign can accomplish.

Dendreon’s treatment was the first-ever vaccine for cancer. It was the first-ever promising substitute for the ravages of chemo. And it was the first-ever cancer therapy that could target and boost the immune system. Although the data suggested that it did not prevent the inevitable end in some patients, but merely forestalled it, the treatment was truly revolutionary and seemed to have the potential to save a lot of people. So one might have expected some media excitement.

But Dendreon was a small company that did not understand how “the game” worked. The whispering hedge funds, along with their proxies — the song-singing, doctor-impersonating analysts – were more sophisticated. So the press reports on Dendreon were few in number. And most of them featured Sendek, Aschoff, or the UBS fellow voicing their party line that Provenge was “dangerous” – that the data was insufficient, that there were better drugs in the pipeline. And as the days went by we heard more and  more about this strange notion that the Provenge advisory panel had asked the “wrong question” – that the FDA might have to “change the question.”

Dendreon’s enemies repeated their “talking points.” They stayed “on message.” They manufactured the news, and the news was that the FDA just might reject Dendreon’s application. Rarely mentioned was the fact the FDA had never in history rejected a drug for dying patients after its expert advisory panel had voted for approval.

But despite the weird news reports, Dendreon’s stock price continued to soar.

And so, the hedge funds continued to pile on. Call options (such as those exercised by the above-mentioned Perceptive Advisors) were exercised in mass. And millions upon millions of phantom shares continued to flood the market. By April 10, Forbes magazine was reporting that Dendreon, a company that then had a market cap of just under $2 billion, had become one of the top three most heavily traded stocks on Wall Street – beating out Microsoft, Cisco, and Seagate Technologies.

On April 12, Jim Cramer tried to explain away the increase in the stock price. He told CNBC’s audience that they were witnessing a short “squeeze,” – the stock price was soaring as short sellers scrambled to buy shares to cover their positions. Cramer added that he was aware of one hedge fund manager who had failed to buy counterbalancing call options at an effective strike price. This was probably a reference to Edelman at Perceptive Advisors. In any case, Cramer seemed to be saying that it was just a matter of time before the stock price would crash again.

Cramer was right about that. But there was no short “squeeze” – the short sellers were not covering their positions. To the contrary, they were growing their positions — exponentially. On April 4, 2007, around 3 million Dendreon shares were sold short. The next day, the number of shares sold short quadrupled – to 13 million. And more than 10 million shares were sold short every day leading up to April 12.

It is a safe bet that these short sellers knew that something was going to crack Dendreon’s stock price.

And sure enough, on April 13, Dendreon witnessed the first of some singularly strange occurrences.

* * * * * * * *

Late that day – April 13 – a newsletter called The Cancer Letter published a presumably confidential letter that Dr. Howard Scher of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center had written to the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Scher was one of the 17 doctors who had sat on the FDA’s advisory panel, and his letter — which was addressed to an FDA deputy commissioner and cc’d to then FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach and an FDA official named Richard Pazdur – argued vehemently that Dendreon’s prostate cancer treatment should not be approved.

This was strange for numerous reasons. For one, it was unprecedented for a doctor to lobby the FDA after an advisory panel had already voted on a treatment. Doctors who are contracted by the FDA to judge a treatment for a life threatening disease voice their opinions during the advisory panel meeting. At the end of the meeting, they are invited to vote on two questions: Is the treatment safe? And, is there “substantial evidence” that the treatment might improve the health of patients? The vote is considered final. When it’s done, the doctors are expected (as we will see) to go home and keep their opinions to themselves.

When Dendreon supporters and prostate cancer advocacy groups–including Care-To-Live, a heroic organization that has done much to publicize Dendreon’s travails–saw Dr. Scher’s letter, they asked Francesco Marincola, a doctor who had sat on the Provenge advisory panel, to write his own letter in Dendreon’s defense. Dr. Marincola declined. He said, “As you may well infer…I share many of your opinions. However, I strongly believe that my role as a member of the advisory board is to express my opinion during the meeting [and that] it would be ill advised to influence the FDA decision beyond that point.”

Dr. Marincola added: “If it is true (which I doubt) that some other member of the board contacted the FDA afterwards, it is beyond my control. But my personal opinion is that my credibility as a member of the board will be better preserved if I give my impartial opinion at the time of the meeting and let the FDA do their work afterwards.”

This, said Dr. Marincola, was a matter of preserving the “integrity of the process.”

* * * * * * * *

The second thing strange about Dr. Scher’s missive is that, within days, it ended up in the hands of The Cancer Letter, a publication whose subscribers include a significant number of Wall Street investors. FDA employees are forbidden to discuss the merits of medical products in public, and one big reason is that news of such discussions can profoundly affect stock prices.

The publication of Dr. Scher’s letter was reminiscent of an event that had made The Cancer Letter famous in the world of biotech – an event that had established The Cancer Letter’s reputation as an organ of short selling hedge funds. That event was the FDA’s decision in 2001 to deny approval of a cancer drug that had been developed by a biotech company called ImClone.

News of the ImClone decision was made public not by the FDA. Somebody had inside information that the FDA was going to reject ImClone’s cancer treatment, and that somebody leaked the information to The Cancer Letter, which published it with great fanfare. In the days prior to the publication, short selling in ImClone increased dramatically. Meanwhile, ImClone executives and their friends offloaded their shares.

One of those friends was Martha Stewart, who was then known for her all-American, home lifestyle products. Stewart was accused of trading on her inside information about the FDA’s ImClone decision. Ultimately, she went to jail for obstructing the DOJ’s investigation into her actions.

Others were more fortunate. A Congressional investigation into the ImClone affair produced phone records that showed who had called ImClone in the days before the FDA’s decision was made public by The Cancer Letter. These records show that on December 27, 2001, ImClone received phone calls from three hedge fund managers. Presumably, these three hedge fund managers had gotten wind of the imminent story in The Cancer Letter, and were calling to discuss.

It should surprise nobody that these hedge fund managers were all members of a particularly colorful Wall Street network. One of the three hedge funds that called ImClone that day was Ziff Brothers Investments. That, remember, is the fund that incubated the trading empire of Jim Chanos, who is now under investigation for trading ahead of reports issued by financial research firm Morgan Keegan. Dirk Ziff, as you will recall, was introduced to Chanos by Michael Steinhardt (Milken crony; Boesky partner; son of “the biggest Mafia fence in America”) and by Ziff’s Harvard Professor, Marty Peretz (Steinhardt partner; Boesky crony; Milken pal).

The second hedge fund that called ImClone that day was SAC Capital, run by Steve Cohen, the Milken crony who is “the most powerful trader on the Street.” As you will recall, Cohen is a Chanos collaborator (both received and communicated about advanced copies of the same Morgan Keegan reports, and they have frequently employed the same tactics, and the same thugs, to attack the same companies). As you will also recall, previously Cohen was the top earner at Gruntal & Company, a Mafia-linked brokerage that owed its existence to Milken’s junk bond finance. While there, he was reportedly investigated for trading on inside information provided to him by Milken’s people at Drexel, Burnham, Lambert.

The third fund manager who called ImClone that day was Carl Icahn, the Milken crony who founded the options department at the Mafia-linked Gruntal & Company before becoming a billionaire by brokering “death spiral” PIPEs financing in cahoots with criminal naked short sellers, and by blackmailing companies with finance from Milken and the Mafia-connected Zev Wolfson.

It is difficult to know whether these three fund managers acted on the secret ImClone information that The Cancer Letter made public soon after they called ImClone. We don’t know because the SEC does not require hedge funds to disclose their short positions, as they do their long holdings.

Short positions are, after all, a big secret.

* * * * * * * *

We do know that in the days leading up to The Cancer Letter’s publication of Dr. Scher’s letter, short selling of Dendreon’s stock increased dramatically. Indeed, as mentioned, short selling of Dendreon quadrupled on April 5, the day before Dr. Scher emailed his confidential letter to the FDA.

At the same time, criminal naked short sellers churned out more phantom stock. SEC data shows that at least 9 million shares “failed to deliver” on April 10. Since “failures to deliver” are recorded three days after the phantom stock was sold, this means that massive amounts of naked short selling occurred on April 5. On each day leading up to April 13, the day that Dr. Scher’s missive was published in The Cancer Letter, between 9 million and 12 million phantom shares “failed to deliver”. On April 10, Dendreon’s stock was trading at its high of around $25.  By April 12, the day before The Cancer Letter’s “scoop,” the stock had already nosedived to around $18.

This trading was strange. And as mentioned, Dr. Scher’s letter was strange.

It wasn’t just that Dr. Scher’s lobbying of the FDA was unprecedented and an affront to the “integrity” of the drug approval process. And it was not just that his letter to the FDA quickly appeared in The Cancer Letter (just as The Cancer letter had made public the FDA’s decision about ImClone). And it was not just that short selling hedge funds clearly knew that Dr. Scher’s letter was in the works.

It was that Dr. Scher’s letter precisely echoed the party line that had been put out by the whispering hedge funds, the song-singing Sendek, the UBS researcher, and the doctor-impersonating Jonathan Aschoff.

Like the Wall Street analysts, Dr. Scher said that Provenge had failed to meet its “primary end-points in two clinical trials” — that the data was not absolute “proof” that Provenge worked. And just as Aschoff had told journalists that it would be “dangerous” to approve Dendreon, Dr. Scher argued that the FDA would be somehow setting a dangerous precedent by approving a new standard of treatment.

Dr. Scher’s letter was also reminiscent of that Dendreon conference call, when the singing Sendek asked, over and over, whether the advisory panel had asked the “right question” and whether the FDA might have to “change the question.” Now Dr. Scher, too, was suggesting that the advisory panel had somehow been a sham – that it had “changed the question” regarding the efficacy of Provenge. Since the panel had voted on the wrong “question,” Scher argued, the panel’s overwhelming endorsement of Provenge should be disregarded.

It seemed that Dr. Scher, who is one of the most prominent cancer doctors in America, was parroting the medical wisdom of Wall Street goons. Either that, or the goons were parroting Dr. Scher. Whichever the case, and whatever their motivations, Wall Street miscreants and a prominent FDA-contracted doctor were now working in parallel to quash a promising treatment for prostate cancer.

* * * * * * * *

Here’s another factoid about Michael Milken’s ProQuest Investments. As I mentioned, ProQuest whitewashed its website, so that it no longer identifies the directors of its advisory board. Screenshots from the past allowed me, in a previous section of this story, to tell you who most of those directors were as of Spring, 2007. But there is one ProQuest director whom I have not yet identified by name.

This ProQuest director is a doctor. And his name is Howard Scher.

That is correct: Dr. Howard Scher, who sat on the advisory panel that voted on the merits of Dendreon’s prostate cancer treatment, and then trashed Dendreon’s treatment in a letter to the FDA (an unprecedented lobbying effort after an advisory panel had voted), was also a director of Michael Milken’s ProQuest Investments. In fact, Dr. Scher was not just a director of ProQuest, he was also an executive of the fund, which likely means he stood to profit from its investments.

Dr. Scher was, moreover, the  chairman of the “Therapeutic Consortium” at Michael Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation. He also received unknown amounts of money as the lead investigator of Asentar, the prostate cancer treatment that was being developed by Novacea, whose controlling investors were Milken’s ProQuest Investments and its affiliate, Domain Associates. Meanwhile, Dr. Scher was a paid member of the advisory board of Cougar Biotechnology, the Dendreon competitor that was controlled by Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly of the Mafia-connected pump-and-dump stock fraud shop D.H. Blair.

It is bad enough that the world’s foremost financial criminal, Michael Milken, stood to profit from the demise of a promising prostate cancer treatment. It is disconcerting to know that Lindsay Rosenwald, a Mafia-connected Milken-crony with a record of destroying real companies and creating fake companies, is among the biggest biotech players in the nation – a player who controls 8% of the world’s pharmaceutical firms. It is unsettling to know that this crony and those seven Milken-network hedge funds with large numbers of put options were no doubt intent on seeing Dendreon fail.

But somehow, the saddest news of all is that Dr. Scher took unprecedented steps to derail a competing treatment that could have extended the lives of a great many men. Dr. Scher is one of the most prominent physicians in America. He is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on prostate cancer. His opinions matter. His advice is heeded. It is likely that at some point Dr. Scher believed that other treatments were superior to Dendreon’s, but somewhere along the line, he seems, at least to some extent, to have let his motives become mixed in with his incentives.

Given his connections to Milken’s ProQuest Investments, to Novacea (the company controlled by ProQuest and an affiliate) and to Dendreon’s other competitors (such as Cougar Biotechnology), Dr. Scher probably should not have sat on the FDA advisory panel that voted on whether Dendreon should be approved. He certainly should not have been lobbying the FDA. He should not have trashed Dendreon’s treatment, for as he must have known, due to these other relationships, he could no longer claim to be an objective observer.

He had what they call…well, in more innocent times, they called it a “conflict of interest”

* * * * * * * *

Maybe we should not be too hard on Dr. Scher. I am reminded of a story that I once reported for Time Magazine in Asia, about a network of Mafia-connected stock brokerages that had set up shop in Bangkok, Thailand in order to avoid the FBI “Mob on Wall Street” crackdown that led to Operation Uptick in 2000. The owners of the brokerages were bad guys (there was a point where they nearly began murdering each other in the streets of Bangkok), but they had become quite prominent in some business circles. They were also fantastically generous “philanthropists.”

The bad guys gave especially large sums of money to a priest who was famous for the wonderful work he had done to help people in Bangkok’s most dire slums. The priest was, of course, grateful for the contributions, and he used every opportunity to speak highly of his benefactors. Even when the bad guys were charged with crimes – even when they became fugitives from the law – the priest spoke quite strongly in their defense. He simply refused to acknowledge that the criminals were anything other than “prominent” businessmen and “prominent” philanthropists.

The priest was not a bad man. He was as good as they come. But he had received so much money – and he had deployed this money to so much good purpose – that he was inclined to continue working with the criminals.

The famous priest should have condemned the miscreants. He was an important voice of moral authority. But by the wonders of human psychology, he possibly believed, quite genuinely, that the criminals had done no wrong.  We call this phenomenon “deep capture.” The priest had been “captured” by the criminals. His judgment was clouded.

Perhaps Dr. Scher was a priest of the medical community. Michael Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation had donated tens of  millions of dollars to Dr. Scher’s hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering (a hospital, it should be noted, by way of disclosure, that has also received significant donations from the family of Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne, whose cancer was successfully treated there). With support from the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Dr. Scher and Memorial Sloan have been able to continue their research into experimental treatments that perhaps will one day help patients.

No doubt, Dr. Scher was grateful for this generosity. No doubt, he was earnest about his Milken-financed investigations and believed that he was contributing to the advancement of science. Meanwhile, Milken and his foundation had become quite “prominent” players in the fight against prostate cancer. Indeed, it is fair to say that Milken, more than anyone, had come to dominate the prostate cancer establishment. Nobody had more influence. So, in Dr. Scher’s view, it perhaps made perfect sense to collaborate with this criminal. As his collaboration grew, he perhaps became inextricably tied to the work – not just financially, but also emotionally.

The phenomenon of “deep capture” is indeed pervasive. And it is pervasive because it can swallow anyone – even those with the best of intentions.

That said, Dr. Scher’s letter to the FDA was not merely the work of an earnest but “captured” physician. As we will see, it was conniving. It trashed Dendreon in a manner that was patently dishonest, and exaggerated the promise of a treatment (the one under development at Milken’s Novacea) that would soon be shown to be ineffective.

Unwittingly or not, Dr. Scher aided the machinations of the criminal Michael Milken. And as we will see, there are good reasons to suspect that those machinations were not about philanthropy or fighting cancer, or even about  investing in companies that had genuine value.

The machinations were about destroying a good company so that Milken and a network of hedge funds could make a big bundle of money.

* * * CHAPTER 9 * * *

As Dr. Scher made clear in his letter, his concern about Dendreon was not, strictly speaking, that it didn’t work, but that it would render irrelevant his work on Novacea’s competing treatment, Asentar. A new phase 3 trial to test the effectiveness of Asentar (referred to in the letter by its medical name, DN-101) had been “designed, initiated and continues to accrue,” Dr. Scher wrote. “I am the International Investigator on this trial.”

Nowhere in his letter (and nowhere in the conflict-of-interest waiver form that he submitted in order to get a seat on the FDA advisory panel that voted on Dendreon’s treatment) did Dr. Scher mention that he was not just the lead investigator in the Asentar trials, but also a board member and executive of Milken’s ProQuest Investments, which was, along with affiliate Domain Associates, the biggest investor in Novacea, the company that was developing Asentar.

Also left unmentioned was the fact that Dr. Scher was the chairman of the “Therapeutic Consortium” of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation. The “Therapeutic Consortium” helps Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit decide which treatments and hospitals deserve its support.  It is clear that the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s donations to hospitals such as Dr. Scher’s Memorial Sloan are linked to the hospitals’ support of specific treatments being developed by specific Milken-affiliated companies.

For example, in one typical press release, the Prostate Cancer Foundation stated that the “Therapeutic Clinical Investigation Consortium [the Milken Prostate Cancer Foundation outfit of which Dr. Scher is the chairman] played an important role by accelerating testing of this new agent [Abiraterone, the agent developed by Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald’s Cougar Biotechnology] in Phase II clinical trials…Right now, at MD Anderson and Memorial Sloan-Kettering, both NCI funded cancer centers, the Phase III trials of Abiraterone [Cougar’s treatment] are going on. PCF contributions to Sloan-Kettering reached $18 million to date, possibly more…”

In other words, Milken raised money from unsuspecting donors, including the ordinary folks who slipped cash into the buckets that the Prostate Cancer Foundation places outside of supermarkets and shopping malls. Then Milken, with the support of Dr. Scher, directed that money to Dr. Scher’s hospital, with the understanding that Scher and his hospital would attach their prominent names to drugs developed by companies in which either Milken or Milken’s friends were investors.

Keep in mind that the prostate cancer drugs developed by Milken-affiliated companies were in the earliest stages of development – there was not yet much evidence that they could help patients. But, as we will see, there was lots of potential for them to make money for Milken and his friends.

Meanwhile, when Dendreon produced “substantial evidence” that its treatment could begin extending lives right away, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and affiliated doctors diverted attention from the treatment, and (in the case of Dr. Scher) worked vigorously to ensure that the treatment would not reach patients.

This is not exactly “philanthropy” in its purest form.

* * * * * * * *

Remember, on March 29, 2007, when Dr. Scher sat on the FDA’s advisory panel, he was one of the 17 doctors who voted unanimously that Dendreon’s treatment was safe. And two weeks later Dr. Scher wrote a letter to the FDA in which he argued that the treatment should not be approved.

As mentioned, this letter was strange in that it was unprecedented for an FDA-contracted doctor to lobby the FDA after an advisory panel had already voted. It was strange in that the presumably confidential letter was quickly published by The Cancer Letter, an outfit with a reputation for being an organ of short selling hedge funds. And the letter was strange in that it was disingenuous, to the say the least.

For one, Dr. Scher seemed to have changed his mind with regards to the safety of Dendreon’s treatment.

In his letter to the FDA, he noted that the advisory panel had discussed the fact that Dendreon’s trials showed that 4.9% of patients treated with Provenge had experienced “cerebrovascular events” compared to 1.7% of patients who were given a placebo.

The panel’s 17 doctors, Scher included, had voted unanimously that this was an acceptable risk for patients with a deadly disease – especially since, in other regards, Provenge appeared to be perfectly safe.  But now Scher was insisting in a letter to the FDA that these rare “cerebrovascular events” (few of which were fatal) were worrisome enough to deprive end-stage prostate cancer patients of a treatment that might extend their lives.

But Dr. Scher’s “cerebrovascular events” argument was not new. It was precisely the same canard that had been delivered to the press by those dubious Wall Street players — the singing Sendek, and doctor-impersonating Aschoff, the troubled UBS, and the whispering hedge fund managers.

As to the effectiveness of Provenge, Dr. Scher averred in his letter that Dendreon had not met its “primary end-points” and the data was “not considered definitive.” He insisted that the treatment be delayed until Dendreon could provide “proof” that Provenge extended lives.

This was absurd. As Dr. Scher must have known, rarely in history has data on an experimental treatment shown definitive “proof” that the treatment works in every case. Instead, the legally established criteria for FDA approval (especially of treatments for life-threatening diseases) is that the data show “substantial evidence” that the treatment improves the health of patients.  Neither medicine nor science progresses by “definitive proof”.

Even if trials do not meet their “primary end-points,” the FDA usually approves treatments for deadly diseases if the odds are nonetheless good that the treatments increase survival. The odds might not be 100 percent, but if they are 98 percent, or even 51% percent, the treatment should be delivered to patients who will otherwise die. This criteria – “substantial evidence” of increased patient survival – is referred to as “the Gold Standard” by FDA officials and doctors everywhere.

In any case, “it may be time we focus less on statistical significance, and more on patient benefit.” So said Dr. Scher himself, in an interview with a medical journal, just a few weeks before he wrote a letter to the FDA harping on Dendreon’s statistical significance. Most likely, Dr. Scher was thinking about his trials of Asentar (the drug under development by Novacea, which was controlled by Milken’s ProQuest Investments and an affiliate) and Abiraterone (the drug developed by Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald’s Cougar Biotechnology). These trials had not yielded particularly good results.

In fact, as we will see, Asentar was not just unhelpful to patients. During trials of the treatment, patients dropped dead. They dropped dead earlier than expected. And, as Novacea later acknowledged, the cause was clear: Asentar actually killed a significant number of people who were hoped to benefit from it. Provenge  increased “cerebrovascular events” in a small number of patients, but patients on Asentar died in such large numbers that Novacea had to discontinue its trials of the drug.

The question is: Did Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation, Dr. Scher, and the Wall Street hedge funds really believe that Asentar and Cougar’s Abiraterone were superior to Provenge when they began their attack on Dendreon?  Or were their attacks motivated by their financial interests?

* * * * * * * *

It was not necessary for Asentar to receive FDA approval in order for Milken’s ProQuest to make heaps of money from its investment in Novacea. As we will see, the Milken clan had hatched a plan to cash in on their Novacea stock, regardless of what the FDA had to say about the company’s prostate cancer treatment, and regardless of whether that treatment would eventually be shown to kill an unacceptable number of people.

Same goes for Cougar Biotechnology’s investors, who included not just controlling shareholder Lindsay Rosenwald (who once helped run the Mafia-affiliated D.H. Blair, which was indicted on 173 counts of securities fraud and was famous for pumping phony biotech companies), but also two of the seven Milken network hedge funds that were betting big against Dendreon. Cougar’s treatment, supported by Milken’s philanthropy and by the four Prostate Cancer Foundation doctors who sat on Cougar’s advisory board, was virtually untested, but as we will see, this did not prevent the company’s investors from cashing in.

When Dendreon came under attack, similar plans to cash in had been hatched by investors in a company called Cell Genesys, whose experimental (and, we will see, ineffective) treatment was promoted in a most peculiar fashion (which I will describe in due course) by Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Investors in those companies did not need FDA approval to make money, but as we will see, their money-making plans would have been foiled if Dendreon had received approval. In reading the transcript of the FDA advisory panel meeting that voted on Provenge in March 2007, one has to wonder if  Dr. Scher—who led trials for not only Novacea and Cougar, but also Cell Genesys–knew of these money-making plans, and if this knowledge informed the lobbying he undertook at the panel meeting, and in the days following it.

Among Dr. Scher’s more revealing statements at the advisory panel meeting was this: “So if I start thinking, am I denying a potentially useful agent [Dendreon’s Provenge] to men who clearly need it, the answer is unfortunately I don’t know. So I say, well, what if we think that this really should be available, start thinking about the number of agents that are currently under development.”

This is the same message that was whispered in the ears of reporters, who eagerly transcribed it into their stories. If the FDA approved Provenge, they said, it would become the standard of care. This would be unfortunate because other treatments “under development” might be better. The problem with this argument is that there were very few other treatments “under development.” And when Dr. Scher referred to treatments “under development,” there was little else he could have been referring to other than the above-mentioned Asentar (Novacea), Abiraterone (Cougar Biotechnology), and GVAX (Cell Genesys).

As mentioned, Dr. Scher was connected to all three of those companies. Novacea’s Asentar, we know, was killing people. At the time of Dr. Scher’s attack on Dendreon, Cougar’s Abiraterone had been tested on a total of 38 patients. The data showed that some of those 38 patients saw their blood tests improve, and Cougar Biotechnology trumpeted this information in multiple press releases, but there was zero evidence that Abiraterone increased patient survival. GVAX had been tested on 80 patients, and some of them lived longer, but the data did not yet show “substantial evidence” that GVAX was the reason.

All of these treatments had undergone only Phase 2 trials, whereas Dendreon had completed Phase 3 trials on 170 patients. The data from the Dendreon trials had reached statistical significance, and showed that Provenge reduced mortality. In other words, none of the competing treatments (all financed by Milken or Milken’s friends and promoted by Milken’s “philanthropic” foundation) had come anywhere close to achieving results like Dendreon’s.

But Dr. Scher was insistent – ”a number of alternatives [those "alternatives" being drugs under development by Milken and his cronies with the assistance of Dr. Scher and Milken’s ‘philanthropy’, drugs that would prove, in time, to be inferior] were “currently under development.”  And so patients must not have access to Dendreon’s drug  – a drug that was capable of saving lives right away.

* * * * * * * *

To understand the lengths to which some people went to derail Dendreon, it is necessary to recall the Dendreon conference call, when the singing-Sendek kept asking whether the FDA might have to “change the question.”  Others on Wall Street were whispering about “the question,” the press transcribed into their stories these same whisperings about “the question,” and Dr. Scher made  “the question” a key feature of his letter to the FDA. All of them suggested that the FDA advisory panel vote was invalid because the 13 panelists who had voted that Provenge worked had, in fact, voted on the “wrong question.”

The transcript of the Dendreon advisory panel meeting clarifies what was meant by all of this questioning of the “question”. As noted, advisory panels are always asked to vote on two questions: Is the treatment safe? And, is there “substantial evidence” that the treatment is effective?

This is not just custom. It is the law of the land. The 1962 Kefauver Harris Drug Amendments, ratified by the U.S. Congress, stipulated that manufacturers of drug products must establish a drug’s effectiveness by “substantial evidence.”

On the first question, “Is the treatment safe?” the advisory panel had voted “yes”, 17-0. Those 17 included Dr. Scher (though, as has been explained, within weeks he was lobbying the FDA by raising doubts as to the safety of Provenge).

The second question to be addressed was, therefore, “Is there substantial evidence that the treatment is effective?” Dendreon had clearly met this standard – the “Gold Standard” of providing “substantial evidence” of increased survival.

But remarkably, somebody at the FDA advisory panel meeting rewrote the “question.” The chairman of the panel read the question out loud: “Does the submitted data establish the efficacy of [Provenge] in the intended population?”

Immediately, there was confusion. This was not the usual question. Did “establish the efficacy” mean that the panelists had to vote on whether the data had proved, with 100% conclusiveness, that Provenge extended lives? No experimental drug had ever faced such a standard.

Dr. Scher interjected to say that Dendreon’s trials had failed to meet their “two primary end-points.” To this, the FDA’s representative on the panel, Cecilia Witten, remarked that the FDA was aware that the trials failed to meet its two primary endpoints, but that was not the issue. The issue was whether the evidence suggested that Dendreon’s treatment saved lives.

“You know,” Witten said. “We’re given the application based on survival.”

The chairman of the panel resumed with the same question. “Again I’ll read it,” he said. “Does the submitted data establish the efficacy…?”

Thus began the voting. Dr. Scher quickly voted, “No.” So did another physician, Dr. Maha Hussain, and two other doctors. But confusion reigned.

One panelist, a certain Dr. Alexander, said, “So that’s – so my vote is, I don’t know what you would call that…”

A Dr. Chamberlain said, “Well, so I guess at this point I’m not sure how to answer this question. It’s not a yes or no question in my opinion the way it’s phrased. With the safety data and with what we’ve seen, I see no reason not to make this drug available, but I don’t think it’s 100 percent proven that it’s efficacious.”

A Dr. Chappell said, “There’s a degree of belief, and ‘establish’ implies much more certainty…you need please, to specify, at least to me, what you mean.”

A Dr. Alexander piped in, “Like is it a reasonable doubt, a shadow of a doubt?”

At this, there was a lot of mumbling and some laughter. Finally, the FDA’s representative clarified. “Yes,” she said, “the regulatory definition is ‘provide substantial evidence.’ So that’s our standard. Is there substantial evidence that it works…”

The chairman of the committee responded, “So just to clarify what you’re asking, is there substantial evidence that the product is efficacious?”

“Yes,” said the FDA’s representative.

That resolved any doubts, and 13 of the 17 doctors on the panel confidently voted “Yes.”  That is to say, when the doctors voted on the correct question – the question that was stipulated by law, as opposed to the question that had been tampered with — the overwhelming consensus was that Dendreon’s treatment should be approved.

* * * CHAPTER 10 * * *

On April 20, three weeks after the advisory panel vote, and one week after Dr. Scher’s missive appeared in The Cancer Letter, Forbes journalist Matthew Herper published a story arguing that there was a good chance the FDA would not approve Dendreon’s cancer treatment outright. “If the agency wants to ask Dendreon for more data, it certainly has some outs,” Herper wrote. “The FDA changed the wording of the question…”

Three days later, Dr. Maha Hussain, one of the panel doctors who, along with Dr. Scher, had quickly voted “No” on the bogus question, wrote a letter to the FDA arguing that Dendreon’s treatment should not be approved. This letter, like Dr. Scher’s, was addressed to FDA commissioners and was presumably confidential. And this letter, like Dr. Sher’s, found its way to The Cancer Letter, which posted it for all to see just three days after it was written.

Dr. Hussain’s arguments were precisely the same as those employed by Dr. Scher and the whispering folks on Wall Street. “The recommendations for approval…are based on data that can only be characterized as best as ‘suggestive’ of possible benefit,” she wrote. “From the scientific and procedural aspects, in general, it would seem that at the end of the day what should determine a positive verdict in any therapeutic trial is the strength of the evidence as critically reviewed by an Advisory Committee…with clear guidance on the question posed to the committee within the framework of the regulatory guidelines and requirements of the FDA for approval.” [Italics mine]

That is, Dr. Hussain—like Dr. Scher, the singing Sendek, and whoever was feeding the journalist Matthew Herper–was suggesting that the FDA panel had voted on the “wrong question.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Aschoff, the physician-impersonating financial analyst who’d set a target for Dendreon’s stock price to reach a mere $1.50, was telling journalists that the FDA panel would not have voted to approve Dendreon’s treatment if it weren’t for the “substantial” rewording of “the question.” On April 25, Aschoff issued another damaging report, this one asserting, once again, that the FDA would ignore its panel because the panel had voted on the “wrong question.”

By this time Dendreon supporters were busily circulating transcripts showing that the FDA panelists had, in fact, voted on the legal question. The supporters had also discovered Dr. Scher’s ties to Novacea, Cougar Biotechnology, Proquest, and Michael Milken, and began explaining to all and sundry that ProQuest and Novacea would cash in if Dendreon were not approved. Moreover, the supporters had revealed that Dr. Hussain, the second letter writer, had also done work for the Milken-invested Novacea, and was a member of the “Therapeutic Consortium” of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation.

On April 26, Matthew Herper of Forbes published another article – this one repeating the arguments in Dr. Hussain’s letter. Herper, who had been told about Scher’s conflicts of interest, had apparently decided to investigate. This investigation seemed to have involved nothing more than asking Dr. Scher if he had any conflicts of interest. In his April 26 article, Herper reported that Scher’s spokesman said “that Scher had nothing to do with his letter leaking [and appearing in The Cancer Letter], and that he knew of no family members who would benefit financially either way if Provenge were approved.”

To reinforce Dr. Scher’s credibility, and to make Dendreon’s supporters look silly, Herper added that the supporters had alleged that “Scher’s wife works for a hedge fund that might be short Dendreon…This is not true. She works in human resources for a nursing home company that could not conceivably benefit materially from any news about Dendreon.”

Aside from ignoring Scher’s ties to Milken’s ProQuest Investments, which would profit handsomely if Dendreon were not approved, Herper misconstrued the information about Scher’s wife. The truth was, Dendreon’s supporters had revealed that Scher’s wife had a cousin, Barry Lafer, who was a hedge fund manager. Phone records legally obtained by Deep Capture show that Scher called Lafer, at his office, on April 23, while Herper’s article was in the works.

But the main point of Herper’s article was that “all this debate” (i.e. the Wall Street whispering and the conjectures of two conflicted doctors) made “Dendreon an even riskier stock than other biotechs.” Herper added that according to unnamed “others,” Dendreon’s “studies do not rise to the level usually required for approval.”

Besides being false, this was another way of suggesting that the FDA panelists, all experts in their field, voted in favor of Dendreon because they had misunderstood the standards for approval.

They had been asked the “wrong question.”

* * * * * * * *

On April 29, Bloomberg News reported that Dendreon’s shares were being sold at “a record pace” as investors “bet the company’s experimental prostate-cancer drug will fail to win approval from U.S. regulators.”

Then, on May 4, there was yet another letter.  This one was from a University of Washington biostatistician named Dr. Thomas Fleming. It is perhaps noteworthy that Fleming had done work for Gerson Lehrman, an outfit that is owned by former hedge fund managers.

Gerson Lehrman has a remarkable business model which can best be described as “institutionalized bribery.” Clients, mostly hedge funds, hire Gerson to put doctors and other experts on the payroll. In exchange for the payments, the doctors agree to provide hedge funds with “insight” (some say they provide inside information) about clinical trials of drugs that are marketed by public companies. The doctors also agree to talk to reporters (and perhaps also to the FDA) about these drugs.

In one famous case that pit generic drug manfuacturer Biovail against Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital and other hedge funds in his network, it was clearly established that doctors hired by Gerson Lehrman on behalf of the hedge funds actually lied to reporters (which could well explain, of course, why they were hired).

Like the letters from Dr. Scher and Dr. Hussain, within days of its creation Dr. Fleming’s missive miraculously ended up in the hands of The Cancer Letter, which eagerly published it.

“Reportedly Scher felt motivated to write the letter after being kept awake the night following the [advisory panel],” wrote Dr. Fleming. “I also was kept awake the night following the panel.”

In addition to knowing about Dr. Scher’s sleeping habits, Dr. Fleming shared Dr. Scher’s concern that approving Dendron’s treatment might derail Asentar, the drug that was being developed by Milken’s Novacea. How “could one defend internal consistency at FDA if [Provenge] were to be approved before the [Asentar] trial?” Fleming asked.

By this time, Dendreon’s supporters (a rambunctious bunch) were screaming and howling about the dishonesty of those who had suggested that the advisory panel had been asked the “wrong question.” So the party line changed a bit. Now it was that the panelists who had voted in Dendreon’s favor must have been somehow confused. Dendreon trials did not “provide ‘substantial evidence of efficacy’, Dr. Fleming wrote. “Rather at best, these trials provide plausibility of efficacy…”

I’ll leave it to the reader to parse the difference between “plausibility” and “substantial evidence.” But clearly, this letter was yet another strange occurrence.

Four days later – May 8, 2007 — the FDA told Dendreon that it was, for now, rejecting the company’s application for Provenge, a paradigm-shattering vaccine for those terminally ill with prostate cancer.

* * * * * * * *

The SEC’s partial data shows that more than 12 million Dendreon shares “failed to deliver” on May 10, 2007.  Given that traders are permitted three days to produce stock before their trades are registered as “failures to deliver,” it is clear that hedge funds had sold the 12 million shares of phantom stock on May 7 — the day before the FDA made its decision. This suggests that criminals were aware of this imminent decision. Of course, we do not know who the criminals were because, as far as the SEC is concerned, naked short selling is a big secret.

But we do know that a mere 10 hedge funds held large numbers of put options (a bet that the stock price would fall) as of March 31, a few days after the advisory panel’s nearly unanimous vote in Dendreon’s favor. Obviously, these were hedge funds with remarkable foresight concerning a long-shot event (the FDA’s decision to go against the overwhelming recommendation of its advisory panel to approve a drug for terminally ill cancer patients).

Seven of those hedge funds belong to a mischievous Wall Street network that is known for its foresight. Several of those seven hedge funds have been implicated in naked short selling infractions. And whenever any of these hedge funds have targeted a company, the company has inevitably been victimized by somebody producing a great deal of phantom stock.

Five of these hedge funds I have already named. All have ties to Michael Milken or his close associates. Some have ties to the Mafia. They are: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Perceptive Advisors, Millennium Capital, Steve Cohen’s Sigma Capital, and Pequot Capital.

In preparation for naming the sixth, we need to hearken back to September 2001, when two airplanes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, one airplane crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth dove into a field in Pennsylvania. On the day before that attack, a short seller named Anthony Elgindy called his broker and ordered him to liquidate one of his accounts, giving the explanation that a big event was about to occur. Mr. Elgindy said that on the following day (that is, on September 11, 2001) the market was going to  lose two-thirds of its value.

After the 9-11 attacks, that broker notified the FBI of Elgindy’s eerie prediction, and the FBI launched an investigation. In the course of this investigation, the government learned that Elgindy had sold massive amounts of phantom stock, and that he routinely blackmailed and threatened companies that he was selling short. The government also learned that Elgindy had ties to terrorist outfits in the Middle East, and for a time prosecutors argued in court that Elgindy had advance knowledge of the 9-11 disaster.

Ultimately, though, Elgindy was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison for the more demonstrable crimes of stock manipulation and paying bribes to two FBI officials who fed him information from the FBI’s National Crime Information System (one of those FBI agents actually kept Elgindy informed of the progress of the investigation into Elgindy’s connection to the 9-11 attacks). In June, 2009, it was learned that the SEC’s inspector general had begun investigating SEC officials who are also alleged to have collaborated with Elgindy, either by providing inside information on commission investigations, or launching destructive, dead-end investigations of companies that Elgindy was selling short.

Elgindy, like Bernard Madoff  (the Dendreon short and Ponzi schemer who helped write the SEC’s rules on naked short selling), is believed to have ties to organized crime. He once worked for a now-defunct Mafia-connected brokerage called Blinder Robinson (known on the Street as Blind’em, Rob-em), and a source close to the Elgindy investigation has told Deep Capture that, shortly before Elgindy appeared for sentencing, Russian mobsters forced Elgindy to saw off the tip of one of his own fingers as a reminder not to squeal on other members of his network.

There is evidence – including transcripts of Elgindy’s private Internet message board – that shows that Elgindy routinely attacked public companies in collaboration with certain hedge fund managers. A significant number of these hedge fund managers were part of the Milken network.

One of them was Jeffery Thorp, whose father once worked with the Genovese organized crime family to develop a method for cheating Las Vegas casinos. The government’s investigation of Elgindy eventually led to Thorp, who was charged in 2006 with providing fraudulent “death spiral” PIPEs financing to 22 companies. The SEC’s case, one of the rare instances in which the commission has identified a naked short seller by name, makes it clear that Thorp sold massive amounts of phantom stock, ultimately destroying the 22 companies that had received his fraudulent PIPEs.

Recall that similar “death spiral” PIPEs were arranged by Carl Icahn’s Ladenburg Thalmann, ending in the phantom stock ruination of more than 20 companies. Icahn is the “prominent” investor who owes his status as a billionaire to Michael Milken and the Mafia-connected Zev Wolfson. Icahn is also the “prominent” investor who, along with Ziff Brothers and Steve Cohen, called ImClone immediately before The Cancer Letter published the “leaked” news of an FDA decision.  And Icahn is the “prominent” investor whose Mafia-connected former employee was the last man to see Alain Chalem (a Mafia-connected naked short seller) before Chalem’s head was riddled with bullets by Russian mobsters.

Do you still not believe that this network has ties to the Mob? Consider that Thorp’s father, in addition to working for the Genovese organized crime family, was the single most important player in the stock manipulation network that Milken operated in the 1980s.

The father, Edward Thorp, ran a hedge fund called Princeton-Newport. The FBI eventually raided that operation, hauling away phone recordings and documents. Thorp was not ultimately charged, but the evidence that the FBI retrieved that day featured prominently in the prosecution’s 98-count indictment of Milken. Indeed, people who worked on the case say that the Princeton Newport evidence was far more important to the prosecution than the testimony of Milken’s more famous co-conspirator, Ivan Boesky.

Boesky is widely credited with putting Milken away, but actually he provided the authorities with very little information. When asked to provide more, Boesky told the authorities that he feared that he would be killed because Milken had “friends in Las Vegas.”

Do you still not believe that people in this network employ precisely the same ruthless tactics? Consider that when the FBI investigated Elgindy, it also stumbled upon a hedge fund called Gryphon Partners. One of Gryphon’s portfolio managers, Jonathan Daws, was eventually charged with participating in various short selling schemes hatched by Elgindy and his bribed FBI agent. In pleading guilty, Daws said, “others at Gryphon made trades in some of the relevant stocks, independent of me, and not at my direction.” Daws was convicted.  No charges were immediately filed against Gryphon.

However, in 2006, the SEC sued Gryphon for providing fraudulent “death spiral” PIPEs financing to 35 companies. Like Thorp and the hedge funds introduced by Carl Icahn’s Ladenburg Thalmann, Gryphon provided its PIPEs financing knowing that it would cause stock prices to fall. The hedge fund then hammered the companies with naked short selling, sending their stocks into “death spirals.” Most of the 35 companies were destroyed.

So, at this point in the story, we have identified more than 70 companies that have been vaporized by “prominent” investors, all part of the same network.

At any rate, Gryphon Partners, the Elgindy-connected, PIPEs-financing, 35 company-destroying, SEC-sued, naked short selling “death spiral” finance house, was founded by G. Stacy Smith and Reid S. Walker, two “prominent” investors who have since gone on to greater things. They now run a hedge fund called WS Ventures.

And WS Ventures is the sixth of our seven “colorful” hedge funds that had the foresight to own large numbers of put options in Dendreon at the end of March 2007, just after the seemingly fantastic news that the advisory panel had voted overwhelmingly in Dendreon’s favor; and during the period when criminal naked short sellers (don’t know who they were; the SEC keeps that a big secret) were pounding Dendreon with phantom stock; and just before the disastrous news that the FDA had, for the first time in history, rejected the advice of its own advisory panel to approve a treatment for terminally ill patients.

A few months after that remarkable attack, Dendreon, on the verge of collapse and desperate for money to support its sabotaged prostate cancer treatment, went ahead and signed a deal to receive its first “death spiral” PIPEs finance.

* * * CHAPTER 11 * * *

Who in the government helped sabotage Dendreon? Despite the lobbying by the captured doctors, despite the Wall Street whispering, despite the singing Sendek and the media mimics — despite all of this, it still seemed likely that the FDA would heed the advice of its advisory panel.

Instead, the FDA told Dendreon that it would not yet approve its treatment — that the company had to get more data, which would take years, by which time the company could easily run out of money. The FDA handed Dendreon (and prostate cancer patients) what seemed like a death sentence. This was a strange occurrence. It must have followed some serious work by government officials in high places.

One official who might have advocated against Dendreon was then FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, who was a close ally of Michael Milken. Dr. von Eschenbach was a founding director of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation, and later he was at the forefront of an ultimately unsuccessful effort to convince George Bush to grant a presidential pardon forgiving Milken for his crimes. But it is clear that von Eschenbach was not the only official courted by Milken and his associates.

Long before I came along, an assortment of Dendreon shareholders, prostate cancer patients, honest folks on Wall Street (there are some), and concerned citizens spotted the connections among Milken, ProQuest and the captured doctors who led the lobbying effort against Dendreon. When the FDA failed to approve Provenge, these folks saw that an injustice had been done, and they hollered loudly. Soon after, a grass roots organization called Care-to-Live was founded to advocate on Dendreon’s behalf.

Care-to-Live (to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for uncovering some of the information that appears in this story) has not only chronicled Dendreon’s travails, but has also labored tirelessly to right the wrongs.  It has organized street protests and letter-writing campaigns. It has lodged Freedom of Information Act requests and it has filed a lawsuit against the FDA. In the course of these efforts, it managed to get a hold of various documents and email communications between Dr. Scher (the physician with financial ties to Milken’s companies and “philanthropy”) and officials in the government bureaucracy.

What these documents and emails show is that Dr. Scher and his allies depended largely on support from a mid-level FDA employee and a key employee at the National Cancer Institute, which oversees government funding of cancer initiatives, and has considerable, though unofficial, influence over FDA decisions. Over the years, Milken and his Prostate Cancer Foundation have made great efforts to ingratiate themselves with the NCI, which may be one reason why Dendreon was never able to receive government funding, despite the revolutionary potential of its treatment.

On March 31, 2007, Alison Martin, who was in charge of the prostate cancer division of the National Cancer Institute, emailed Dr. Scher, who was busy crafting the missive that would be published with mysterious immediacy by The Cancer Letter. “Glad to hear letter is being drafted,” Martin wrote. “If that [FDA] division’s vote suggests [that Dendreon’s treatment] be considered for approval, I was wondering if it then could go to ODAC, which is more clinically savvy, i.e. this is just a step in a process.”

The “division” whose possible approval of Dendreon’s treatment so discomfited Dr. Martin was the FDA’s Center for Biologic Evaluation & Research (CBER), which was assigned the task of evaluating Dendreon’s application. Martin was suggesting that if CBER was going to approve Provenge, perhaps the matter could be taken to ODAC – the FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee, which was led by an FDA official named Dr. Richard Pazdur.

Pazdur has a close relationship with a Washington lobbyist named Samuel D. Turner. Some years ago, Turner, who helps run an organization called the Cancer Leadership Council, led a campaign to have Pazdur appointed as the commissioner of the FDA. Michael Milken supported that campaign. And Milken’s advisors, such as Dr. Donald Coffey of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, have collaborated closely with Turner in another cancer lobbying group called C-Change, of which the Cancer Leadership Council is an affiliate.

As a result of this support, Milken and Pazdur have become very close friends.

Some years ago, a U.S. Congressional investigation determined that Pazdur, through his lobbyist friend Turner, had leaked inside information that the FDA was going to reject Erbitux, a cancer drug that was developed by ImClone. As you will recall, that inside information made its way to Martha Stewart, setting in motion the chain of events that landed her in jail. The ImClone inside information also was first published in The Cancer Letter, the same rag that published Dr. Scher’s “confidential” letter to the FDA.  And, remember, the records of phone calls made to ImClone at that time raise the distinct possibility that funds managed by Milken cronies Carl Icahn, Steve Cohen, and Dirk Ziff also were privy to that information before it was made public.

As an aside, after ImClone’s stock crashed on the news, the company was seized by Milken crony Carl Icahn. And soon after Martha Stewart received the inside information, but before she was caught, hedge funds in the Milken network began short selling Martha Stewart’s company, Martha Stewart Living Omnivision. One hypothesis that explains the exquisite timing of those hedge funds is that the funds knew Martha was going to be arrested and therefore shorted her company on the assumption that news of her arrest would crash the stock. They may even have been the ones who turned her in.  But that is a story for another time.

For now, it merely needs to be emphasized that Pazdur, the FDA official, has unusually close relationships with Milken and some of his cronies. He was a key player in the ImClone scandal, which displays remarkable similarities (such as insider information mysteriously appearing in The Cancer Letter and the involvement of hedge funds in the Milken network) to the Dendreon scandal. And with the apparent encouragement of Dr. Scher and Alison Martin at the National Cancer Institute, Pazdur appears to have played a key role in derailing Dendreon’s prostate cancer treatment.

Pazdur was not supposed to be the one who decided whether Dendreon’s drug was approved. Instead, because the drug is a biologic, the decision rested with the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER). Nonetheless, Pazdur inserted himself into the decision process. It was at Pazdur’s behest that Dr. Scher and Dr. Hussain were, despite their ties to competing companies controlled by Milken’s funds and friends, appointed to the advisory panel that voted on Dendreon’s application.

As you will recall, Dr. Scher and Dr. Hussain were among the four panelists who quickly voted “No” to the incorrectly phrased question about Dendreon’s effectiveness. When the phrasing was changed to the correct, legally mandated question ( Is there “substantial evidence” that the drug reduces mortality?) the remaining 13 experts on the panel voted “Yes.”

According to eyewitnesses, just as panelists began noticing that there was something strange about the question they were being asked, Pazdur began passing notes to Dr. Maha Hussain, who then attempted to instill further confusion, apparently hoping that the panelists would continue voting on the incorrectly phrased question. Pazdur, who had come to the meeting uninvited and unannounced, also spent a good deal of time conversing with Dr. Hussain, giving the impression that they were working together to devise arguments that might turn the panel against Dendreon.

Curious to know whether it was Pazdur who ultimately derailed Dendreon’s application, perhaps even delivering the captured doctors’ “confidential” letters to The Cancer Letter – and wondering whether this had anything to do with Pazdur’s relationship with Michael Milken — Care-to-Live, as part of its lawsuit against the FDA, subpoenaed Pazdur’s relevant emails and documents.

Pazdur responded under oath as follows: “I searched both my paper and computer files and was unable to locate any documents that were responsive to Plaintiff’s requests. I recall receiving…these letters…However, as these letters related to a specific regulatory application conducted by a different FDA Center (CBER), did not fall under my direct regulatory supervision…I shredded my hard copies of these letters and deleted any electronic copies. The documents were shredded and deleted within a month of receipt.”

This response was strange. For one, Pazdur seemed to be stating that he had no involvement in the Dendreon decision. If that were the case, what was he doing at the advisory panel meeting?  Pazdur’s statement also contradicted an earlier statement from the FDA. In response to complaints that Pazdur had participated in a decision that was supposed to be left to the CBER division, the FDA said that he had done so “at CBER’s request.” Clearly, Pazdur had been involved in the decision, so it was disingenuous for him to state otherwise in his efforts to explain why he had (frantically?) shredded and deleted all the relevant documents.

Moreover, if Pazdur is telling the truth (and not, that is, simply obstructing justice), then Pazdur violated the spirit of various initiatives, including a bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and directives from the Archivist of the United States, aimed at ensuring that government employees maintain records of their official business. The reason that government officials are asked to keep good records is that they are sometimes involved in controversies – controversies such as the one that was swirling around Dendreon’s FDA application when Pazdur began shredding and deleting documents so promptly and thoroughly.

In any case, most of the documents that Care-to-Live requested had been transmitted electronically, meaning that a simple computer excavation could have retrieved them, even if they were deleted. Clearly, Dr. Pazdur had reason not to hand over those documents. Perhaps he was advised not to by his lawyer, who happens also to be the same lawyer who represents The Cancer Letter, the rag that published the “confidential” letters that Dr. Scher and Dr. Hussain wrote to Dr. Pazdur and FDA commissioners.

Fortunately, Alison Martin of the National Cancer Institute did not shred everything – she handed over at least some of her documents. And the email quoted above strongly suggests that her plan was to get Dendreon’s application out of the hands of the designated authority, CBER, and into the hands of Richard Pazdur. In response to that email, Dr. Scher wrote to Martin that he, too, would try to have Dendreon’s application “reviewed by ODAC” (which was controlled by Pazdur). In a follow-up email, Dr. Scher wrote: “Got a minute for quick question related to FDA processes?”

A minute later, Martin responded: “Consider this confidential, please…but I wanted you to know.” As to what confidential information she delivered to Scher, that is unclear from the documents received by Care-to-Live. Perhaps the telling documents were also promptly shredded.

But other documents and emails show that by early April, 2007, as the hedge funds were building up their short positions, Martin was fully engaged in helping Dr. Scher draft his letter trashing Dendreon — the “confidential” letter to the FDA that would be quickly published by The Cancer Letter. Indeed, a copy of a half-edited draft of Dr. Scher’s letter was found on Martin’s computer. And in one email, Martin appears to complain about all the work she has done on this letter. “Maybe you should write a letter, too,” she jokes.

So an employee of the federal government was helping a conflicted doctor lobby the federal government. That is, Martin, the head of the prostate cancer unit at the National Cancer Institute, was helping a doctor – a doctor with financial ties to Michael Milken and to a competing, Milken-invested company — sabotage Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer.

As news of this started to reach Dendreon’s supporters, Martin left her job at the National Cancer Institute. Soon after, she was appointed president and chief executive officer of the Melanoma Research Alliance (where one  can safely suppose her compensation exceeds her previous government salary).

The Melanoma Research Alliance was a brand new “philanthropic” outfit. It had just been set up by a “prominent philanthropist.”

The name of the “prominent philanthropist” is, of course, Michael Milken.

Milken founded the Melanoma Research Alliance and hired Alison Martin with an initial grant from Leon Black, the “prominent” billionaire and Milken crony who does business with an alleged Russian mobster named Felix Sater.

Sater, remember, is the fellow who allegedly was behind the threat to have Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne murdered if Patrick did not end his crusade against abusive short selling and the “deep capture” of the nation’s regulatory bodies.

* * * * * * * *

On May 11, three days after the FDA failed to approve Dendreon’s treatment, The Wall Street Journal published a report that purported to investigate the allegations that the government approval process had been compromised. This “investigation” entailed asking Dr. Scher whether he had any conflicts of interest.

“’I try to keep to the high ground,’” Dr. Scher told The Journal. Apparently content with his reply, and eager to assuage any suspicions that something nefarious had gone down, The Journal added that Dr. Scher “serves as an advisor to Innovive, a small biotech not involved in prostate cancer, and works with Bristol-Myers Squibb in an unpaid capacity on early stage drugs that may hold promise in prostate cancer. He and his wife hold small amounts of stock in Biogen, Idec and Pfizer.”

That was it. According to the Journal, Scher had no conflicts of interest.

The Journal did not mention that Dr. Scher was a board member and executive of  Milken’s ProQuest Investments. It did not mention the fact that ProQuest was heavily invested in Novacea, a Dendreon competitor. It did not mention that Dr. Scher was leading the trials of Novacea’s prostate cancer drug, or that he was a paid director on the advisory board of another Dendreon competitor – Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald’s Cougar Biotechnology. And it did not mention that Dr. Scher was leading clinical trials for yet another Dendreon competitor, Cell Genesys, which, like Cougar and Novacea, was supported by Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation, whose “Therapeutic Consortium” was chaired by none other than Dr. Scher.

The Wall Street Journal did not mention any of this, despite the fact that concerned citizens had plastered the information all over the Internet.

Four days after the Journal article appeared– May 15, 2007 – the FDA issued new guidelines for evaluating immunotherapy agents, such as Dendreon’s treatment. Now it was official – Pazdur’s division would have some influence.

This seemed like the FDA was papering over a scandal. If Pazdur had violated the guidelines by influencing the Dendreon decision, now the FDA could say that, in fact, there were new guidelines, and Pazdur had followed them (never mind that the new guidelines were written one week after the FDA failed to approve Dendreon’s treatment, possibly because Pazdur had violated the old guidelines).

* * * * * * * *

Just a few weeks after the FDA said it would not yet approve Dendreon’s treatment, it was easier to understand why Dr. Scher, Milken and their allies were so eager to see Dendreon fail. On May 30, 2007, Novacea, the company whose largest investors were Milken’s ProQuest Investments and the affiliated Domain Associates, announced that it had signed a $500 million deal to jointly develop its prostate cancer treatment with pharmaceutical giant Schering Plough. Within 24 hours, Novacea’s stock price jumped 86 percent.

In subsequent days, the business media reported this “news” as if it were not just a business triumph, but also a major breakthrough in the world of medicine. “On Tuesday, Novacea was just another young biotech, with a modest market capitalization of $187 million,” enthused Forbes magazine. “That all changed on Wednesday when the drug maker announced it had signed a deal worth over $500 million with pharma juggernaut Schering-Plough.”

Forbes added that Novacea’s treatment “appears to significantly increase the chance of survival among androgen-independent prostate cancer patients…”

As this $500 million figure and news of Novacea’s medical miracle made its way around the other news organizations, and appeared everywhere on the Internet, Novacea’s stock continued to soar.

Nobody in the media paused to consider whether a “$500 million deal” constitutes a medical breakthrough (like, for example, reducing mortality by 20% in late-stage prostate cancer patients, as Dendreon had done). The assumption was, if there is big money and the stock is soaring, the company’s prostate cancer treatment must be good.

Furthermore, nobody in the media paused to consider that had Dendreon received approval for its competing treatment, this “$500 million deal” would almost certainly not have happened. Nor did anybody in the media report that the people (Milken and friends) who stymied Dendreon were the same people who stood to profit from this purported “$500 million” deal.

At any rate, the deal was not quite what it was made out to be. Novacea did not receive $500 million. It received $60 million up front. Meanwhile, Schering-Plough was given $12 million worth of Novacea stock at a bargain price. By cashing out of the stock after it soared in value, Schering-Plough could significantly reduce that upfront investment. The rest of the much-trumpeted $500 million was dependent on Novacea’s clinical trials showing that its cancer treatment actually improved the health of patients.

Sure enough, just a few months later, in November 2007, Novacea announced that the clinical trial of its treatment had been terminated “due to an unexplained imbalance of deaths…” In other words, Novacea’s drug was not improving the health of patients. It was killing patients. And as soon as this news was released, the much-heralded $500 million Schering-Plough deal was cancelled.

Either shortly before or soon after the trials were terminated due to an “imbalance of deaths,” Milken’s ProQuest Investments and Domain Associates sold their stock in Novacea. Given the enormous boost the stock price had received after the “$500 million” news, it appears that  ProQuest and Domain (i.e. Michael Milken and friends) sold their stock at a significant profit.

So the questions remain: Did Dr. Scher (who worked for ProQuest and lead Novacea’s clinical trials) really believe that Novacea’s treatment was superior, as he claimed during his successful campaign to get the FDA to reject Dendreon’s drug? Did Michael Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation, which was an extension of ProQuest and snubbed its nose at Dendreon’s treatment, really believe that there were better treatments in the pipeline?

Did ProQuest and its affiliate Domain, which founded Novacea, ever care about producing a marketable drug? Or was Novacea a scam? A scam that was built on real science (though Dr. Scher was less than upfront about the results of his clinical trials, his efforts to develop Novacea’s treatment were no doubt sincere). A scam that was more sophisticated than those perpetrated by the bucket shops of yore, and whose every component may have been technically legal.

But nonetheless a scam – an old-fashioned pump and dump scam.

* * * CHAPTER 12 * * *

“Black Wednesday at the FDA.”

That is how Dr. Mark Thornton, a former medical officer in the FDA’s Office of Oncology Products, described the FDA’s decision not to approve Dendreon’s Provenge. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Thornton described vaccines such as Provenge as the “Holy Grail of cancer treatment.”  Without directly referring to anyone by name, Dr. Thorton described Dr. Scher’s lobbying effort as “arrogant” and “unprecedented.”

Dr. Thornton added that when the FDA succumbed to that lobbying, “the dawn of a new era in cancer immunotherapy was driven back into the night. It will be years before we know the full impact of these decisions and how many cancer patients…have had their lives cut short as a result.”

This scandal infuriated many other physicians and patient advocates (with  the exception of those affiliated with Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation). Some Dendreon supporters took to the streets.

On June 2, 2007, there was a protest in front of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Two days later, several prostate cancer advocacy groups rallied in Washington. On June 6, there was yet another protest, this one attended by still more physicians who demanded to know why the FDA had failed to approve Dendreon’s treatment.

“I’d like to explain in the most basic of terms,” said Dr. Mark Moyad of the University of Michigan medical school, at the June 6 rally. “We think a mistake has been made. We are here in a friendly way to start the process of correcting that mistake.”

That word — “friendly” – seems to me to perfectly describe Dendreon’s supporters. I might add  “intelligent,” and “fair,” and “engaged.”  But the mainstream media played its customary role by portraying such advocates as vexatious wackos (notwithstanding the fact that many of Dendreon’s supporters were respected physicians).

“Oncologists do not usually need bodyguards…” began a story in the Washington Post, which was all about the Dendreon “controversy.”  The gist of this story was that people advocating for prostate cancer patients might somehow be dangerous – that it was strange how vocal they were, it was strange that they used the Internet to get the word out – and Dr. Scher (the physician who helped derail Dendreon) feared for his safety. He had even received some “threats.”

Nowhere in the story was it suggested that a great many prominent doctors were saying that the FDA had made a “mistake” in failing to approve Dendreon’s application. Nowhere was it mentioned that Dr. Scher played a significant role in engineering this “mistake.”  And nowhere was it mentioned that Dr. Scher was egregiously conflicted due to his financial ties to Michael Milken’s investment fund and Dendreon’s competitors, Novacea and Cougar Biotechnology.

Essentially identical stories appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Seattle Times, and on CNBC. Every one of these media outfits portrayed Dendreon’s supporters as potentially dangerous lunatics. Every one of them stated unequivocally that Dr. Scher had been “threatened.”  Yet, not one of them specifically described the threats, and as far as I can ascertain, there were no “threats.”

Clearly, there was a new party line – Dr. Scher was the victim. Given the near verbatim repetition of this party line in so many newspapers, and given my experience working in the mainstream media, I can say with near certainty that this was the work of an orchestrated public relations campaign – a campaign to distract attention from what was really happening to Dendreon.

Meanwhile, Dendreon remained one of the most manipulated stocks on Nasdaq. On the day that the Washington Post story appeared, SEC data showed that criminal naked short sellers had sold, and failed to deliver, more than 13 million Dendreon shares. Following the mainstream media’s standard operating procedures, no mention was made of this phantom stock in any of the stories on the Dendreon “controversy.”

* * * * * * * *

By June of 2007, Dendreon’s stock price was averaging around $7 – down from its early April high of $25. There was no way the company could raise more money on the stock market, and so it had to significantly scale back its work on Neuvenge, a promising treatment that fought breast cancer in the same way that Provenge fought prostate cancer. In order to get enough cash to continue work on Provenge, Dendreon issued over $100 million worth of convertible bonds.

Sometimes, hedge funds that buy a company’s convertible bonds are well-intentioned – they want the company to succeed so that the company can repay the loan.

But, often, hedge funds that buy convertible bonds do not have the company’s best interests at heart. Indeed, Deep Capture has obtained an internal client presentation given by a well-known investment bank that states that the single largest segment of investors in convertible bonds are hedge funds that actually intend to increase their bets against the companies that they are financing.

A convertible bond is debt that can be “converted” into stock. A hedge fund lends a company, say, $100 million. As repayment, the hedge fund can either receive the $100 million plus interest at maturity, or instead it can receive, say, 10 million shares in the company.

If the share price is $8 at the time of the loan, those 10 million shares would be worth $80 million. But if the share price rises to $20, the hedge fund can convert his $100 million loan into $200 million worth of stock. If the hedge fund manager is a value investor who wishes the company well, he will make his loan and wait for the stock to rise.

But there are various ways that convertible bonds can be put to malevolent use. Suppose a group of hedge funds have launched a full scale short selling attack against a company, but the hedge funds want to short sell even more stock.  To do that legally, the hedge funds must first locate more stock to borrow, and then sell it. But sometimes there is simply no more stock available for short sellers to borrow.

Now, suppose the share price has already been significantly hammered, so the company can no longer raise money through the stock market. The hedge funds know this. And the hedge funds are important clients of an investment bank. So the hedge funds and the investment bank hatch a plan.

It works like this: the investment bank tells the victim company that it can resolve the company’s cash problems by brokering a convertible bond offering. If the company agrees, the investment bank says, “great, but there’s just one hitch – you, the company, have to lend us, the investment bank, the shares that the company would normally keep on hand in case the bond holders convert.”

To assuage any fears, the investment bank might promise the company that it will not re-lend those shares to short sellers, but will merely sell them to long buyers – people who want to invest in the company. The company says, “fine,” and issues, say, $100 million worth of debt convertible to 10 million shares. The company also agrees to that “hitch” — so now the investment bank has wangled a “stock loan” agreement that gives it exclusive rights to borrow those 10 million shares until such time as the bond holders convert.

Meanwhile, the investment bank returns to that group of hedge funds, who agree to buy the convertible bonds as a means to extricating those 10 million shares from the company. Once the investment bank is in possession of those shares, it cannot (at least according to its agreement with the company) lend them to the hedge funds for purposes of short selling. But it can do one better. It can broker swap contracts that oblige counterparties to pay the hedge funds a certain amount of money in the event that the company’s stock price decreases in value.

Then, the investment bank dumps those 10 million shares into the market all at once, causing the stock price to further collapse. Meanwhile, the hedge funds and the investment bank might be engaging in naked short selling – selling stock that has never been borrowed by anybody (i.e. stock that does not exist).

If anyone asks about this illegal naked short selling, the hedge funds say they thought they had “a locate” on stock that they could borrow and deliver. If anyone asks the hedge funds to be more specific, the hedge funds say that they had “located” and planned to borrow those 10 million shares that the investment bank had borrowed from the victim company. If the SEC notes that the investment bank had an agreement not to lend those shares to short sellers, the hedge funds say they didn’t know about that.

Of course, the SEC rarely asks any of these questions, but the convertible bonds provide some immunity, just in case.

As the stock price hits rock bottom, the company depletes the cash it raised from the bond offering. And the only way for the company to receive new funding is to issue more convertible bonds to the hedge funds, or do one of those dreaded “death sprial” PIPE deals.

If this were a game of chess, it would now be “check” for the hedge funds. The company knows that its stock price and its financing depend entirely on the hedge funds, which are put in the position of being able to drive (and trade ahead of) the company’s business decisions. This scheme might even allow a set of hedge funds to take control of, say, a $700 million company, for a $100 million loan.

With the exception of the naked short selling, most of this scheme’s elements can be found in the standard PowerPoint presentations that some banks deliver to their hedge fund clients behind closed doors. The investment banks market the scheme as a way to profit from volatility in the stock. When the stock crashes, the hedge funds make money from the swaps and their short selling. If the stock subsequently increases in value, the hedge funds can convert their bonds and use some of the proceeds to pay the counterparties to the swaps.

But sometimes the hedge funds intend to fully destroy the company. They make plenty on their short positions and swaps, and their bonds pull in some money during the bankruptcy proceedings. Sometimes, during bankruptcy, the hedge fund lenders get their hands on company assets (such as blockbuster medical treatments) that are actually worth considerably more than what they spent on their bonds.

At other times, the ultimate goal is not to destroy the company outright, but to crash the stock, and then accumulate shares, giving the hedge funds still more influence over company decisions, and perhaps paving the way for a hostile takeover.

I do not know for certain the motivations of the hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds. I do not know if they engaged in naked short selling. After all, the identities of the naked short sellers and the real amount of failed trades they are generating are, as far as the SEC is concerned, still a big secret. Remember that the SEC says that releasing information about (illegal) naked short sales would reveal the (criminal) hedge funds’ “proprietary trading strategies.” And the SEC cannot have that.

I do know, however, that nearly every one of Dendreon’s convertible bond holders are connected in important ways to Michael Milken or the seven affiliated hedge fund managers who held large numbers of put options in Dendreon prior to the strange occurrences of March 2007. This raises the suspicion that the convertible bond holders were not typical investors (that is, investors who put in capital hoping that the company would prosper).

Instead, the fact that the buyers of the converts were part of the same network that was placing large bets against Dendreon (and taking steps, with help from Milken’s “philanthropy”, to derail Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer) raises the possibility that these bond investments were made as part of a strategy to manipulate Dendreon’s stock price down,  during which time members of this network would (with help from Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation) pump up the stock prices of Dendreon’s “competitors” – the companies controlled by Milken and his friends.

In the two years that these shenanigans were going on, 60,000 American men died of prostate cancer, which seemed to be of no concern to this particular network of miscreants. But once the competing, Milken-connected companies had been thoroughly pumped, and then dumped (on the news that their treatments were worthless), it would perhaps be time to exert greater control over the one company–Dendreon–that actually had a treatment that could extend lives.

As we will see, members of the Milken network – some of the hedge funds that bought the convertible bonds, and some of the seven hedge funds that were betting big against Dendreon in 2007 – have, as a group, recently become the company’s largest shareholders. Their precise intentions, however, remain a mystery.

While we do not have photo-perfect pictures of what was going on behind the scenes of Dendreon’s bizarre trading (the SEC does not let that get public), we do know that this paradoxical play of participating in a convertible bond in order to further a manipulative scheme against a company, is in fact a standard play on Wall Street. Given this, we would be remiss not to name the colorful hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds.

* * * * * * * *

As we have covered, Milken crony Carl Icahn founded the options department at Gruntal & Company, which owed its existence to Michael Milken and was one of the more disreputable trading houses on the Street. Ultimately, Gruntal was found to have employed several traders with ties to the Mafia, and soon after, it was charged with a massive fraud and forced to pay what was then one of the largest fines in Wall Street history.

Many of Gruntal’s former employees ended up working for White Rock Capital, which was run by the alleged Russian mobster, Felix Sater, the fellow who was allegedly behind the threat to have Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne murdered if he did not end his crusade against naked short selling and the “deep capture” of important institutions.

As we also know, when Icahn left Gruntal, he handed over direction of the options department to Milken crony Ron Aizer. The first trader Aizer hired was Steve Cohen, who was reportedly investigated by the SEC for trading on inside information provided by Milken’s shop, and later became “the most powerful trader on Wall Street” — the fourth of those seven hedge fund managers prescient enough to bet big against Dendreon before Milken’s other cronies derailed the company in 2007.

The second trader hired by Aizer was a man named Andrew Redleaf, who later went on to co-found two hedge funds — Deephaven Capital Management and Whitebox Advisors.  According to a media account posted on Whitebox’s website, Redleaf’s family kept its investment accounts at Drexel Burnham Lambert, where Michael Milken was then running his stock manipulation and junk bond empire. Redleaf was recommended to Aizer by Andy Stillman, who was then managing Drexel’s propriety options trading.

In later years, Redleaf became well-known for investing in Sun Country Airlines in partnership with Tom Petters, who was recently arrested at gunpoint amid allegations that he had orchestrated a massive Ponzi fraud in cahoots with a fellow named Michael Catain. Catain’s father, Jack Catain, was a Genovese Mafia enforcer and loan shark who had been involved, along with Michael Milken, in ZZZZ Best, a fraudulent carpet cleaning company run by Barry Minkow.

Minkow was eventually imprisoned for the ZZZZ Best fraud, and when he was released, he began a career as a self-described “fraud investigator.” He works in partnership with Sam Antar, the convicted felon who masterminded a massive fraud in the 1980s at an appliance retailer called Crazy Eddie. Antar, who is close to Milken and his network (members of which once tried to help Antar seize control of Crazy Eddie) now spends most of his time on the Internet, smearing and threatening people who work to expose the crime of naked short selling.

For example, Antar once posted on the Internet the names and address of Deep Capture reporter Judd Bagley’s young daughters. Antar writes with almost daily regularity that Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne is running a fraudulent company (Overstock.com), though he has produced nothing to support his claims, and every reputable person who has examined his arguments has concluded that they are absurd.

Meanwhile, Antar has littered the Internet with all manner of falsehoods about me—stating, for example, that I’m a drug addict and was fired from my last job. Ever the charmer, Antar has also let it be known that he is friendly with violent people, including those who once ambushed me, punched me in the face, and suggested that I should stop working with Patrick Byrne.

It is interesting to note that, these facts notwithstanding, in 2008 Fortune magazine saw fit to grace its pages with a highly flattering 2,738 word profile of Antar (“It Takes One to Know One”). Fortune did this even as it acknowledged that, “As would-be fraudbuster, Sam E. [Antar] has yet to notch his first kill. (Although in fairness he doesn’t hold himself out to be a full-time 10-Q detective. ‘I don’t have 40 people working for me like the SEC,’ he says.) He hasn’t brought any companies down or caused any regulators to open any investigations.”

That is, concerning a notorious swindler and convicted felon who threatens little girls, smears other journalists, is denounced by public officials, and who has not actually been the source of any credible investigation that Fortune can cite, Fortune published a perfectly complimentary puff piece.

As for the above-mentioned Andrew Redleaf, I noted that he is a founding partner in Deephaven Capital Management. In 2006, Deephaven was sanctioned by the SEC for short selling 19 public companies (almost all biotech firms) on inside information that his hedge fund colleagues were giving the companies “death spiral” PIPEs finance.

As you will recall, similar schemes have involved Milken crony Carl Icahn (the founder of Gruntal’s options department); Jeffrey Thorp (son of the Mafia-linked card counter who was the most important figure in Milken’s stock manipulation network during the 1980s); Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald (who used to run the Mafia-linked D.H. Blair, the president of which was Milken’s former national sales manager); and Gryphon Partners (which was tied to the Mafia-linked, nine-fingered Anthony Elgindy, a naked short seller who is now serving an 11 year sentence for stock manipulation schemes and bribing two FBI agents).

My apologies for the repetition, but there are some who are new to this, and it is difficult for even the well initiated to keep track of so many miscreants, so permit me to remind the reader that Gryphon’s founder and Lindsay Rosenwald were among the seven colorful hedge fund managers who bet big against Dendreon in March 2007, just before the company was derailed by strange occurences engineered by Milken’s cronies. Also among those seven hedge fund managers was Steve Cohen, who was, earlier in his career, investigated for trading on inside information provided by Milken’s shop, and was the first trader hired at Gruntal by Milken-crony Ron Aizer.

Andrew Redleaf, the second trader hired by Aizer at Gruntal, is, remember, not just a co-founder of Deephaven Capital (sanctioned for short selling on inside information that companies were to receive dubious financing), but also the proprietor of Whitebox Advisors.

And Whitebox Advisors is among those hedge funds that “financed” (by purchasing its convertible bonds) a company called Dendreon, which suffered a two-year, sustained naked short selling attack while trying to bring to market a treatment for dying cancer patients.

* * * * * * * *

A hedge fund called DKR Management also bought convertible bonds issued by Dendreon. DKR was founded by Barry L. Klein and Gary S. Davis. Previously, Klein worked for Michael Milken as the President of Drexel Burnham Lambert Trading. Davis also worked for Milken at Drexel.

In later years, Klein and Davis founded the predecessor to AIG Trading Group, a unit of American International Group. AIG Trading Group was later run by Joseph Cassano, who had also been a Milken employee at Drexel.

While at AIG, Cassano sold tens of billions of dollars worth of credit default swaps (contracts that pay out if a company defaults on its debt) to hedge funds and investment banks.

Rolling Stone magazine’s Matthew Taibbi, who is one of the mainstream media’s finest journalists, was among the first to establish that AIG Trading Group and Milken crony Cassano destroyed AIG, which ultimately had to be nationalized by the U.S. government – greatly contributing to the collapse of the financial system last fall. Since then, several reports have also implicated Cassano’s Milken-tied predecessors, Klein and Davis.

Meanwhile, various government investigations are seeking to know whether short sellers acquired and manipulated the prices of AIG’s credit default swaps as a way to weaken their target companies – including Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.  The question that remains unanswered is whether the short sellers that bought credit default swaps from Milken cronies Cassano, Klein and Davis were also members of the Milken network (which would mean that some members of the Milken network wrecked the world while the other members of the network bet that they would).

Another highly significant factor in the collapse of the financial system – as can be discerned from statements by countless officials and by reports in virtually every newspaper in the land, though the newspapers seem content not to investigate the matter or state this explicitly – was the naked short selling of AIG, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and hundreds of other companies.

In the years leading up to the financial cataclysm (and during the time when Dendreon was under attack by naked short sellers), certain hedge funds orchestrated an effective public relations campaign aimed at covering up the crime of naked short selling. As part of this public relations campaign, the hedge funds would regularly trot out a certain Yale professor, who would do his utmost to defend the criminals.

This professor’s favorite stratagem was to divert discussion away from illegal naked short selling, and repeat, over and over, that legal short selling was good for the markets–a fact that was never in dispute. The professor’s capacity for obfuscation was unmatched, but he nonetheless became a favorite source for some members of the media. He appeared regularly on CNBC and was quoted in dozens upon dozens of articles – all of which communicated the non sequitor that illegal naked short selling is not bad for the markets because legal short selling is good for the markets. Of course, this is like arguing that sexual harassment is not bad because sex is good.

The name of this professor is Owen Lamont. To this day, the professor is still sought out by the press, which dutifully regurgitates his baloney. But the professor does not work for Yale anymore.

Now he works for the above-mentioned DKR Management, one of the Milken-connected hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds while Dendreon was brutally attacked by criminal naked short sellers.

* * * * * * * *

There are interesting stories to be told about most every hedge fund that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds. One of them, Eagle Rock Capital, run by an Iranian fellow named Nadir Tavakoli, was once a controlling investor in the International Fight League, a promoter of ultimate fighting matches. The other controlling investor in the International Fight League (which went bankrupt amidst allegations of ultimate fighting’s connections to the Japanese Yakuza and stories that fighters were committing suicides and murders at alarming rates) was a “Russian whiz kid” (according to the media) named Dmitry Balyasny.

The first things to know about Dmitry Balyasny are that he is closely affiliated with Steve Cohen, and he is the seventh of those seven hedge fund managers who were betting big against Dendreon by holding put options on the company’s stock, after the FDA advisory panel had recommended that Provenge be approved, and before Milken’s cronies successfully lobbied the FDA to ignore that recommendation. So I will return to Balyasny soon.

But first, let’s continue with our list of hedge funds that held Dendreon’s convertible bonds.

One was GLG Partners. As we know from emails acquired in a lawsuit, GLG Partners received updates on Steve Cohen’s attack on Canadian insurer Fairfax Financial, so it would be unsurprising if GLG was also clued in to Cohen’s attack on Dendreon.

Recall also that (shortly before GLG bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds) French authorities fined GLG  for being part of an insider trading ring that included UBS O’Conner (a unit of UBS investment bank, which, until March, 2007, was led by former Milken employee Ken Moelis) and Meditor Capital, a hedge fund (also, of course, with ties to Steve Cohen) that had just made a large investment in Novacea, the prostate cancer company that was then being promoted (by Milken’s fund and Milken’s “philanthropy”) as a competitor to Dendreon. In short, GLG was “in the mix.”

Another outfit that bought lots of Dendreon’s convertible bonds (shortly after it was caught running an insider trading ring with Meditor and GLG Partners) was…UBS O’Conner. Meanwhile, of course, the research department of UBS was continuing to trash Dendreon in its reports.

Then there was Quattro Partners, which bought Dendreon bonds convertible into a more than a million Dendreon shares. The founding partner of Quattro is named Michael Baldock. He had a long career in biotech investing after spending time as an investment banker at Michael Milken’s Drexel Burnham Lambert.

* * * * * * * *

Another of the big investors  in Dendreon’s convertible bonds was Forest Investment Management, a hedge fund controlled by a man named Michael Boyd. Prior to founding Forest, Boyd was a partner in an outfit called Forum Capital Markets. Boyd’s co-founder in Forum was C. Keith Hartley, yet another of Milken’s disciples from Drexel, Burnham Lambert.

Boyd was also the co-founder of a brokerage called McMahan Securities. The vice president of that operation was Santo Maggio, who later became chief executive officer of Refco Securities, the brokerage that was allegedly processing the phantom stock sales of Rhino Advisors, which illegally naked shorted companies after providing them with finance brokered by Milken crony Carl Icahn’s Ladenburg Thalmann. When Refco was found to be fraudulently hiding $400 million worth of liabilities (liabilities that many believe were related to naked short selling), Maggio pled guilty to two counts of securities fraud, one count of conspiracy, and one count of wire fraud.

Another of Michael Boyd’s many accomplishments is his son, Roddy. Refco employed Roddy as a trader, perhaps as a favor to his father’s former co-worker, the criminal Santo Maggio.

But Roddy soon abandoned the securities business to become a business journalist – first at the New York Post and now at Fortune magazine. Roddy Boyd is a key figure among the small coterie of journalists who turn up repeatedly in Deep Capture‘s analyses.

Like all members of the coterie, Roddy has spent several years trying to cover up the naked short selling scandal, ridiculing anyone who mentions the crime or the remarkable coincidence of companies appearing on the Reg Sho list (the SEC’s list of companies suffering from naked short selling) when those companies are the targets of a select group of hedge funds whose names will be familiar to the reader who has made it this far.

In addition to covering up naked short selling crimes, Roddy writes hatchet jobs on the public companies targeted by this same select group of short selling hedge funds. The sources of the information in Roddy’s stories are, of course, the short sellers themselves, and most of the short sellers are, as has been explained over and over, tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

For example, Roddy spent a great deal of time working with a soon-to-be arrested criminal named Spyro Contogouris, who had been hired by a subsidiary of Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital, to sabotage, harass, and trash Fairfax Financial.

As mentioned, we have obtained a great number of emails between Cohen, Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates, and others in the network that was attacking Fairfax. In one email, hedge fund manager Chanos writes to journalist Roddy Boyd, “your courtesy was a boon to me. Thank you!”

With the exception of Roddy’s particular clique of journalists, it is not typical for reporters to receive thank you notes for the “courtesies” that they have extended to help hedge funds make money.

Another holder of Dendreon’s convertible bonds was CNH Partners, run by Todd Pulvino, who used to work for Grosvenor Capital. Grosvenor is managed by Scott Lederman, who was the grad school roommate of Steve Cohen and later the chief operating officer of Cohen’s SAC Capital. While Pulvino was presenting himself as a legitimate investor in Dendreon’s debt, was he in touch with Steve Cohen, who had bet big against Dendreon right before Provenge was derailed by the unprecedented lobbying effort of Milken’s other cronies?

We can’t say. And we can’t say who was illegally naked short selling Dendreon’s stock. That, remember, is a big secret – “proprietary trading strategies.”

* * * * * * * *

On October 12, 2007, Dendreon, still desperate for capital to continue clinical trials that might eventually help its cancer treatment receive FDA approval, signed the paperwork on its first PIPE deal. A dreaded PIPE – the sort of deal that dilutes equity and tends to attract naked short selling that sends a company’s stock into a “death spiral.”

The provider of this PIPE finance was the Azimuth Opportunity Fund, managed by an outfit called Acqua Wellington Asset Management.

Acqua Wellington is controlled by a “prominent” investor named Isser Elishis. In an otherwise flattering article, Herb Greenberg – a journalist whose entire career (at TheStreet.com, MarketWatch.com and CNBC) was devoted to granting “courtesies” to hedge funds in the Milken network – described Elishis as the “banker of last resort.”

Herb, who disappeared from the world of journalism after he was exposed by Deep Capture,  now owns a company that ostensibly sells financial research to hedge funds in the Milken network (or, arguably, merely receives payment from them for the extensive string of “courtesies” that Herb extended while working as a journalist).

Among Azimuth’s first forays into the markets was an investment in a company called SulphCo, which claimed to have a method for turning sulphrous crude into clean-burning oil. Elishis collaborated on this deal with SulphCo’s principal investor, Zev Wolfson, who, you will recall, was the investor who financed Milken cronies Carl Icahn, Saul Steinberg, John Mulheren, and various brokerages tied to the Mafia, naked short selling, or both.

SEC data shows that on the day that Dendreon signed its PIPE deal with Azimuth, naked short sellers flooded the market with more than 2 million phantom shares. During the following week, more than a million Dendreon shares “failed to deliver” every day, despite (or perhaps because of) the news that Dendreon had enrolled 500 patients in a trial to confirm its earlier positive results, putting Provenge back on the track to FDA approval.

* * * * * * * *

In the late 1980s, a fellow named Jeffrey Yass and his two friends, Eric Brooks and Kenneth Brodie, set up a partnership to place bets at horse racing tracks across the country. On one single day at Sportsman Park in Chicago they pulled in winnings of more than $600,000. This seemed somewhat excessive, so Sportsman Park banned the three friends from its premises. The punters filed a lawsuit claiming that Sportsman Park had violated their rights to visit a public facility.

At any rate, Jeffrey Yass and Eric Brooks eventually abandoned the business of betting on horse races and instead pursued careers on Wall Street. Now they are “prominent” investors, the proprietors of a mid-sized investment and trading house called Susquehanna International.

In the spring of 2008, Susquehanna was introduced to Dendreon by a placement agent, Lazard Capital Markets. It is not clear why Dendreon would want to do business with Lazard. After all, Lazard was home to the singing Joel Sendek, who had been busily trashing Dendreon in his research reports.

Sendek had also been trumpeting Dendreon’s competitor, Cougar Biotechnology, as the next big thing in cancer treatment. In turn, Cougar Biotechnology (the company then controlled by Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly of the Mafia-affiliated pump-and-dump shop D.H. Blair) had been quoting Sendek in its SEC filings.

Sendek’s endorsement, Cougar seemed to be suggesting, was evidence that the company was making progress toward bringing its prostate cancer treatment to market. This was odd, because most pharmaceutical companies use data collected from clinical trials to demonstrate this, not quotes from singing Wall Street analysts.

Meanwhile, it was widely understood that Lazard’s stock loan department was one of the go-to shops for hedge funds looking to short sell Dendreon’s shares. We cannot say that Lazard was loaning phantom stock to the short sellers (if it were, that would be a big secret), but Lazard’s coziness with short sellers ought to have given Dendreon pause.

There was also the fact that Lazard Capital had only recently been spun off from Lazard Ltd. Given that the two operations remained closely affiliated (sharing business and so forth), it might have been of some concern that the chairman of Lazard Ltd. was Bruce Wasserstein, a close associate of Michael Milken.

In “Den of Thieves,” James Stewart, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, quotes a criminal named Denis Levine as saying that Wasserstein was “owned” by Milken’s famous co-conspirator, Ivan Boesky. Given that Denis Levine was indicted for participating in Boesky’s insider trading schemes, one would think he knew of what he spoke, but there is no hard evidence to support his allegation.

In any case, Dendreon followed Lazard’s advice, and did a “registered direct offering” with Capital Ventures International, an affiliate of Susquehanna, the firm founded by Yass and Brooks. A “registered direct offering” is similar to a PIPE, the difference being that the securities sold to the investor are registered with the SEC and immediately tradable.

For most of March 2008, naked short sellers were failing to deliver less than 500,000 shares per day. As negotiations for the “registered direct offering” were underway, the amount of phantom stock gradually increased. And on the day the deal was signed, April 3, at least 1.6 million phantom shares had been sold into the market and remained undelivered.

For the next two months, more than one million Dendreon shares remained “failed to deliver” every day. This despite (or perhaps because of) the fantastic news, on March 12, 2008, that the FDA had agreed to an amended “Special Protocol Assessment,” which would enable the company to release, one year ahead of schedule, the results of an “IMPACT” trial that seemed likely to confirm the company’s Phase 3 trials showing substantial evidence that Provenge was safe and effective.

As Dendreon’s enemies must have known, it would soon be impossible to stymie the company with arguments about data, but stock manipulators were not yet ready to end their campaign against the company.

* * * CHAPTER 13 * * *

In December 2007, three U.S. Congressmen — Mike Michaud (D-Maine), Dan Burton (R-Indiana) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) — called on the House Commerce Committee to investigate why the FDA failed to approve Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer. Referring to Dr. Scher and his ally, Dr. Hussain, the lawmakers said in a letter that “there are reasons to believe that serious ethics rules were violated by two FDA advisory panel members in their decision [to vote and lobby against Dendreon] and that these violations played a role in the subsequent FDA decision not to approve Provenge at this time.”

A bipartisan group of 12 additional Congressmen eventually signed on to the request for an investigation. And in February 2008, as outrage over this scandal spread through the medical community, a group of seven respected doctors, calling themselves “Physicians for Provenge” wrote a letter to the ranking members of the House Commerce Committee, suggesting that the investigation should urgently proceed.

“Please consider why our colleagues and we KNOW that Provenge works and why tens of thousands of men with late stage prostate cancer should be given access to it,” the physicians wrote. Noting the “egregious conflicts of interest” of Dr. Scher and Dr. Hussain, the “Physicians for Provenge” added that the “FDA should be carefully assessing risk versus reward for the treatment of terminally ill patients, rather than ‘gate keeping’ based on outdated statistics, reducing short-term health costs or backroom shenanigans.”

Nonetheless, Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell denied the requests for an investigation. To justify this decision, Dingell wrote in a letter to the committee that an “investigative hearing prior to an agency’s final decision runs the risk of interfering with the normal regulatory process.”

Apparently, it was fine if FDA-contracted doctors and government officials tied to Michael Milken corrupted the normal regulatory process by obfuscating approval standards (“substantial evidence” versus “proof”) and by drafting unsolicited post-vote letters with back-channel help from a government employee who was weeks away from taking a new job created by Michael Milken.  But investigating such improprieties would corrupt the regulatory process, in the eyes of Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell.

Dingell also pointed out that “a new law strengthening conflict of interest provisions now governs FDA panels.” Unfortunately, that law was passed in September 2007, some months after Milken’s conflicted allies derailed Dendreon’s application.

In any case, it is not clear that the old conflict of interest provisions were not violated in the Dendreon case. Dr. Scher received a conflict of interest waiver, but in his application for that waiver he did not mention his financial ties to Milken’s ProQuest Investments. There should have been an investigation into why that waiver was granted. And while he was at it, Representative Dingell should have investigated the illegal naked short selling of Dendreon and the “backroom shenanigans” of Milken’s captured officials at the FDA and the National Cancer Institute.

At any rate, while the congressional investigation was being stopped in its tracks, Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation was becoming more brazen.

In March 2008, for example, the Prostate Cancer Foundation sent out a peculiar mass mailing. Written by a cardiologist on Prostate Cancer Foundation letterhead, the mailing began, “I’ll never forget the day my 5-year-old son came home from school, worried. One of the other kids told him I was going to die.”

The letter went on to describe the horrors of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. So far, all kosher. But then came the strange part – the charity’s solicitation explicitly promoted a mostly untested experimental treatment that was being developed by a public company that was considered to be one of the few competitors to Dendreon. The treatment was called GVAX, and the company developing it was called Cell Genesys.

The author of the letter noted that during his treatment, he had “learned about some of the groundbreaking research projects supported by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, such as GVAX, a drug now in phase 3 clinical trials that boosts the immune system to fight off prostate cancer cells.”

Notice that the name of the drug – GVAX – was printed in boldface letters, so nobody could miss it. Notice, too, the underlining, which stressed that this treatment (as opposed to others, such as Dendreon’s) was endorsed and supported by the Prostate Cancer Foundation. And, finally, notice the unequivocal statement that GVAX works – that it “boosts the immune system” and is able to “fight off” cancer.

Lest there be any question that Milken was eager to promote GVAX, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, soon after, began distributing flyers at supermarkets and shopping malls with a similar message. “My 5-year-old didn’t want to lose his daddy,” read the flyers, which then proceeded to describe a “groundbreaking” new medicine – GVAX.

At the time, Cell Genesys was nowhere near bringing GVAX to market. It had just finished phase 2 clinical trials on a total of 65 patients. Lab results showed that GVAX might increase prostate cancer antibodies, but they did not show that the immune system was actually boosted in such a way as to better “fight off” cancer or improve survival. Phase 3 trials, which would determine whether GVAX actually improved the health of patients, had just begun.

But if you were an average Joe who read those flyers – or a wealthy Mary who received that solicitation in the mail – you’d be mighty convinced that Cell Genesys was the next big thing in cancer therapy. You might even be tempted to buy its stock.

* * * * * * * *

When Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation began distributing his fliers promoting GVAX, a number of hedge funds had accumulated large numbers of shares in Cell Genesys.

One of these was Millennium Management, the hedge fund that had been founded by the fellow who planned to murder Ivan Boesky when it seemed that Boesky might cooperate with the authorities in their case against Milken. Again, Millennium is one of those seven hedge funds that had the foresight to own put options in Dendreon back in March 2007, right before Dendreon’s treatment was unexpectedly scuttled by the FDA.

Another hedge fund with a big stake in Cell Genesys was Forest Investment Management, owned by Michael Boyd, the father of hedge fund shill Roddy Boyd, currently of Fortune Magazine.  Michael Boyd, remember, had previously been involved in two big ventures – one with a former Milken colleague from Drexel Burnham; the other with Santo Maggio, the furture convicted criminal CEO of Refco Securities.

Hedge fund Perceptive Advisors also held a moderately large stake in Cell Genesys. Recall that Perceptive was then run by Joseph Edelman, who was not only another one of those seven hedge fund managers who held put options in Dendreon, but was also simultaneously serving as a trader for Paramount Capital.

As you might recall, the vice president of Paramount Capital was a former employee of Milken crony Steve Cohen, who was also one of those seven hedge fund managers betting big against Dendreon. The owner of Paramount, of course, is Lindsay Rosenwald, who used to run the Mafia-controlled D.H. Blair with Milken’s former national sales manager, and controlled Cougar Biotechnology, another Dendreon competitor promoted by the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Another big buyer of Cell Genesys shares was Mazama Capital, a hedge fund based in California. In December 2006, Mazama also owned 2.1 million shares of Dendreon. It dumped more than a million of those shares sometime before or immediately after the March advisory panel meeting, when it seemed certain that Dendreon would receive FDA approval.

Only one other hedge fund dumped similar quantities of Dendreon shares at that time. It was JL Advisors, which is controlled by the above-mentioned Steve Cohen. This dumping of shares contributed to the selling volume that was amplified by the call options exercised by the employee of Paramount Capital, and by whoever was selling massive amounts of phantom stock in Dendreon.

Then there was Renaissance Technologies, which held 800,000 shares in Cell Genesys when Milken’s “philanthropy” began promoting the company.  The CFO of Renaissance is James Rowen, who was previously the chief financial officer of SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by the above-mentioned Steve Cohen, who is known to be maniacal about making sure that his former employees remain satellites of his trading empire.

Meanwhile, hedge funds Balyasny Asset Management and Visium Capital held a combined 12 million shares of Cell Genesys. Balyasny and Visium have overlapping ownership (Dmitry Balyasny is a partner in both hedge funds) though they don’t generally disclose that in their SEC filings.

Dimitry Balysasny is a close associate of Steve Cohen. He has employed some of those former SAC Capital traders and managers with whom Cohen maniacally maintains relationships. And he and Cohen have attacked the same companies.

As I mentioned, Balyasny was one of our seven hedge fund managers with large numbers of put options in Dendreon. I will return to him, because this enigmatic Russian might have more surprises in store for Dendreon.

* * * * * * * *

Three weeks after Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation began publicly promoting Cell Genesys’s virtually untested prostate cancer treatment, Cell Genesys announced that it had signed a gargantuan $320 million deal to develop and commercialize GVAX with Takeda Pharmaceutical, the Japanese biotech giant.

The press reported this deal dutifully and uncritically, making it sound like GVAX was the next big thing. The stock price soared, earning large profits for the Milken-network hedge funds that had invested in Cell Genesys.

But just as there was something fishy about the Milken-invested Novacea and its $500 million deal with Schering Plough, so too did the “$320 million” Cell Genesys deal deserve a hearty dose of skepticism.

For starters, only days before Cell Genesys announced the Takeda deal, Takeda had bought a company called Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Millennium had been transformed into Takeda Pharmaceutical Capital Ventures. It was Takeda Capital Ventures, not the Takeda parent company, that signed the deal with Cell Genesys.  In other words, it was almost certain that Millennium’s management, most of whom had been retained by Takeda Capital, orchestrated the whopping $320 million deal.

That was rather strange because Millennium had been founded by a man named Mark Levin. It was Levin who orchestrated Millennium’s merger with LeukoSite, the biotech company that belonged to Marty Peretz, the Boesky-Milken crony who founded TheStreet.com. And more important to this particular episode,  it was Levin who had founded Cell Genesys. He founded the company basically by investing in himself (just as Domain Associates had created the Milken-invested Novacea out of thin air).

So, assuming Levin still had influence over Millennium/Takeda, and assuming he was still invested in Cell Genesys, he had just orchestrated a deal to use other people’s money to invest $300 million in himself.

Or, at least Cell Genesys’s press release said that Takeda (which was, in fact, Millennium) was going to “pay Cell Genesys an upfront payment of $50 million and additional milestone payments totaling up to $270 million…Takeda [actually Millennium, now known as Takeda Capital Ventures] will pay Cell Genesys tiered, double-digit royalties based on net sales of GVAX immunotherapy for prostate cancer…”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sounds like those “net sales” are imminent, right? In fact, just as the Milken-invested Novacea’s $500 million deal was dependent on clinical trials showing good results, so too was Cell Genesys’s big deal with itself dependent on the company producing some evidence that it’s drug actually worked. The operative phrase in that press release was “milestone payments totaling up to $270 million.”

Of course, just three months later, Cell Genesys announced that it had halted its trials of GVAX after its Independent Data Monitoring Committee, in a “routine safety review meeting,” observed “an imbalance of deaths…”  In other words, GVAX was not helping patients. It was killing them. And, of course, the $270 million worth of “milestone payments” announced with so much fanfare were unceremoniously canceled.

Either before this announcement, or immediately after, the big investors in Cell Genesys – Mazama, Balyasny, Millennium, Perceptive Advisors – all dumped their shares. Given the big boost those shares got from Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation promotions and the giddy announcement that Cell Genesys would receive $330 million, we can assume that those investors made a nice profit on their sales, just as Milken’s ProQuest and affiliated funds made nice profits on their sales of Novacea.

It seems to me that Cell Genesys, like Novacea, was a sophisticated pump and dump scam, aided by Michael Milken’s  “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Which brings us to Cougar Biotechnology, the third Dendreon “competitor” promoted by Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Cougar Biotechnology, as we know, was controlled by Lindsay Rosenwald, who used to help run D.H. Blair, the Mafia-linked pump-and-dump shop whose two vice chairman pled guilty to securities crimes, and whose president was Milken’s former national sales manager.

D.H. Blair was indicted on 173 counts of securities fraud, and it was notorious for pumping and dumping biotech companies with no real medicine. But who knows? Maybe Cougar has a genuine product. It is hard to say at the moment, and will remain that way for years to come, because its prostate cancer treatment remains virtually untested.

In any case, just last month, Cougar, no doubt aided by the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s vigorous endorsements, wangled a $1 billion deal to merge with Johnson & Johnson, so Rosenwald and friends did quite well on their investments.

Remember that while Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation was using unwitting donors’ money to promote Novacea, Cougar Biotechnology, and Cell Genesys, its top officials, and perhaps Milken himself, were actively seeking to derail Dendreon, the one company that actually had a promising treatment for prostate cancer. This was certainly to the benefit of the short sellers (some of whom were illegally naked short selling) and the buyers of put options who were betting big against Dendreon

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Cougar Biotechnology experienced almost no naked short selling, according to SEC “failures to deliver” data. The Milken-invested Novacea also experienced virtually zero naked short selling, even after it announced that its treatment was killing people. The same goes for Cell Genesys — relatively little naked short selling, even when its treatment flopped.

The miscreant party line is that hedge funds do not engage in naked short selling to manufacture phantom stock. The party line is that most “failures to deliver” are the result of mechanical “errors.” It’s funny how those “errors” tend to occur when miscreants in a certain network are short a company. It’s also funny that those “errors” don’t happen to companies in which Milken and his cronies are invested.

If only there were a pattern.

* * * CHAPTER 14 * * *

In July 2008, not long before Cell Genesys announced that its drug was killing people, CNBC’s Jim Cramer called Dendreon a “dog.” Cramer, of course, did not mention that the illegal naked short selling of Dendreon was continuing apace. Throughout that month, more than 1 million Dendreon shares “failed to deliver” every day, according to SEC data.

At the end of August 2008, after Cell Genesys announced that its drug was killing people, Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation posted a story that suggested that this failure was a sign that Dendreon could be in trouble, too. Clearly, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, whose top officials had done so much to derail Dendreon in 2007, were not eager to see the company’s treatment reach patients.

Not once did the Prostate Cancer Foundation note that the difference between Dendreon and the three companies promoted by the Prostate Cancer Foundation was that Dendreon had provided heaps of evidence that its treatment actually worked.

In October 2008, Dendreon released still more favorable data. Its Independent Monitoring Committee’s studies were showing (as had the company’s phase 3 trials in 2007) that Provenge was safe, and offered a significant survival advantage over a placebo.

Meanwhile our two favorite financial analysts – the singing Sendek and Jonathan Aschoff – continued to reiterate their sell ratings on Dendreon.

The attacks continued through March 2009, which is when we were treated to the reappearance of Matthew Herper, the Forbes reporter who had dismissed Dendreon during those strange occurrences in April 2007. Now, Herper published a story in which he made it clear that Dendreon’s treatment would not, and should not, be approved by the FDA.

In support of his claims, he cited the analysis of Thomas Fleming, the fellow who had, in April 2007, along with Dr. Scher and Dr. Hussain, written a missive to the FDA that ended up in The Cancer Letter.  To show that Fleming (who is a biostatistician, not a physician) was not the only “expert” opposed to Dendreon’s treatment, Herper cited several other “experts”  – Susan Ellenberg, Donald Berry, and Janet Wittes – who had views that were remarkably similar to Fleming’s.

What Herper did not mention is that Susan Ellenberg had co-authored a book with Fleming, Janet Wittes was credited with editing that book, and that book enthusiastically cited the work of Donald Berry. Clearly, these “experts” had worked together to make sure that one message was whispered in Herper’s ear. Meanwhile, Berry was assisting clinical trials of Abiraterone, the drug that was under development by Dendreon’s competitor, Cougar Biotechnology, which was then still controlled by Lindsay Rosenwald — the son-in-law of the Mafia-connected “king of stock fraud.”

While Herper was working on his article, John Stewart of the “Daily Show” began exposing Jim Cramer as a fraud. This created quite a stir, and in the midst of it Cramer went on CNBC to tout none other than….Cougar Biotechnology. Cramer said he thought Cougar was the next big thing in prostate cancer treatment, and everybody should load up on its stock.

Meanwhile, with Novacea and Cell Genesys killing people, Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit was now directing much of its energy to promoting the mostly untested treatment then being hawked by Cougar Biotechnology.

Cougar’s treatment “has recently attracted global media coverage,” began one Prostate Cancer Foundation press release, which described the treatment as “a promising experimental medication with the potential to treat patients who have failed conventional medical treatment for advanced prostate cancer…”

The press release continued:  “The [Prostate Cancer Foundation] Therapeutic Clinical Investigation Consortium played an important role by accelerating US clinical testing of this new agent in Phase II clinical trials….In Phase 1 studies, [Cougar’s treatment] exhibited the potential to attenuate disease progression and shrink tumors.”

Actually, the studies were not quite so encouraging as Milken’s foundation would have one believe. Abiraterone had been tested on a total of 30 patients. These patients purportedly experienced declines in levels of “prostate specific antigen,” but this is a long way from demonstrating that  Cougar’s treatment “attenuates disease” or “shrinks tumors.” As for that “potential to treat patients,” it will be at least two years before Cougar has enough data to submit an application for FDA approval.

For the sake of prostate cancer patients everywhere, Deep Capture hopes that Cougar’s drug proves to be successful. We wish merely to note the different reception the network of Milken cronies delivers to a drug like Provenge, whose supporting data is ample and overwhelmingly positive, versus the opinions the network expresses about a drug whose data is preliminary and inclusive, but whose investors hail from the Milken network.

We also wish to reiterate that Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation and people tied to Milken gave ringing endorsements to companies – Novacea, Cell Genesys, and Cougar Biotechnology – right before those companies entered into purportedly massive deals with major pharmaceutical companies. In the cases of Novacea and Cell Genesys, those massive deals were cancelled soon after they were signed because the companies’ treatments were shown to be ineffective.

Yet, in all three cases, investors with ties to Milken or his close associates made large fortunes selling out their stock soon after the companies received over-the-top endorsements from the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Meanwhile, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, whose officials had played a key role in derailing Dendreon back in 2007, continued to snub its nose at Dendreon’s Provenge, the one treatment that could be safely and effectively administered to patients – right away.

* * * * * * * *

It is not clear if Milken himself was invested in Cougar, but Dr. Samuel Saks, who was a director on Cougar’s advisory board, was also a board member of Milken’s fund, ProQuest Investments. Three other members of Cougar’s advisory board were doctors affiliated with Milken’s “philanthopy,” the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

In addition to Rosenwald, the biggest investors in Cougar Biotechnology have included Millennium Management (the hedge fund that was co-founded by the guy who was going to murder Ivan Boesky, and later died of an early heart attack) and Visium Capital, which is co-owned by Dimitry Balyasny and Jacob Gottleib.

As noted, Millennium, Visium and Balyasny were also among the largest shareholders in Cell Genesys when the Prostate Cancer Foundation began promoting that company’s treatment, GVAX, in mass mailings and flyers handed out in front of shopping malls. Millennium’s manager and Dmitry Balyasny, meanwhile, were among the seven traders who were betting big against Dendreon in March 2007.

Gottleib, the co-owner of Visium, is something of a mystery man. I have been able to find little information about his background.

The few media stories about Balyasny make him seem like he is a “prominent” investor – and a poster boy for the American dream. Born in Russia, he came to America as a young man and soon started raking in the bucks as a “whiz kid” investor. In addition to Visium, Balyasny is the proprietor of Balyasny Asset Management and BAM Capital. Some of Balyasny Asset Management’s employees –  including, for a period of time, the fund’s chief risk officer — have come from SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by Milken crony Steve Cohen.

A great many of Balyasny’s other employees were hired from a hedge fund called Magnetar Capital. The senior partner and investment committee chairman of Magnetar is Michael S. Gross, who was previously a founding partner of Apollo Advisors, the investment fund run by Milken crony Leon Black.

As you will recall, Leon Black funded the new Milken “philanthropic” foundation that hired National Cancer Institute prostate cancer chief Alison Martin after she helped the chairman of Milken’s Therapeutic Consortium foil Dendreon’s FDA application. Leon Black is also a business partner of Felix Sater, the alleged Russian mobster who once stuck a broken stem of a wine glass through a stock broker’s face and then went on to run White Rock Partners, a Mafia-infested brokerage that was indicted for manipulating stock in cahoots with the above-mentioned Lindsay Rosenwald’s D.H. Blair.

Prior to starting his own hedge funds, Balyasny was the top trader at an outfit called Schonfeld Securities, the proprietor of which is a man named Steven Schonfeld. Prior to founding his firm, Schonfeld worked for Blinder Robinson (then known on the Street as “Blind’em and Rob’em”). Blinder Robinson was among the first firms to be shut down by the Feds when they began investigating a network of Mafia-linked brokerages that included Rosenwald’s D.H. Blair and Sater’s White Rock Capital.

Schonfeld worked at Blinder Robinson with Anthony Elgindy, the criminal naked short seller who was was later sentenced to prison for stock manipulation and bribing FBI officials. As you will recall, Elgindy appeared for his sentencing missing a finger – reportedly because the Russian Mafia forced him to saw it off, giving him something on which to meditate while he served his 11 years in jail. Meanwhile, the Elgindy investigation led the authorities to other hedge funds, such as Gryphon Partners, whose manager was later among the few who bet big against Dendreon.

As should be clear by now, it is significant that a preponderance of the hedge funds that bet big against Dendreon, and a preponderance of the hedge funds that were invested in the three Milken-promoted companies – Cell Genesys, Novacea, and Cougar Biotechnology – were part of the same network. And it is significant that much of this network seems to be centered around Michael Milken and also Steve Cohen, who became the “most powerful trader on Wall Street” some years after he was investigated by the government for trading on inside information provided to him by Milken’s shop at Drexel Burnham.

Permit me to repeat a few facts:  Cohen was once the top earner for Gruntal & Company, which was simultaneously employing several traders who were later tied to the Mafia. When Gruntal was indicted for embezzling millions of dollars, many of its former employees went on to fill the ranks of  White Rock Capital, run by the alleged Russian mobster Felix Sater (he with the broken wine glass).

Cohen, meanwhile, had left to start his own hedge fund empire. Cohen’s hedge funds have helped pump stocks promoted by D.H. Blair, which was eventually indicted on 173 counts of securities fraud and implicated in a Mafia stock manipulation scheme that was orchestrated by White Rock Capital.

Lindsay Rosenwald, who is the son-in-law of D.H. Blair’s founder and a former top executive of D.H. Blair, was not only the controlling shareholder of Cougar Biotechnology, but also the proprietor of a hedge fund called Paramount Capital. The vice president of Paramount was formerly a top trader for Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital. The vice president of the above mentioned Millennium Management is also a former top trader of SAC Capital.

And Cohen, who is maniacal about his working relationships, is on close terms with Schonfeld Securities, run by the former employee of Blind’em and Rob’em. Cohen has employed Schonfeld’s traders, including Anthony Bassone, who was until recently assistant controller of SAC Capital; and Rob Cannon, who is Cohen’s top personal trader at SAC. Another “Russian whiz kid”, Michael Orlov, created the computerized trading infrastructure at both SAC and Schonfeld Securities. And, as mentioned, Cohen shares employees and trading strategies with that other “Russian whiz kid” — Dmitry Balyasny, who was once Schonfeld’s biggest earner.

All of which I mention only because I fancy myself a biographer of a particularly destructive network of Wall Street personalities. It may be of no significance that out of Planet Earth’s 11,500 hedge funds, there were only ten hedge funds with large numbers of Dendreon put options at the end of March, 2007.  There may be no significance to the fact that of those ten hedge funds, seven were in the same network — Millennium Management; Balyasny Asset Management; WS Capital (the successor to Gryphon Partners); Perceptive Advisors (whose manager was simultaneously working for Paramount Capital); Bernard Madoff Investment Securities; Pequot Management; and SAC Capital (managed by Steve Cohen, who is said to be maniacal about maintaining working relationships with people in his network).

And it could be purely coincidence that these hedge funds were the largest holders of put options on Dendreon shares right at the time that Dendreon was getting clobbered by massive amounts of illegal naked short selling – and right before Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer was stymied by an uprecedented lobbying effort led by FDA-contracted doctors and government officials tied to Michael Milken.

By the way, three months later – at the end of June, 2007 — there was just one more hedge fund with large numbers of Dendreon put options. It is not clear from SEC filings whether these put options were bought before or after the FDA announced (on May 8, 2007) that it would  not approve Dendreon’s treatment.

Either way, it is probably another coincidence that this eleventh hedge fund that bought large numbers of put options in Dendreon was the above-mentioned Magnetar Capital.

* * * CHAPTER 15 * * *

When Dendreon’s FDA application was derailed simultaneously with a naked short selling attack that flooded the market with tens of millions of phantom shares, Dendreon’s supporters went berserk. They sent the government hundreds of letters complaining about the naked short selling and the apparent machinations of Michael Milken’s associates. After that, all but one of the ten hedge fund managers ceased to own “put options” in Dendreon.

However, the naked short selling continued pretty much unabated for two years. And in April 2009, Dendreon was once again on the SEC’s “Reg  Sho” list of companies whose stock was “failing to deliver” in excessive quantities.  Dendreon stayed on that list even after the company’s CEO announced that results of an Independent Monitoring Committee study of 500 patients were “unambiguous in nature…a clear hit” for Provenge.

After the CEO’s announcement, Dendreon’s stock, which had been as low as $4 weeks earlier, rose to the mid-20s. Then, on April 28, 2009, just hours before Dendreon was to present this “unambiguous” data to an all-important meeting of the American Urological Association, the now legendary Yahoo! message board post appeared, warning of  a “BEAR RAID” that was to occur at precisely 12:30pm Central time. Right on cue, within minutes of the moment predicted by that message, Dendreon’s stock tanked 65% (to $7) in matter of 75 seconds.

Within hours after that amazing crash, Nasdaq announced that it had investigated the matter and decided to let the trades stand. This was quite remarkable, given that it would have been impossible for the exchange to determine the identity of that message board poster and sort through the trading data in such a short period of time. It is all the more remarkable considering that this “BEAR RAID” was most likely the work of naked short selling criminals.

At any rate, it is likely that short sellers, recognizing that it was now going to be more difficult to prevent Dendreon from getting FDA approval, used the opportunity of that sharp price drop to cover their short positions. Some short sellers might also have used the opportunity to buy shares, hoping to cash in on the bonanza that was to follow. After the “BEAR RAID,” Dendreon’s stock price quickly rose above $27.

The night after the “BEAR  RAID”, CNBC’s Jim Cramer (who has begun a “crusade” against the crime of naked short selling in an effort to distance himself from his previous efforts to cover up the crime of naked short selling) said “I’m not qualified to talk about Dendreon.” This was just two weeks after Cramer had screamed that Dendreon had no chance of receiving FDA approval. Now, he was no longer commenting on Dendreon’s chances, but he noted,  “I am a big believer in taking profits when I see a short squeeze. So I am going to recommend taking profits.”

Some people clearly did take profits. After Cramer’s comment, the stock started to fall, and by May 8, it was at $19. Then the buying started again. Quite possibly, some of the hedge funds that had been short selling Dendreon used the dip to $19 to purchase still more Dendreon shares. After May 8, the stock rose back up to around $25, which is approximately where it remains today. When SEC filings for this period are in, it will be interesting to see which hedge funds bought shares.

But it will remain impossible to know who the criminal short sellers were. As far as the SEC is concerned, that is a big secret –  “proprietary trading strategies.”

* * * * * * * *

After Dendreon reported its data to the American Urological Association – data that showed almost precisely what the data showed two years earlier (that is, that Provenge was safe, and that it lengthened survival times while greatly improving the quality of life for end-stage prostate cancer patients who would otherwise be subjected to the misery of chemotherapy) — Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation, which had long shunned Dendreon while Milken’s allies maneuvered to derail it, finally concluded that it was time to say something positive about Provenge.

“The PCF is delighted to see evidence of increased patient survival from Provenge,” the Milken “philanthropic” foundation said in a press release. “We share the analysis of Dr. Philip Kantoff, a leader in the PCF Clinical Therapy Consortium…and a principal investigator of the Provenge Phase III clinical study. The results validate 16 years of modern research to harness a patient’s own immune system to fight their prostate cancer and prolong their lives…”

The Prostate Cancer Foundation continued: “The PCF first provided funding to Dr. Eric Small…to support clinical research around measuring immune responses in patients treated with Provenge…”

In other words, Milken’s “philanthropy” hadn’t spent two years ignoring, and in some cases trying to quash Dendreon’s treatment. In fact, the Prostate Cancer Foundation had supported Dendreon all along!

This is nonsense. What the Prostate Cancer Foundation did not mention is that Dr. Philip Kantoff, the physician mentioned in the press release, was on the advisory board of Cougar Biotechnology, the company that Milken’s “philanthropic” foundation was promoting as a better alternative to Dendreon.  Moreover, Dr. Kantoff was one of the few physicians to publicly cast doubts on Provenge. He was never able to say that Provenge did not work, but when talking to the press at the time of the FDA advisory panel meeting in 2007, he was dismissive, or at least confused.

“I didn’t think [Provenge] had a snowball’s chance in hell of working,” Dr. Kantoff told Forbes magazine’s Matthew Herper, the journalist who went to lengths to argue against FDA approval. “I’m still skeptical, but I think there’s something going on here.” Kantoff suggested that Provenge could be a “slam dunk,” but maybe the trial size was too small. Left unmentioned was the fact the FDA had regularly approved treatments for dying patients when relatively small trials had shown such stunning results.

As for Dr. Small, he too was on the advisory board of Cougar Biotechnology. The Prostate Cancer Foundation did indeed give him funding to measure immune responses in patients treated with Provenge, but it is not at all clear that Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit was keen to see Dr. Small’s study yield positive results. When the study did yield positive results, Dr. Scher, the chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s Therapeutic Consortium (referred to in the above press release as the “Clinical Therapy Consortium”), spun them as negative results.

In his letter to the FDA (the one that quickly and mysteriously ended up in the hands of The Cancer Letter), Dr. Scher quoted Dr. Small as saying the following: “In summary, this study suggests that while sipuleucel-T fell short of demonstrating a statistically significant difference in TTP, it may provide a survival advantage to asymptomatic [prostate cancer] patients.” Dr. Small had not written the word “may” in italics. That was Dr. Scher’s improvisation, part of his effort to convince the world that absolute “proof” of efficacy was needed for FDA approval.

As both Dr. Small and Dr. Scher knew, the “gold standard” for physicians, and the federally mandated standard for drug approval, is “survival” — “substantial evidence” that a treatment may help patients live longer. Perhaps Dr. Small felt constrained in challenging Dr. Scher’s misuse of his study. Perhaps he also felt uncomfortable about joining Dr. Scher, who was, after all, the powerful chairman of Milken’s Therapeutic Consortium, at the meeting of the FDA advisory panel that voted on Provenge in March 2007.

Dr. Small was supposed to speak on behalf of Provenge at that panel. Perhaps this concerned the folks at the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Either way, Dr. Small was a no-show at the panel that day.

He apologized – something about a hitch in his travel plans.

* * * * * * * *

In May 2009, while Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation was rewriting history, Milken’s hedge fund crony, Steve Cohen, who was one of those seven hedge fund managers who had bet big against Dendreon after the advisory panel meeting in 2007, reached out to Care-to-Live, the grass-roots organization that had done so much to highlight the connections among Milken’s “philanthropy,” Milken’s investments, and Dendreon’s travails

On May 19, one of Care-to-Live’s founders received an email from an employee of CR Intrinsic Investors, which is one of Steve Cohen’s hedge funds.  “I’m an investor in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and I’m interested in understanding the patients perspective on Provenge and any other therapies in development…,” the email began. “Would you or someone from Care-to-Live be available speak with me…? I have spoken to a number of academic thought leaders, but I’d like to better understand what the patients want…”

And by the way, “I’m happy to provide compensation for time spent speaking with me if that is of interest.”

Milken-affiliated hedge funds already have analysts and journalists regurgitating their party line on command. They also have doctors on the payroll. Might as well put the troublemakers on the payroll, too.

* * * * * * * *

Or perhaps Cohen is genuinely thinking about investing in Dendreon. Perhaps he already has. The intentions of this network remain a matter of some speculation.

Much of this speculation focuses on Dmitry Balyasny, the Russian “whiz kid.” As recently as March of this year, when they filed their last SEC documents, Balyasny’s hedge funds – Balyasny Asset Management, BAM and Visium – held around 3 million put options in Dendreon. Simultaneously, these hedge funds owned an almost equal number of call options. It is possible that Balyasny and his associate, the mysterious Jacob Gottleib, were implementing a split-strike pricing strategy – selling out of the money calls and buying out of the money puts. The effect is to create a large synthetic short position.

But SEC documents show that during much of the past two years, Balyasny’s funds also owned large numbers of Dendreon shares. These could have been shares that they bought to cover short positions. Or it could be that they owned shares to gather proxy votes and put pressure on Dendreon’s management to act in ways that might not be  good for the company.

Whatever the case, Dendreon’s latest Schedule 14-A, filed on April 30, showed that Balyasny (previously one of the seven hedge funds with large  bets against Dendreon) had become Dendreon’s largest shareholder, with a 9.8% stake in the company. The second largest shareholder was Capital Ventures International, the unit of Susquehanna that did the PIPEs deal with Dendreon. Visium Capital owned 5.5% of Dendreon. Meanwhile, Joseph Edelman, the hedge fund manager who was employed in 2007 by Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly of the Mafia-connected D.H. Blair, has bought at least 2 million Dendreon shares.

In addition to those purchases, many of the Milken network hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds now have the capability to convert, so  they, too, might soon count themselves among Dendreon’s largest shareholders. Altogether, this network may already control (or have the ability to convert into control of) as much as 30% of the company.

If Balyasny had acquired more than 10% of the company, he would have been subjected to reporting requirements designed to identify hostile takeover attempts. Given that he acquired just under 10%, and given that he nowhere declares his co-ownership of Visium, which adds 5.5% to his stake, it is possible that Balyasny and others in his network have considered seizing control of the company by stealth.

Incidentally, this is similar to the modus operandi of the Milken network in the 1980s. As most every book on Milken recounts, affiliated investors (some combination of Milken, Ivan Boesky, Carl Icahn, Princeton-Newport, John Mulheren,  and others) would each buy, say, 4.9% or 9.8% of a company without declaring themselves to be affiliated investors. In some cases, Milken would “park” stock (e.g. Princeton would secretly buy stock on Milken’s behalf) in order to conceal that he had any ownership at all.

By secretly holding large blocks of shares, the network was able to acquire controlling stakes while bypassing regulatory requirements to declare such positions. Besides putting them in a position to manipulate prices, Milken and friends then put pressure on companies’ managements by quietly letting it be known that they had, as a group, a controlling number of proxy votes.

If Milken’s friends come to control Dendreon, Milken’s “philanthropic” foundation will no doubt continue to articulate its new position of being “delighted” that the data shows that Dendreon’s treatment is safe and effective (which is the same thing the data showed two years and 60,000 American deaths ago). And if the Milken network takes over Dendreon, perhaps Michael Milken will, in the name of “philanthropy,” convince his government minions to grant approval to Provenge, so that it can be administered to the patients who so desperately need it.

But that should not cause us to ignore the ordeal that Dendreon has endured during these past few years. And we should demand an end to a status quo which lets Wall Street miscreants, cheats, and manipulators (and not free markets) decide which companies survive unmolested, and which will be crippled or killed off entirely.

But it is not surprising that criminals see fit to maim public companies.

Consider that it is impossible to buy life insurance on another person’s life. The legal principle has developed that one can only insure something in which one has “an insurable interest.” But imagine that this were not the case. Imagine if it were possible for people to buy insurance on other people’s lives. One can see that there might evolve a type of criminal who would buy life insurance on the lives of others, and then arrange for those people to die.

One can even imagine that, as society wised up to this practice of buying life insurance and then manipulating outcomes, such criminals would evolve new tactics towards the same end. For example, the criminals might target newborn babies in hospitals, because babies are vulnerable, and it would be difficult for anyone to know for certain whether they were dying naturally, or as a result of criminals manipulating outcomes.

One could even imagine that the most sophisticated of these criminals would come to target newborn babies who were already sick, because manipulating their medical outcomes in order to cause their deaths would leave the slightest statistical footprint possible.

In our society one cannot buy life insurance on another person, but one can buy “life insurance” on a company: that is, one can make a bet that a company will fail, and collect on that bet when the company dies. It is the contention of Deep Capture that there are criminals who take out life insurance policies against companies, and then manipulate their outcomes so as to collect on those policies.

And just as we can understand the logic of criminals focusing on newborn babies, so too can we understand why the financial criminals have learned to focus on small, early-stage public companies. And to extend the morbid metaphor one last step: just as the criminals might focus on newborns who are already sick, because their outcomes are already in the most doubt (making the criminal manipulations hardest to spot), so too have the financial criminals learned to focus not just on early-stage public companies, but on early stage public companies working in the field of biotechnology.

That is because in biotechnology the difficulties in valuing a company are at their greatest. There is often little to no revenue.  The idea behind the company may be nothing more than the theory of a scientist. No one knows whether it will work. If it works, no one knows how long it will take to prove that it works. And even if it can be proven to work, no one knows how long it will take to clear all the legal and regulatory hurdles it will face. Such companies are favored targets for manipulators because it is easy to manipulate the truth when no one knows the truth, and whatever truth there is lies behind so many veils.

In the case of Dendreon , the truth was hard to miss. It was more than a company with a blockbuster treatment. It was the first company in decades to develop a medicine that could truly revolutionize the way that doctors treat cancer. The company had gathered its data, and the data was conclusive (to a 95% confidence level): Provenge was safe and effective. A panel of experts assembled by the FDA had declared that the treatment should be approved.

So when naked short sellers attacked, and the treatment was derailed, it was obvious that there had been foul play. Hundreds of concerned citizens took it upon themselves to investigate, and document, the footprints of the miscreants. As a result we have been able to present a highly discernible, if admittedly imperfect, picture of their trail.

But we must ask: How many other small biotech companies have been victimized in less obvious ways? How many companies were like the babies in our morbid metaphor — snuffed out before they could demonstrate their potential; killed by criminal naked short sellers and their captured accomplices (journalists, regulators, doctors) who successfully pled innocence, saying the companies died because they were sick or weak? And how many of those murdered companies, weak or not, had medicines that could eventually have improved health and saved lives?

Our morbid metaphor, you see, is not entirely metaphor. Real people have died.

In answer to the question of how many people have died, we know only from the data that abusive and illegal short selling has affected many hundreds of small biotech companies with all manner of medicines. We know that the vast majority of those companies are now gone, and that some number of them, if left to the rigours of the market, but not to the whims of criminal short sellers, would have one day delivered their medicines to patients.

But, of course, we do not know who the criminal short sellers are. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, that is a big secret – “proprietary trading strategies.”

* * * THE END * * *

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 15 of 15)

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 15 of 15)



What follows is PART 15 of a 15-PART series. Soon, we will publish the full 15-part story as a single document.

Click here to read PART 1

Click here to read PART 2

Click here to read PART 3

Click here to read PART 4

Click here to read PART 5

Click here to read PART 6

Click here to read PART 7

Click here to read PART 8

Click here to read PART 9

Click here to read PART 10

Click here to read PART 11

Click here to read PART 12

Click here to read PART 13

Click here to read PART 14

Where we left off, we had learned that on March 29, 2007, an FDA advisory panel had overwhelmingly voted to approve Provenge, a prostate cancer vaccine developed by Dendreon.  As a result, most financial analysts and investors believed that Dendreon had a promising future. However, ten hedge funds (out of a universe of 11,500 hedge funds) held large numbers of Dendreon put options (bets against the company), suggesting they expected that Dendreon would be derailed. At least seven of those hedge funds can be tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

We had also learned that Milken himself stood to profit if Dendreon were to experience  problems receiving FDA approval. This is because Milken was the early financier and principal deal maker for ProQuest Investments, a fund that (along with an affiliate) controlled a company called Novacea, which was one of Dendreon’s competitors in the race to produce a new treatment for prostate cancer. Meanwhile, Lindsay Rosenwald (a Milken crony who once helped run a Mafia-linked brokerage called D.H. Blair, which specialized in pumping and dumping fake biotech companies) controlled Cougar Biotechnology, which was Dendreon’s second competitor in the race to develop a treatment for prostate cancer. And hedge funds affiliated with Milken or his close associates were heavily invested in Cell Genesys, which was Dendreon’s third competitor.

We had learned further that Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation supported Novacea, Cougar and Cell Genesys. The Prostate Cancer Foundation’s support for these companies preceded announcements that they had signed massive deals with large pharmaceutical companies. In the cases of Novacea and Cell Genesys, those deals were soon cancelled on the news that their treatments were ineffective, and the companies’ investors quickly dumped their stock. This fact, combined with other evidence, suggests that the Prostate Cancer Foundation was supporting what amounted to sophisticated “pump and dump” schemes.

Meanwhile, the Prostate Cancer Foundation snubbed its nose at Dendreon. And in April, 2007, Dr. Howard Scher, who was an executive and director of Milken’s investment fund, ProQuest, and the chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s “Therapeutic Consortium”, spearheaded an unprecedented lobbying effort to convince the FDA to reject Dendreon’s treatment – the first time in history that the FDA had gone against an advisory panel’s recommendation to approve a drug for terminally ill patients. This lobbying effort had the support of government officials who have ties to Michael Milken.

In the days before and after the lobbying effort, Dendreon was trashed by a few captured journalists – most notably, CNBC’s Jim Cramer — and was also subjected to a blistering attack by naked short sellers who illegally flooded the market with millions of phantom shares to help drive down the company’s stock price. This criminal naked short selling continued intermittently for much of the next two years, while the SEC did nothing, and while other events conspired to hobble Dendreon, a company that had completed multiple clinical trials that strongly indicated that its product, Provenge, was capable of lengthening the lives of tens of thousands of men with prostate cancer.

Amazingly, the SEC will not reveal the names of the naked short sellers. As it says on its website, to release information about (illegal) naked short selling would be to reveal the (criminal) hedge funds’ “proprietary trading strategies.”

* * * * * * * *

When Dendreon’s FDA application was derailed simultaneously with a naked short selling attack that flooded the market with tens of millions of phantom shares, Dendreon’s supporters went berserk. They sent the government hundreds of letters complaining about the naked short selling and the apparent machinations of Michael Milken’s associates. After that, all but one of the ten hedge fund managers ceased to own “put options” in Dendreon.

However, the naked short selling continued pretty much unabated for two years. And in April 2009, Dendreon was once again on the SEC’s “Reg  Sho” list of companies whose stock was “failing to deliver” in excessive quantities.  Dendreon stayed on that list even after the company’s CEO announced that results of an Independent Monitoring Committee study of 500 patients were “unambiguous in nature…a clear hit” for Provenge.

After the CEO’s announcement, Dendreon’s stock, which had been as low as $4 weeks earlier, rose to the mid-20s. Then, on April 28, 2009, just hours before Dendreon was to present this “unambiguous” data to an all-important meeting of the American Urological Association, the now legendary Yahoo! message board post appeared, warning of  a “BEAR RAID” that was to occur at precisely 12:30pm Central time. Right on cue, Dendreon’s stock tanked 65% in matter of 75 seconds (to $7), within minutes of the moment predicted by that message.

Within hours after that amazing crash, Nasdaq announced that it had investigated the matter and decided to let the trades stand. This was quite remarkable, given that it would have been impossible for the exchange to determine the identity of that message board poster and sort through the trading data in such a short period of time. It is all the more remarkable considering that this “BEAR RAID” was most likely the work of naked short selling criminals.

At any rate, it is likely that short sellers, recognizing that it was now going to be more difficult to prevent Dendreon from getting FDA approval, used the opportunity of that sharp price drop to cover their short positions. Some short sellers might also have used the opportunity to buy shares, hoping to cash in on the bonanza that was to follow. After the “BEAR RAID,” Dendreon’s stock price quickly rose above $27.

The night after the “BEAR  RAID”, CNBC’s Jim Cramer (who has begun a “crusade” against the crime of naked short selling in an effort to distance himself from his previous efforts to cover up the crime of naked short selling) said “I’m not qualified to talk about Dendreon.” This was just two weeks after Cramer had screamed that Dendreon had no chance of receiving FDA approval. Now, he was no longer commenting on Dendreon’s chances, but he noted,  “I am a big believer in taking profits when I see a short squeeze. So I am going to recommend taking profits.”

Some people clearly did take profits. After Cramer’s comment, the stock started to fall, and by May 8, it was at $19. Then the buying started again. Quite possibly, some of the hedge funds that had been short selling Dendreon used the dip to $19 to purchase still more Dendreon shares. After May 8, the stock rose back up to around $25, which is approximately where it remains today. When SEC filings for this period are in, it will be interesting to see which hedge funds bought shares.

But it will remain impossible to know who the criminal short sellers were. As far as the SEC is concerned, that is a big secret –  “proprietary trading strategies.”

* * * * * * * *

After Dendreon reported its data to the American Urological Association –data that showed almost precisely what the data showed two years earlier (that is, that Provenge was safe, and that it lengthened survival times while greatly improving the quality of life for end-stage prostate cancer patients who would otherwise be subjected to the misery of chemotherapy) — Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation, which had long shunned Dendreon while Milken’s allies maneuvered to derail it, finally concluded that it was time to say something positive about Provenge.

“The PCF is delighted to see evidence of increased patient survival from Provenge,” the Milken “philanthropic” foundation said in a press release. “We share the analysis of Dr. Philip Kantoff, a leader in the PCF Clinical Therapy Consortium…and a principal investigator of the Provenge Phase III clinical study. The results validate 16 years of modern research to harness a patient’s own immune system to fight their prostate cancer and prolong their lives…”

The Prostate Cancer Foundation continued: “The PCF first provided funding to Dr. Eric Small…to support clinical research around measuring immune responses in patients treated with Provenge…”

In other words, Milken’s “philanthropy” hadn’t spent two years ignoring, and in some cases trying to quash Dendreon’s treatment. In fact, the Prostate Cancer Foundation had supported Dendreon all along!

This is nonsense. What the Prostate Cancer Foundation did not mention is that Dr. Philip Kantoff, the physician mentioned in the press release, was on the advisory board of Cougar Biotechnology, the company that Milken’s “philanthropic” foundation was promoting as a better alternative to Dendreon.  Moreover, Dr. Kantoff was one of the few physicians to publicly cast doubts on Provenge. He was never able to say that Provenge did not work, but when talking to the press at the time of the FDA advisory panel meeting in 2007, he was dismissive, or at least confused.

“I didn’t think [Provenge] had a snowball’s chance in hell of working,” Dr. Kantoff told Forbes magazine’s Matthew Herper, the journalist who went to lengths to argue against FDA approval. “I’m still skeptical, but I think there’s something going on here.” Kantoff suggested that Provenge could be a “slam dunk,” but maybe the trial size was too small. Left unmentioned was the fact the FDA had regularly approved treatments for dying patients when relatively small trials had shown such stunning results.

As for Dr. Small, he too was on the advisory board of Cougar Biotechnology. The Prostate Cancer Foundation did indeed give him funding to measure immune responses in patients treated with Provenge, but it is not at all clear that Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit was keen to see Dr. Small’s study yield positive results. When the study did yield positive results, Dr. Scher, the chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s Therapeutic Consortium (referred to in the above press release as the “Clinical Therapy Consortium”), spun them as negative results.

In his letter to the FDA (the one that quickly and mysteriously ended up in the hands of The Cancer Letter), Dr. Scher quoted Dr. Small as saying the following: “In summary, this study suggests that while sipuleucel-T fell short of demonstrating a statistically significant difference in TTP, it may provide a survival advantage to asymptomatic [prostate cancer] patients.” Dr. Small had not written the word “may” in italics. That was Dr. Scher’s improvisation, part of his effort to convince the world that absolute “proof” of efficacy was needed for FDA approval.

As both Dr. Small and Dr. Scher knew, the “gold standard” for physicians, and the federally mandated standard for drug approval, is “survival” — “substantial evidence” that a treatment may help patients live longer. Perhaps Dr. Small felt constrained in challenging Dr. Scher’s misuse of his study. Perhaps he also felt uncomfortable about joining Dr. Scher, who was, after all, the powerful chairman of Milken’s Therapeutic Consortium, at the meeting of the FDA advisory panel that voted on Provenge in March 2007.

Dr. Small was supposed to speak on behalf of Provenge at that panel. Perhaps this concerned the folks at the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Either way, Dr. Small was a no-show at the panel that day.

He apologized – something about a hitch in his travel plans.

* * * * * * * *

In May 2009, while Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation was rewriting history, Milken’s hedge fund crony, Steve Cohen, who was one of those seven hedge fund managers who had bet big against Dendreon after the advisory panel meeting in 2007, reached out to Care-to-Live, the grass-roots organization that had done so much to highlight the connections among Milken’s “philanthropy,” Milken’s investments, and Dendreon’s travails

On May 19, one of Care-to-Live’s founders received an email from an employee of CR Intrinsic Investors, which is one of Steve Cohen’s hedge funds.  “I’m an investor in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and I’m interested in understanding the patients perspective on Provenge and any other therapies in development…,” the email began. “Would you or someone from Care-to-Live be available speak with me…? I have spoken to a number of academic thought leaders, but I’d like to better understand what the patients want…”

And by the way, “I’m happy to provide compensation for time spent speaking with me if that is of interest.”

Milken-affiliated hedge funds already have analysts and journalists regurgitating their party line on command. They also have doctors on the payroll. Might as well put the troublemakers on the payroll, too.

* * * * * * * *

Or perhaps Cohen is genuinely thinking about investing in Dendreon. Perhaps he already has. The intentions of this network remain a matter of some speculation.

Much of this speculation focuses on Dmitry Balyasny, the Russian “whiz kid.” As recently as March of this year, when they filed their last SEC documents, Balyasny’s hedge fund, Visium, held around 900,000  call options in Dendreon. Simultaneously, the hedge fund owned 860,000 put options. It is possible that Balyasny and his associate, Jacob Gottleib, were implementing a split-strike pricing strategy – selling out of the money calls and buying out of the money puts. The effect is to create a large synthetic short position.

SEC documents show that during much of the past two years, Balyasny’s funds also owned large numbers of Dendreon shares. These could have been shares that they bought to cover short positions. Or it could be that they owned shares to gather proxy votes and put pressure on Dendreon’s management to act in ways that might not be  good for the company.

Dendreon’s latest Schedule 14-A, filed on April 30, showed that Balyasny (remember, Balyasny’s other fund was previously one of the seven hedge funds with large  bets against Dendreon) had become one of Dendreon’s largest shareholders, with a 5.5% stake in the company. Another major shareholder was Capital Ventures International, the unit of Susquehanna that did the PIPEs deal with Dendreon. Meanwhile, Joseph Edelman, the hedge fund manager who was employed in 2007 by Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly of the Mafia-connected D.H. Blair, has bought at least 2 million Dendreon shares.

In addition to those purchases, many of the Milken network hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds now have the capability to convert, so  they, too, might soon count themselves among Dendreon’s largest shareholders. Altogether, this network may already control (or have the ability to convert into control of) as much as 30% of the company.

It is possible that this network is planning to seize control of Dendreon by stealth. This was the modus operandi of the Milken network in the 1980s. As most every book on Milken recounts, affiliated investors (some combination of Milken, Ivan Boesky, Carl Icahn, Princeton-Newport, John Mulheren,  and others) would each buy, say, 4.9% or 9.8% of a company without declaring themselves to be affiliated investors. In some cases, Milken would “park” stock (e.g. Princeton would secretly buy stock on Milken’s behalf) in order to conceal that he had any ownership at all.

By secretly holding large blocks of shares, the network was able to acquire controlling stakes while bypassing regulatory requirements to declare such positions. Besides putting them in a position to manipulate prices, Milken and friends then put pressure on companies’ managements by quietly letting it be known that they had, as a group, a controlling number of proxy votes.

If Milken’s friends come to control Dendreon, Milken’s “philanthropic” foundation will no doubt continue to articulate its new position of being “delighted” that the data shows that Dendreon’s treatment is safe and effective (which is the same thing the data showed two years and 60,000 American deaths ago). And if the Milken network takes over Dendreon, perhaps Michael Milken will, in the name of “philanthropy,” convince his government minions to grant approval to Provenge, so that it can be administered to the patients who so desperately need it.

But that should not cause us to ignore the ordeal that Dendreon has endured during these past few years. And we should demand an end to a status quo which lets Wall Street miscreants, cheats, and manipulators (and not free markets) decide which companies survive unmolested, and which will be crippled or killed off entirely.

But it is not surprising that criminals see fit to maim public companies.

Consider that it is impossible to buy life insurance on another person’s life. The legal principle has developed that one can only insure something in which one has “an insurable interest.” But imagine that this were not the case. Imagine if it were possible for people to buy insurance on other people’s lives. One can see that there might evolve a type of criminal who would buy life insurance on the lives of others, and then arrange for those people to die.

One can even imagine that, as society wised up to this practice of buying life insurance and then manipulating outcomes, such criminals would evolve new tactics towards the same end. For example, the criminals might target newborn babies in hospitals, because babies are vulnerable, and it would be difficult for anyone to know for certain whether they were dying naturally, or as a result of criminals manipulating outcomes.

One could even imagine that the most sophisticated of these criminals would come to target newborn babies who were already sick, because manipulating their medical outcomes in order to cause their deaths would leave the slightest statistical footprint possible.

In our society one cannot buy life insurance on another person, but one can buy “life insurance” on a company: that is, one can make a bet that a company will fail, and collect on that bet when the company dies. It is the contention of Deep Capture that there are criminals who take out life insurance policies against companies, and then manipulate their outcomes so as to collect on those policies.

And just as we can understand the logic of criminals focusing on newborn babies, so too can we understand why the financial criminals have learned to focus on small, early-stage public companies. And to extend the morbid metaphor one last step: just as the criminals might focus on newborns who are already sick, because their outcomes are already in the most doubt (making the criminal manipulations hardest to spot), so too have the financial criminals learned to focus not just on early-stage public companies, but on early stage public companies working in the field of biotechnology.

That is because in biotechnology the difficulties in valuing a company are at their greatest. There is often little to no revenue.  The idea behind the company may be nothing more than the theory of a scientist. No one knows whether it will work. If it works, no one knows how long it will take to prove that it works. And even if it can be proven to work, no one knows how long it will take to clear all the legal and regulatory hurdles it will face. Such companies are favored targets for manipulators because it is easy to manipulate the truth when no one knows the truth, and whatever truth there is lies behind so many veils.

In the case of Dendreon , the truth was hard to miss. It was more than a company with a blockbuster treatment. It was the first company in decades to develop a medicine that could truly revolutionize the way that doctors treat cancer. The company had gathered its data, and the data was conclusive (to a 95% confidence level): Provenge was safe and effective. A panel of experts assembled by the FDA had declared that the treatment should be approved.

So when naked short sellers attacked, and the treatment was derailed, it was obvious that there had been foul play. Hundreds of concerned citizens took it upon themselves to investigate, and document, the footprints of the miscreants. As a result we have been able to present a highly discernible, if admittedly imperfect, picture of their trail.

But we must ask: How many other small biotech companies have been victimized in less obvious ways? How many companies were like the babies in our morbid metaphor — snuffed out before they could demonstrate their potential; killed by criminal naked short sellers and their captured accomplices (journalists, regulators, doctors) who successfully pled innocence, saying the companies died because they were sick or weak? And how many of those murdered companies, weak or not, had medicines that could eventually have improved health and saved lives?

Our morbid metaphor, you see, is not entirely metaphor. Real people have died.

In answer to the question of how many people have died, we know only from the data that abusive and illegal short selling has affected many hundreds of small biotech companies with all manner of medicines. We know that the vast majority of those companies are now gone, and that some number of them, if left to the rigours of the market, but not to the whims of criminal short sellers, would have one day delivered their medicines to patients.

But, of course, we do not know who the criminal short sellers are. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, that is a big secret – “proprietary trading strategies.”

THE END

* * * * * * * *

Note: The original draft of this story incorrectly stated that BAM Capital was affiliated with Dmitry Balyasny’s Balyasny Asset Management. Having mistaken BAM Capital with Balyasny’s fund, I aslo suggested in the original draft of this story that Balyasny had aquired more than ten percent of Dendreon’s shares in the Spring of 2009. This was incorrect. Balyasny’s Visium hedge fund had aquired 5.5% of Dendreon’s shares. I regret the error.

Posted in Featured Stories, The Deep Capture Campaign, The Mitchell ReportComments (76)

Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 14 of 15)

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 14 of 15)



What follows is PART 14 of a 15-PART series. The last installment will appear on Deep Capture in the coming days, after which point the story will be published in its entirety.

Click here to read PART 1

Click here to read PART 2

Click here to read PART 3

Click here to read PART 4

Click here to read PART 5

Click here to read PART 6

Click here to read PART 7

Click here to read PART 8

Click here to read PART 9

Click here to read PART 10

Click here to read PART 11

Click here to read PART 12

Click here to read PART 13

Where we left off, we had learned that on March 29, 2007, an FDA advisory panel overwhelmingly voted to approve Provenge, a vaccine that Dendreon had developed for prostate cancer. As a result, most financial analysts and investors believed that Dendreon had a promising future. However, ten hedge funds (out of a universe of 11,500 hedge funds) held large numbers of Dendreon put options (bets against the company), suggesting they expected that Dendreon would be derailed. At least seven of those hedge funds can be tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

We had also learned that Milken himself stood to profit if Dendreon were to experience unexpected problems receiving FDA approval. This is because Milken was the early financier and principal deal maker for ProQuest Investments, a fund that (along with an affiliate) controlled a company called Novacea, which was one of Dendreon’s competitors in the race to produce a new treatment for prostate cancer. Meanwhile, Lindsay Rosenwald (a Milken crony who once helped run a Mafia-linked brokerage called D.H. Blair, which specialized in pumping and dumping fake biotech companies) controlled Cougar Biotechnology, which was Dendreon’s second competitor in the race to develop a treatment for prostate cancer. And hedge funds affiliated with Milken or his close associates were also heavily invested in Cell Genesys, which was Dendreon’s third competitor.

We had learned further that Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which appears to act in concert with Milken’s investment fund, ProQuest, had supported Novacea, Cougar and Cell Genesys. The Prostate Cancer Foundation’s support for these companies preceded announcements that they had signed massive deals with large pharmaceutical companies. In the cases of Novacea and Cell Genesys, those deals were soon cancelled on the news that their treatments were ineffective, and the companies’ investors quickly dumped their stock. This fact, combined with other evidence, suggests that the Prostate Cancer Foundation was supporting what amounted to sophisticated “pump and dump” schemes.

Meanwhile, the Prostate Cancer Foundation snubbed its nose at Dendreon. And in April, 2007, Dr. Howard Scher, who was an executive and director of ProQuest, and the chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s “Therapeutic Consortium”, spearheaded an unprecedented lobbying effort to convince the FDA to reject Dendreon’s treatment – the first time in history that the FDA had gone against an advisory panel’s recommendation to approve a drug for terminally ill patients. This lobbying effort had the support of government officials who have ties to Michael Milken.

In the days before and after the lobbying effort, Dendreon was trashed by a few captured journalists – most notably, CNBC’s Jim Cramer — and was also subjected to a blistering attack by naked short sellers who illegally flooded the market with millions of phantom shares to help drive down the company’s stock price. This criminal naked short selling continued intermittently for much of the next two years, while other events conspired to hobble Dendreon, a company that had completed multiple clinical trials that strongly indicated that its product, Provenge, was capable of lengthening the lives of tens of thousands of men with prostate cancer…

* * * * * * * *

In July 2008, not long before Cell Genesys announced that its drug was killing people, CNBC’s Jim Cramer called Dendreon a “dog.” Cramer, of course, did not mention that the illegal naked short selling of Dendreon was continuing apace. Throughout that month, more than 1 million Dendreon shares “failed to deliver” every day, according to SEC data.

At the end of August 2008, after Cell Genesys announced that its drug was killing people, Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation posted a story that suggested that this failure was a sign that Dendreon could be in trouble, too. Clearly, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, whose top officials had done so much to derail Dendreon in 2007, were not eager to see the company’s treatment reach patients.

Not once did the Prostate Cancer Foundation note that the difference between Dendreon and the three companies promoted by the Prostate Cancer Foundation was that Dendreon had provided heaps of evidence that its treatment actually worked.

In October 2008, Dendreon released still more favorable data. Its Independent Monitoring Committee’s studies were showing (as had the company’s phase 3 trials in 2007) that Provenge was safe, and offered a significant survival advantage over a placebo.

Meanwhile our two favorite financial analysts – the singing Sendek and Jonathan Aschoff – continued to reiterate their sell ratings on Dendreon.

The attacks continued through March 2009, which is when we were treated to the reappearance of  Matthew Herper, the Forbes reporter who had dismissed Dendreon during those strange occurrences in April 2007. Now, Herper published a story in which he made it clear that Dendreon’s treatment would not, and should not, be approved by the FDA.

In support of his claims, he cited the analysis of Dr. Thomas Fleming, one of the three people whose missives had ended up in the hands of The Cancer Letter. To show that Fleming (who is not a physician, but rather a statistician) was not the only “expert” opposed to Dendreon’s treatment, Herper cited several other “experts”  – Susan Ellenberg, Donald Berry, and Janet Wittes – who had views that were remarkably similar to Fleming’s.

What Herper did not mention is that Susan Ellenberg had co-authored a book with Fleming, Janet Wittes was credited with editing that book, and that book enthusiastically cited the work of Donald Berry. Clearly, these “experts” had worked together to make sure that one message was whispered in Herper’s ear.

While Herper was working on his article, John Stewart of the “Daily Show” began exposing Jim Cramer as a fraud. This created quite a stir, and in the midst of it Cramer went on CNBC to tout none other than….Cougar Biotechnology, the company controlled by Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly of the Mafia-linked “pump and dump” shop D.H. Blair. Cramer said he thought Cougar was the next big thing in prostate cancer treatment, and everybody should load up on its stock.

Meanwhile, with Novacea and Cell Genesys killing people, Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit was now directing much of its energy to promoting the mostly untested treatment then being hawked by Cougar Biotechnology.

Cougar’s treatment “has recently attracted global media coverage,” began one Prostate Cancer Foundation press release, which described the treatment as “a promising experimental medication with the potential to treat patients who have failed conventional medical treatment for advanced prostate cancer…”

The press release continued:  “The [Prostate Cancer Foundation] Therapeutic Clinical Investigation Consortium played an important role by accelerating US clinical testing of this new agent in Phase II clinical trials….In Phase 1 studies, [Cougar’s treatment] exhibited the potential to attenuate disease progression and shrink tumors.”

Actually, the studies were not quite so encouraging as Milken’s foundation would have one believe. Abiraterone had been tested on a total of 30 patients. These patients purportedly experienced declines in levels of “prostate specific antigen,” but this is a long way from demonstrating that  Cougar’s treatment “attenuates disease” or “shrinks tumors.” As for that “potential to treat patients,” it will be at least two years before Cougar has enough data to submit an application for FDA approval.

For the sake of prostate cancer patients everywhere, Deep Capture hopes that Cougar’s drug proves to be successful. We wish merely to note the different reception the network of Milken cronies delivers to a drug like Provenge, whose supporting data is ample and overwhelmingly positive, versus the opinions the network expresses about a drug whose data is preliminary and inclusive, but whose investors hail from the Milken network.

We also wish to reiterate that Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation and people tied to Milken gave ringing endorsements to companies – Novacea, Cell Genesys, and Cougar Biotechnology – right before those companies entered into purportedly massive deals with major pharmaceutical companies. In the cases of Novacea and Cell Genesys, those massive deals were canceled soon after they were signed because the companies’ treatments were shown to be ineffective.

Yet, in all three cases, investors with ties to Milken or his close associates made large fortunes selling out their stock soon after the companies received over-the-top endorsements from the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Meanwhile, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, whose officials had played a key role in derailing Dendreon back in 2007, continued to snub its nose at Dendreon’s Provenge, the one treatment that could be safely and effectively administered to patients – right away.

* * * * * * * *

It is not clear if Milken himself was invested in Cougar, but Dr. Samuel Saks, who was a director on Cougar’s advisory board, was also a board member of Milken’s fund, ProQuest Investments. Three other members of Cougar’s advisory board were doctors affiliated with Milken’s “philanthropy,” the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

In addition to Rosenwald, the biggest investors in Cougar Biotechnology have included Millennium Management (the hedge fund that was co-founded by the guy who was going to murder Ivan Boesky, and later died of an early heart attack) and Visium Capital, which is co-owned by Dimitry Balyasny and Jacob Gottleib.

As noted, Millennium, Visium and Balyasny were also among the largest shareholders in Cell Genesys when the Prostate Cancer Foundation began promoting that company’s treatment, GVAX, in mass mailings and flyers handed out in front of shopping malls. Millennium’s manager and Dmitry Balyasny, meanwhile, were among the seven traders who were betting big against Dendreon in March 2007.

The few media stories about Balyasny make him seem like he is a “prominent” investor – and a poster boy for the American dream. Born in Russia, he came to America as a young man and soon started raking in the bucks as a “whiz kid” investor. In addition to Visium, Balyasny is the proprietor of Balyasny Asset Management. Some of Balyasny Asset Management’s employees –  including, for a period of time, the fund’s chief risk officer — have come from SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by Milken crony Steve Cohen.

A great many of Balyasny’s other employees were hired from a hedge fund called Magnetar Capital. The senior partner and investment committee chairman of Magnetar is Michael S. Gross, who was previously a founding partner of Apollo Advisors, the investment fund run by Milken crony Leon Black.

As you will recall, Leon Black funded the new Milken “philanthropic” foundation that hired National Cancer Institute prostate cancer chief Alison Martin after she helped the chairman of Milken’s Therapeutic Consortium foil Dendreon’s FDA application. Leon Black is also a business partner of Felix Sater, the alleged Russian mobster who once stuck a broken stem of a wine glass through a stock broker’s face and then went on to run White Rock Partners, a Mafia-infested brokerage that was indicted for manipulating stock in cahoots with the above-mentioned Lindsay Rosenwald’s D.H. Blair.

Prior to starting his own hedge funds, Balyasny was the top trader at an outfit called Schonfeld Securities, the proprietor of which is a man named Steven Schonfeld. Prior to founding his firm, Schonfeld worked for Blinder Robinson (then known on the Street as “Blind’em and Rob’em”). Blinder Robinson was among the first firms to be shut down by the Feds when they began investigating a network of Mafia-linked brokerages that included Rosenwald’s D.H. Blair and Sater’s White Rock Capital.

Schonfeld worked at Blinder Robinson with Anthony Elgindy, the criminal naked short seller who was was later sentenced to prison for stock manipulation and bribing FBI officials. As you will recall, Elgindy appeared for his sentencing missing a finger – reportedly because the Russian Mafia forced him to saw it off, giving him something on which to meditate while he served his 11 years in jail. Meanwhile, the Elgindy investigation led the authorities to other hedge funds, such as Gryphon Partners, whose manager was later among the few who bet big against Dendreon.

As should be clear by now, it is significant that a preponderance of the hedge funds that bet big against Dendreon, and a preponderance of the hedge funds that were invested in the three Milken-promoted companies – Cell Genesys, Novacea, and Cougar Biotechnology – were part of the same network. And it is significant that much of this network seems to be centered on Michael Milken and Steve Cohen, who became the “most powerful trader on Wall Street” some years after he was investigated by the government for trading on inside information provided to him by Milken’s shop at Drexel Burnham.

Permit me to repeat a few facts:  Cohen was once the top earner for Gruntal & Company, which was simultaneously employing several traders who were later tied to the Mafia. When Gruntal was indicted for embezzling millions of dollars, many of its former employees went on to fill the ranks of  White Rock Capital, run by the alleged Russian mobster Felix Sater (he with the broken wine glass).

Cohen, meanwhile, had left to start his own hedge fund empire. Cohen’s hedge funds have helped pump stocks promoted by D.H. Blair, which was eventually indicted on 173 counts of securities fraud and implicated in a Mafia stock manipulation scheme that was orchestrated by White Rock Capital.

Lindsay Rosenwald, who is the son-in-law of D.H. Blair’s founder and a former top executive of D.H. Blair, was not only the controlling shareholder of Cougar Biotechnology, but also the proprietor of a hedge fund called Paramount Capital. The vice president of Paramount was formerly a top trader for Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital. The vice president of the above mentioned Millennium Management is also a former top trader of SAC Capital.

And Cohen, who is maniacal about his working relationships, is on close terms with Schonfeld Securities, run by the former employee of Blind’em and Rob’em.  Cohen has employed Schonfeld’s traders, including Anthony Bassone, who was until recently assistant controller of SAC Capital; and Rob Cannon, who is Cohen’s top personal trader at SAC. Another “Russian whiz kid”, Michael Orlov, created the computerized trading infrastructure at both SAC and Schonfeld Securities. And, as mentioned, Cohen shares employees and trading strategies with that other “Russian whiz kid” — Dmitry Balyasny, who was once Schonfeld’s biggest earner.

All of which I mention only because I fancy myself a biographer of a particularly destructive network of Wall Street personalities. It may be of no significance that out of Planet Earth’s 11,500 hedge funds, there were only ten hedge funds with large numbers of Dendreon put options at the end of March, 2007.  There may be no significance to the fact that of those ten hedge funds, seven were in the same network — Millennium Management; Balyasny Asset Management; WS Capital (the successor to Gryphon Partners); Perceptive Advisors (whose manager was simultaneously working for Paramount Capital); Bernard Madoff Investment Securities; Pequot Management; and SAC Capital (managed by Steve Cohen, who is said to be maniacal about maintaining working relationships with people in his network).

And it could be purely coincidence that these hedge funds were the largest holders of put options on Dendreon shares right at the time that Dendreon was getting clobbered by massive amounts of illegal naked short selling – and right before Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer was stymied by an unprecedented lobbying effort led by FDA-contracted doctors and government officials tied to Michael Milken.

By the way, three months later – at the end of June, 2007 — there was just one more hedge fund with large numbers of Dendreon put options. It is not clear from SEC filings whether these put options were bought before or after the FDA announced (on May 8, 2007) that it would  not approve Dendreon’s treatment.

Either way, it is probably another coincidence that this eleventh hedge fund that bought large numbers of put options was the above-mentioned Magnetar Capital.

* * * * * * * *

To be continued…Check in soon for Chapter 15.

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 13 of 15)

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 13 of 15)



What follows is PART 13 of a 15-PART series. The remaining installments will appear on Deep Capture in the coming days, after which point the story will be published in its entirety.

Click here to read PART 1

Click here to read PART 2

Click here to read PART 3

Click here to read PART 4

Click here to read PART 5

Click here to read PART 6

Click here to read PART 7

Click here to read PART 8

Click here to read PART 9

Click here to read PART 10

Click here to read PART 11

Click here to read PART 12

Where we left off, we had learned that on March 29, 2007, an FDA advisory panel overwhelmingly voted to approve Provenge, a vaccine Dendreon developed for prostate cancer. As a result, most financial analysts and investors believed that Dendreon had a promising future.  However, ten hedge funds (out of a universe of 11,500 hedge funds) held large numbers of Dendreon put options (bets against the company), suggesting they had expected that Dendreon would be derailed. At least seven of those hedge funds can be tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

We had also learned that Milken himself stood to profit if Dendreon were to experience unexpected problems receiving FDA approval. This is because Milken was the early financier and principal deal maker for ProQuest Investments, a fund that (along with an affiliate) controlled a company called Novacea, which was one of Dendreon’s competitors in the race to produce a new treatment for prostate cancer. Meanwhile, Lindsay Rosenwald (a Milken crony who once helped run a Mafia-linked brokerage called D.H. Blair, which specialized in pumping and dumping fake biotech companies) controlled Cougar Biotechnology, which was Dendreon’s second competitor in the race to develop a treatment for prostate cancer.

We had learned further that Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which appears to act in concert with Milken’s investment fund, ProQuest, had supported Novacea and Cougar, neither of which had shown that their treatments were safe or effective, while turning its back on Dendreon.

In addition, we had learned that in April, 2007, Dr. Howard Scher, who was an executive and director of ProQuest, and the chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s “Therapeutic Consortium”, spearheaded an unprecedented lobbying effort to convince the FDA to deny approval to Dendreon’s treatment – the first time in history that the FDA had gone against an advisory panel’s recommendation to approve a drug destined for dying patients.

In the days before and after the lobbying effort, Dendreon was subjected to a blistering attack by naked short sellers who illegally flooded the market with millions of phantom shares to help drive down the company’s stock price. This criminal naked short selling continued intermittently for much of the next two years, while other events conspired to hobble Dendreon, a company that had completed multiple clinical trials that strongly suggested that its product, Provenge, was capable of lengthening the lives of thousands of men with prostate cancer….

* * * * * * * *

In December 2007, three U.S. Congressmen — Mike Michaud (D-Maine), Dan Burton (R-Indiana) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) — called on the House Commerce Committee to investigate why the FDA failed to approve Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer. Referring to Dr. Scher and his ally, Dr. Hussain, the lawmakers said in a letter that “there are reasons to believe that serious ethics rules were violated by two FDA advisory panel members in their decision [to vote and lobby against Dendreon] and that these violations played a role in the subsequent FDA decision not to approve Provenge at this time.”

A bipartisan group of 12 additional Congressmen eventually signed on to the request for an investigation. And in February 2008, as outrage over this scandal spread through the medical community, a group of seven respected doctors, calling themselves “Physicians for Provenge” wrote a letter to the ranking members of the House Commerce Committee, suggesting that the investigation should urgently proceed.

“Please consider why our colleagues and we KNOW that Provenge works and why tens of thousands of men with late stage prostate cancer should be given access to it,” the physicians wrote. Noting the “egregious conflicts of interest” of Dr. Scher and Dr. Hussain, the “Physicians for Provenge” added that the “FDA should be carefully assessing risk versus reward for the treatment of terminally ill patients, rather than ‘gate keeping’ based on outdated statistics, reducing short-term health costs or backroom shenanigans.”

Nonetheless, Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell denied the requests for an investigation. To justify this decision, Dingell wrote in a letter to the committee that an “investigative hearing prior to an agency’s final decision runs the risk of interfering with the normal regulatory process.”

Apparently, it was fine if FDA-contracted doctors and government officials tied to Michael Milken corrupted the normal regulatory process by obfuscating approval standards (“substantial evidence” versus “proof”) and by drafting unsolicited post-vote letters with back-channel help from a government employee who was weeks away from taking a new job created by Michael Milken.  But investigating such improprieties would corrupt the regulatory process, in the eyes of Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell.

Dingell also pointed out that “a new law strengthening conflict of interest provisions now governs FDA panels.” Unfortunately, that law was passed in September 2007, some months after Milken’s conflicted allies derailed Dendreon’s application.

In any case, it is not clear that the old conflict of interest provisions were not violated in the Dendreon case. Dr. Scher received a conflict of interest waiver, but in his application for that waiver he did not mention his financial ties to Milken’s ProQuest Investments. There should have been an investigation into why that waiver was granted. And while he was at it, Representative Dingell should have investigated the illegal naked short selling of Dendreon and the “backroom shenanigans” of Milken’s captured officials at the FDA and the National Cancer Institute.

At any rate, while the congressional investigation was being stopped in its tracks, Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation was becoming more brazen.

In March 2008, for example, the Prostate Cancer Foundation sent out a peculiar mass mailing. Written by a cardiologist on Prostate Cancer Foundation letterhead, the mailing began, “I’ll never forget the day my 5-year-old son came home from school, worried. One of the other kids told him I was going to die.”

The letter went on to describe the horrors of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. So far, all kosher. But then came the strange part – the charity’s solicitation explicitly promoted a mostly untested experimental treatment that was being developed by a public company that was considered to be one of the few competitors to Dendreon. The treatment was called GVAX, and the company developing it was called Cell Genesys.

The author of the letter noted that during his treatment, he had “learned about some of the groundbreaking research projects supported by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, such as GVAX, a drug now in phase 3 clinical trials that boosts the immune system to fight off prostate cancer cells.”

Notice that the name of the drug – GVAX – was printed in boldface letters, so nobody could miss it. Notice, too, the underlining, which stressed that this treatment (as opposed to others, such as Dendreon’s) was endorsed and supported by the Prostate Cancer Foundation. And, finally, notice the unequivocal statement that GVAX works – that it “boosts the immune system” and is able to “fight off” cancer.

Lest there be any question that Milken was eager to promote GVAX, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, soon after, began distributing flyers at supermarkets and shopping malls with a similar message. “My 5-year-old didn’t want to lose his daddy,” read the flyers, which then proceeded to describe a “groundbreaking” new medicine – GVAX.

At the time, Cell Genesys was nowhere near bringing GVAX to market. It had just finished phase 2 clinical trials on a total of 65 patients. Lab results showed that GVAX might increase prostate cancer antibodies, but they did not show that the immune system was actually boosted in such a way as to better “fight off” cancer or improve survival. Phase 3 trials, which would determine whether GVAX actually improved the health of patients, had just begun.

But if you were an average Joe who read those flyers – or a wealthy Mary who received that solicitation in the mail – you’d be mighty convinced that Cell Genesys was the next big thing in cancer therapy. You might even be tempted to buy its stock.

* * * * * * * *

When Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation began distributing his fliers promoting GVAX, a number of hedge funds had accumulated large numbers of shares in Cell Genesys.

One of these was Millennium Management, the hedge fund that had been founded by the fellow who planned to murder Ivan Boesky when it seemed that Boesky might cooperate with the authorities in their case against Milken. Again, Millennium is one of those seven hedge funds that had the foresight to own put options in Dendreon back in March 2007, right before Dendreon’s treatment was unexpectedly scuttled by the FDA.

Another hedge fund with a big stake in Cell Genesys was Forest Investment Management, owned by Michael Boyd, the father of hedge fund shill Roddy Boyd, currently of Fortune Magazine.  Michael Boyd, remember, had previously been involved in two big ventures – one with a former Milken colleague from Drexel Burnham; the other with Santo Maggio, the convicted criminal CEO of Refco Securities.

Hedge fund Perceptive Advisors also held a moderately large stake in Cell Genesys. Recall that Perceptive was then run by Joseph Edelman, who was not only another one of those seven hedge fund managers who held put options in Dendreon, but was also simultaneously serving as a trader for Paramount Capital.

As you might recall, the vice president of Paramount Capital was a former employee of Milken crony Steve Cohen, who was also one of those seven hedge fund managers betting big against Dendreon. The owner of Paramount, of course, is Lindsay Rosenwald, who used to run the Mafia-controlled D.H. Blair with Milken’s former national sales manager, and controlled Cougar Biotechnology, another Dendreon competitor promoted by the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Another big buyer of Cell Genesys shares was Mazama Capital, a hedge fund based in California. In December 2006, Mazama also owned 2.1 million shares of Dendreon. It dumped more than a million of those shares sometime before or immediately after the March advisory panel meeting, when it seemed certain that Dendreon would receive FDA approval.

Only one other hedge fund dumped similar quantities of Dendreon shares at that time. It was JL Advisors, which is controlled by the above-mentioned Steve Cohen. This dumping of shares contributed to the selling volume that was amplified by whoever was selling massive amounts of phantom stock in Dendreon.

Then there was Renaissance Technologies, which held 800,000 shares in Cell Genesys when Milken’s “philanthropy” began promoting the company.  The CFO of Renaissance is James Rowen, who was previously the chief financial officer of SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by the above-mentioned Steve Cohen, who is known to be maniacal about making sure that his former employees remain satellites of his trading empire.

Meanwhile, hedge funds Balyasny Asset Management and Visium Capital held a combined 12 million shares of Cell Genesys. Balyasny and Visium have overlapping ownership (Dmitry Balyasny is a partner in both hedge funds) though they don’t generally disclose that in their SEC filings.

Dimitry Balysasny is a close associate of Steve Cohen. He has employed some of those former SAC Capital traders and managers with whom Cohen maniacally maintains relationships. And he and Cohen have attacked the same companies.

As I mentioned, Balyasny was one of our seven hedge fund managers with large numbers of put options in Dendreon. I will return to him, because this enigmatic Russian might have more surprises in store for Dendreon.

* * * * * * * *

Three weeks after Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation began publicly promoting Cell Genesys’s virtually untested prostate cancer treatment, Cell Genesys announced that it had signed a gargantuan $320 million deal to develop and commercialize GVAX with Takeda Pharmaceutical, the Japanese biotech giant.

The press reported this deal dutifully and uncritically, making it sound like GVAX was the next big thing. The stock price soared, earning large profits for the Milken-network hedge funds that had invested in Cell Genesys.

But just as there was something fishy about the Milken-invested Novacea and its $500 million deal with Schering Plough, so too did the “$320 million” Cell Genesys deal deserve a hearty dose of skepticism.

For starters, only days before Cell Genesys announced the Takeda deal, Takeda had bought a company called Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Millennium had been transformed into Takeda Pharmaceutical Capital Ventures. It was Takeda Capital Ventures, not the Takeda parent company, that signed the deal with Cell Genesys.  In other words, it was almost certain that Millennium’s management, most of whom had been retained by Takeda Capital, orchestrated the whopping $320 million deal.

That was rather strange because Millennium had been founded by a man named Mark Levin. It was Levin who orchestrated Millennium’s merger with LeukoSite, the biotech company that belonged to Marty Peretz, the Boesky-Milken crony who founded TheStreet.com. And more important to this particular episode,  it was Levin who had founded Cell Genesys. He founded the company basically by investing in himself (just as Domain Associates had created the Milken-invested Novacea out of thin air).

So, assuming Levin still had influence over Millennium/Takeda, and assuming he was still invested in Cell Genesys, he had just orchestrated a deal to use other people’s money to invest $300 million in himself.

Or, at least Cell Genesys’s press release said that Takeda (which was, in fact, Millennium) was going to “pay Cell Genesys an upfront payment of $50 million and additional milestone payments totaling up to $270 million…Takeda [actually Millennium, now known as Takeda Capital Ventures] will pay Cell Genesys tiered, double-digit royalties based on net sales of GVAX immunotherapy for prostate cancer…”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sounds like those “net sales” are imminent, right? In fact, just as the Milken-invested Novacea’s $500 million deal was dependent on clinical trials showing good results, so too was Cell Genesys’s big deal with itself dependent on the company producing some evidence that it’s drug actually worked. The operative phrase in that press release was “milestone payments totaling up to $270 million.”

Of course, just three months later, Cell Genesys announced that it had halted its trials of GVAX after its Independent Data Monitoring Committee, in a “routine safety review meeting,” observed “an imbalance of deaths…”  In other words, GVAX was not helping patients. It was killing them. And, of course, the $270 million worth of “milestone payments” announced with so much fanfare were unceremoniously canceled.

Either before this announcement, or immediately after, the big investors in Cell Genesys – Mazama, Balyasny, Millennium, Perceptive Advisors – all dumped their shares. Given the big boost those shares got from Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation promotions and the giddy announcement that Cell Genesys would receive $330 million, we can assume that those investors made a nice profit on their sales, just as Milken’s ProQuest and affiliated funds made nice profits on their sales of Novacea.

It seems to me that Cell Genesys, like Novacea, was a sophisticated pump and dump scam, aided by Michael Milken’s  “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Which brings us to Cougar Biotechnology, the third Dendreon “competitor” promoted by Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Cougar Biotechnology, as we know, was controlled by Lindsay Rosenwald, who used to help run D.H. Blair, the Mafia-linked pump-and-dump shop whose two vice chairman pled guilty to securities crimes, and whose president was Milken’s former national sales manager.

D.H. Blair was indicted on 173 counts of securities fraud, and it was notorious for pumping and dumping biotech companies with no real medicine. But who knows? Maybe Cougar has a genuine product. It is hard to say at the moment, and will remain that way for years to come, because its prostate cancer treatment remains virtually untested.

In any case, just last month, Cougar, no doubt aided by the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s vigorous endorsements, wangled a $1 billion deal to merge with Johnson & Johnson, so Rosenwald and friends did quite well on their investments.

Remember that while Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation was using unwitting donors’ money to promote Novacea, Cougar Biotechnology, and Cell Genesys, its top officials, and perhaps Milken himself, were actively seeking to derail Dendreon, the one company that actually had a promising treatment for prostate cancer. This was certainly to the benefit of the short sellers (some of whom were illegally naked short selling) and the buyers of put options who were betting big against Dendreon

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Cougar Biotechnology experienced almost no naked short selling, according to SEC “failures to deliver” data. The Milken-invested Novacea also experienced virtually zero naked short selling, even after it announced that its treatment was killing people. The same goes for Cell Genesys — relatively little naked short selling, even when its treatment flopped.

The miscreant party line is that hedge funds do not engage in naked short selling to manufacture phantom stock. The party line is that most “failures to deliver” are the result of mechanical “errors.” It’s funny how those “errors” tend to occur when miscreants in a certain network are short a company. It’s also funny that those “errors” don’t happen to companies in which Milken and his cronies are invested.

If only there were a pattern.

* * * * * * * *

To be continued…Click here for Chapter 14.

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 12 of 15)

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 12 of 15)



What follows is PART 12 of a 15-PART series. The remaining installments will appear on Deep Capture in the coming days, after which point the story will be published in its entirety.

Click here to read PART 1

Click here to read PART 2

Click here to read PART 3

Click here to read PART 4

Click here to read PART 5

Click here to read PART 6

Click here to read PART 7

Click here to read PART 8

Click here to read PART 9

Click here to read PART 10

Click here to read PART 11

Where we left off, we had learned that on March 29, 2007, an FDA advisory panel voted overwhelmingly to recommend approval of Provenge, Dendreon’s promising new treatment for prostate cancer. As a result, most financial analysts and investors expected that Dendreon would have  a promising future. However, ten hedge funds (out of a universe of 11,500 hedge funds) held large numbers of Dendreon put options (bets against the company), suggesting they expected Dendreon would be derailed.  At least seven of those hedge funds can be tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

We had also learned that Milken himself stood to profit if Dendreon were to experience problems receiving FDA approval. This is because Milken was the early financier and principal deal maker for ProQuest Investments, a fund that (along with an affiliate) controlled a company called Novacea, which was one of Dendreon’s competitors in the race to produce a new treatment for prostate cancer. Meanwhile, Lindsay Rosenwald (a Milken crony who once helped run a Mafia-linked brokerage called D.H. Blair, which specialized in pumping and dumping fake biotech companies) controlled Cougar Biotechnology, which was Dendreon’s second competitor in the race to develop a new treatment for prostate cancer.

We had learned further that Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, seems largely to be an extension of Milken’s investment fund, ProQuest. This might explain why the Prostate Cancer Foundation endorsed and provided financial support to Novacea and Cougar, neither of which had shown that their treatments were safe or effective, while snubbing its nose at Dendreon.

In addition, we had learned that in April, 2007, an FDA-contracted physician, Dr. Howard Scher, who was also an executive and director of Milken’s ProQuest Investments, and the chairman of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation “Therapeutic Consortium”, spearheaded an unprecedented lobbying effort to undermine the prescribed regulatory process and convince the FDA to deny approval to Dendreon — the first time in history that the FDA went against an advisory panel’s recommendation to approve a drug destined for dying patients.

In the days before and after the lobbying effort, Dendreon was subjected to a blistering attack by naked short sellers who illegally flooded the market with millions of phantom shares to help drive down the company’s stock price. This criminal naked short selling continued intermittently for much of the next two years, while other events conspired to hobble Dendreon, a company that had completed multiple clinical trials that strongly suggested that its product, Provenge, was capable of lengthening the lives of tens of thousands of men with prostate cancer….

* * * * * * * *

“Black Wednesday at the FDA.”

That is how Dr. Mark Thornton, a former medical officer in the FDA’s Office of Oncology Products, described the FDA’s decision not to approve Dendreon’s Provenge.  In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Thornton described vaccines such as Provenge as the “Holy Grail of cancer treatment.”  Without directly referring to anyone by name, Dr. Thorton described Dr. Scher’s lobbying effort as “arrogant” and “unprecedented.”

Dr. Thornton added that when the FDA succumbed  to that lobbying, “the dawn of a new era in cancer immunotherapy was driven back into the night. It will be years before we know the full impact of these decisions and how many cancer patients…have had their lives cut short as a result.”

This scandal infuriated many other physicians and patient advocates (with  the exception of those affiliated with Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation). Some Dendreon supporters took to the streets.

On June 2, 2007, there was a protest in front of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Two days later, several prostate cancer advocacy groups rallied in Washington. On June 6, there was yet another protest, this one attended by still more physicians who demanded to know why the FDA had failed to approve Dendreon’s treatment.

“I’d like to explain in the most basic of terms,” said Dr. Mark Moyad of the University of Michigan medical school, at the June 6 rally. “We think a mistake has been made. We are here in a friendly way to start the process of correcting that mistake.”

That word — “friendly” – seems to me to perfectly describe Dendreon’s supporters. I might add  “intelligent,” and “fair,” and “engaged.”  But the mainstream media played its customary role by portraying such advocates as vexatious wackos (notwithstanding the fact that many of Dendreon’s supporters were respected physicians).

“Oncologists do not usually need bodyguards…” began a story in the Washington Post, which was all about the Dendreon “controversy.”  The gist of this story was that people advocating for prostate cancer patients might somehow be dangerous – that it was strange how vocal they were, it was strange that they used the Internet to get the word out – and Dr. Scher (the physician who helped derail Dendreon) feared for his safety. He had even received some “threats.”

Nowhere in the story was it suggested that a great many prominent doctors were saying that the FDA had made a “mistake” in failing to approve Dendreon’s application. Nowhere was it mentioned that Dr. Scher played a significant role in engineering this “mistake.”  And nowhere was it mentioned that Dr. Scher was egregiously conflicted due to his financial ties to Michael Milken’s investment fund and Dendreon’s competitors, Novacea and Cougar Biotechnology.

Essentially identical stories appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Seattle Times, and on CNBC. Every one of these media outfits portrayed Dendreon’s supporters as potentially dangerous lunatics. Every one of them stated unequivocally that Dr. Scher had been “threatened.”  Yet, not one of them specifically described the threats, and as far as I can ascertain, there were no “threats.”

Clearly, there was a new party line – Dr. Scher was the victim. Given the near verbatim repetition of this party line in so many newspapers, and given my experience working in the mainstream media, I can say with near certainty that this was the work of an orchestrated public relations campaign – a campaign to distract attention from what was really happening to Dendreon.

Meanwhile, Dendreon remained one of the most manipulated stocks on Nasdaq. On the day that the Washington Post story appeared, SEC data showed that criminal naked short sellers had sold, and failed to deliver, more than 13 million Dendreon shares. Following the mainstream media’s standard operating procedures, no mention was made of this phantom stock in any of the stories on Dendreon’s troubles.

* * * * * * * *

By June of 2007, Dendreon’s stock price was averaging around $7 – down from its early April high of $25. There was no way the company could raise more money on the stock market, and so it had to significantly scale back its work on Neuvenge, a promising treatment that fought breast cancer in the same way that Provenge fought prostate cancer. In order to get enough cash to continue work on Provenge, Dendreon issued over $100 million worth of convertible bonds.

Sometimes, hedge funds that buy a company’s convertible bonds are well-intentioned – they want the company to succeed so that the company can repay the loan.

But, often, hedge funds that buy convertible bonds do not have the company’s best interests at heart. Indeed, Deep Capture has obtained an internal client presentation given by a well-known investment bank that states that the single largest segment of investors in convertible bonds are hedge funds that actually intend to increase their bets against the companies that they are financing.

A convertible bond is debt that can be “converted” into stock. A hedge fund lends a company, say, $100 million. As repayment, the hedge fund can either receive the $100 million plus interest at maturity, or instead it can receive, say, 10 million shares in the company.

If the share price is $8 at the time of the loan, those 10 million shares would be worth $80 million. But if the share price rises to $20, the hedge fund can convert his $100 million loan into $200 million worth of stock. If the hedge fund manager is a value investor who wishes the company well, he will make his loan and wait for the stock to rise.

But there are various ways that convertible bonds can be put to malevolent use. Suppose a group of hedge funds have launched a full scale short selling attack against a company, but the hedge funds want to short sell even more stock.  To do that legally, the hedge funds must first locate more stock to borrow, and then sell it. But sometimes there is simply no more stock available for short sellers to borrow.

Now, suppose the share price has already been significantly hammered, so the company can no longer raise money through the stock market. The hedge funds know this. And the hedge funds are important clients of an investment bank. So the hedge funds and the investment bank hatch a plan.

It works like this: the investment bank tells the victim company that it can resolve the company’s cash problems by brokering a convertible bond offering. If the company agrees, the investment bank says, “great, but there’s just one hitch – you, the company, have to lend us, the investment bank, the shares that the company would normally keep on hand in case the bond holders convert.

To assuage any fears, the investment bank might promise the company that it will not re-lend those shares to short sellers, but will merely sell them to long buyers – people who want to invest in the company. The company says, “fine,” and issues, say, $100 million worth of debt convertible to 10 million shares. The company also agrees to that “hitch” — so now the investment bank has wangled a “stock loan” agreement that gives it exclusive rights to borrow those 10 million shares until such time as the bond holders convert.

Meanwhile, the investment bank returns to that group of hedge funds, who agree to buy the convertible bonds as a means to extricating those 10 million shares from the company. Once the investment bank is in possession of those shares, it cannot (at least according to its agreement with the company) lend them to the hedge funds for purposes of short selling. But it can do one better. It can broker swap contracts that oblige counterparties to pay the hedge funds a certain amount of money in the event that the company’s stock price decreases in value.

Then, the investment bank dumps those 10 million shares into the market all at once, causing the stock price to further collapse. Meanwhile, the hedge funds and the investment bank might be engaging in naked short selling – selling stock that has never been borrowed by anybody (i.e. stock that does not exist).

If anyone asks about this illegal naked short selling, the hedge funds say they thought they had “a locate” on stock that they could borrow and deliver. If anyone asks the hedge funds to be more specific, the hedge funds say that they had “located” and planned to borrow those 10 million shares that the investment bank had borrowed from the victim company. If the SEC notes that the investment bank had an agreement not to lend those shares to short sellers, the hedge funds say they didn’t know about that.

Of course, the SEC rarely asks any of these questions, but the convertible bonds provide some immunity, just in case.

As the stock price hits rock bottom, the company depletes the cash it raised from the bond offering. And the only way for the company to receive new funding is to issue more convertible bonds to the hedge funds, or do one of those dreaded “death sprial” PIPE deals.

If this were a game of chess, it would now be “check” for the hedge funds. The company knows that its stock price and its financing depend entirely on the hedge funds, which are put in the position of being able to drive (and trade ahead of) the company’s business decisions. This scheme might even allow a set of hedge funds to take control of, say, a $700 million company, for a $100 million loan.

With the exception of the naked short selling, most of this scheme’s elements can be found in the standard PowerPoint presentations that some banks deliver to their hedge fund clients behind closed doors. The investment banks market the scheme as a way to profit from volatility in the stock. When the stock crashes, the hedge funds make money from the swaps and their short selling. If the stock subsequently increases in value, the hedge funds can convert their bonds and use some of the proceeds to pay the counterparties to the swaps.

But sometimes the hedge funds intend to fully destroy the company. They make plenty on their short positions and swaps, and their bonds pull in some money during the bankruptcy proceedings. Sometimes, during bankruptcy, the hedge fund lenders get their hands on company assets (such as blockbuster medical treatments) that are actually worth considerably more than what they spent on their bonds.

At other times, the ultimate goal is not to destroy the company outright, but to crash the stock, and then accumulate shares, giving the hedge funds still more influence over company decisions, and perhaps paving the way for a hostile takeover.

I do not know for certain the motivations of the hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds. I do not know if they engaged in naked short selling. After all, the identities of the naked short sellers and the real amount of failed trades they are generating are, as far as the SEC is concerned, still a big secret. Remember that the SEC says that releasing information about (illegal) naked short sales would reveal the (criminal) hedge funds’ “proprietary trading strategies.” And the SEC cannot have that.

I do know, however, that nearly every one of Dendreon’s convertible bond holders are connected in important ways to Michael Milken or the seven affiliated hedge fund managers who held large numbers of put options in Dendreon prior to the strange occurrences of March 2007. This raises the suspicion that the convertible bond holders were not typical investors (that is, investors who put in capital hoping that the company would prosper).

Instead, the fact that the buyers of the converts were part of the same network that was placing large bets against Dendreon (and taking steps, with help from Milken’s “philanthropy”, to derail Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer) raises the possibility that these bond investments were made as part of a strategy to manipulate Dendreon’s stock price down,  during which time members of this network would (with help from Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation) pump up the stock prices of Dendreon’s “competitors” – the companies controlled by Milken and his friends.

In the two years that these shenanigans were going on, 60,000 American men died of prostate cancer, which seemed to be of no concern to this particular network of miscreants. But once the competing, Milken-connected companies had been thoroughly pumped, and then dumped (on the news that their treatments were worthless), it would perhaps be time to exert greater control over the one company–Dendreon–that actually had a treatment that could extend lives.

As we will see, members of the Milken network – some of the hedge funds that bought the convertible bonds, and some of the seven hedge funds that were betting big against Dendreon in 2007 – have, as a group, recently become the company’s largest shareholders. Their precise intentions, however, remain a mystery.

While we do not have photo-perfect pictures of what was going on behind the scenes of Dendreon’s bizarre trading (the SEC does not let that get public), we do know that this paradoxical play of participating in a convertible bond in order to further a manipulative scheme against a company, is in fact a standard play on Wall Street. Given this, we would be remiss  not to name the colorful hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds.

* * * * * * * *

As we have covered, Milken crony Carl Icahn founded the options department at Gruntal & Company, which owed its existence to Michael Milken and was one of the more disreputable trading houses on the Street. Ultimately, Gruntal was found to have employed several traders with ties to the Mafia, and soon after, it was charged with a massive fraud and forced to pay what was then one of the largest fines in Wall Street history.

Many of Gruntal’s former employees ended up working for White Rock Capital, which was run by the alleged Russian mobster, Felix Sater, the fellow who was allegedly behind the threat to have Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne murdered if he did not end his crusade against naked short selling and the “deep capture” of important institutions.

As we also know, when Icahn left Gruntal, he handed over direction of the options department to Milken crony Ron Aizer. The first trader Aizer hired was Steve Cohen, who was reportedly investigated by the SEC for trading on inside information provided by Milken’s shop, and later became “the most powerful trader on Wall Street” — the fourth of those seven hedge fund managers prescient enough to bet big against Dendreon before Milken’s other cronies derailed the company in 2007.

The second trader hired by Aizer was a man named Andrew Redleaf, who later went on to co-found two hedge funds — Deephaven Capital Management and Whitebox Advisors.  According to a media account posted on Whitebox’s website, Redleaf’s family kept its investment accounts at Drexel Burnham Lambert, where Michael Milken was then running his stock manipulation and junk bond empire. Redleaf was recommended to Aizer by Andy Stillman, who was then managing Drexel’s propriety options trading.

In later years, Redleaf became well-known for investing in Sun Country Airlines in partnership with Tom Petters, who was recently arrested at gunpoint amid allegations that he had orchestrated a massive Ponzi fraud in cahoots with a fellow named Michael Catain. Catain’s father, Jack Catain, was a Genovese Mafia enforcer and loan shark who had been involved, along with Michael Milken, in ZZZZ Best, a fraudulent carpet cleaning company run by Barry Minkow.

Minkow was eventually imprisoned for the ZZZZ Best fraud, and when he was released, he began a career as a self-described “fraud investigator.” He works in partnership with Sam Antar, the convicted felon who masterminded a massive fraud in the 1980s at an appliance retailer called Crazy Eddie. Antar, who is close to Milken and his network (members of which once tried to help Antar seize control of Crazy Eddie) now spends most of his time on the Internet, smearing and threatening people who work to expose the crime of naked short selling.

For example, Antar once posted on the Internet the names and address of Deep Capture reporter Judd Bagley’s young children. Antar writes with almost daily regularity that Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne is running a fraudulent company (Overstock.com), though he has produced nothing to support his claims, and every reputable person who has examined his arguments has concluded that they are absurd.

Meanwhile, Antar has littered the Internet with all manner of falsehoods about me—stating, for example, that I’m a drug addict and was fired from my last job. Ever the charmer, Antar has also let it be known that he is friendly with violent people, including those who once ambushed me, punched me in the face, and suggested that I should stop working with Patrick Byrne.

It is interesting to note that, these facts notwithstanding, in 2008 Fortune magazine saw fit to grace its pages with a highly flattering 2,738 word profile of Antar (“It Takes One to Know One”). Fortune did this even as it acknowledged that, “As would-be fraudbuster, Sam E. [Antar] has yet to notch his first kill. (Although in fairness he doesn’t hold himself out to be a full-time 10-Q detective. ‘I don’t have 40 people working for me like the SEC,’ he says.) He hasn’t brought any companies down or caused any regulators to open any investigations.”

That is, concerning a notorious swindler and convicted felon who threatens little girls, smears other journalists, is denounced by public officials, and who has not actually been the source of any credible investigation that Fortune can cite, Fortune published a perfectly complimentary puff piece.

As for the above-mentioned Andrew Redleaf, I noted that he is a founding partner in Deephaven Capital Management. In 2006, Deephaven was sanctioned by the SEC for short selling 19 public companies (almost all biotech firms) on inside information that his hedge fund colleagues were giving the companies “death spiral” PIPEs finance.

As you will recall, similar schemes have involved Milken crony Carl Icahn (the founder of Gruntal’s options department); Jeffrey Thorp (son of the Mafia-linked card counter who was the most important figure in Milken’s stock manipulation network during the 1980s); Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald (who used to run the Mafia-linked D.H. Blair, the president of which was Milken’s former national sales manager); and Gryphon Partners (which was tied to the Mafia-linked, nine-fingered Anthony Elgindy, a naked short seller who is now serving an 11 year sentence for stock manipulation schemes and bribing two FBI agents).

My apologies for the repetition, but there are some who are new to this, and it is difficult for even the well initiated to keep track of so many miscreants, so permit me to remind the reader that Gryphon’s founder and Lindsay Rosenwald were among the seven colorful hedge fund managers who bet big against Dendreon in March 2007, just before the company was derailed by strange occurences engineered by Milken’s cronies. Also among those seven hedge fund managers was Steve Cohen, who was, earlier in his career, investigated for trading on inside information provided by Milken’s shop, and was the first trader hired at Gruntal by Milken-crony Ron Aizer.

Andrew Redleaf, the second trader hired by Aizer at Gruntal, is, remember, not just a co-founder of Deephaven Capital (sanctioned for short selling on inside information that companies were to receive dubious financing), but also the proprietor of Whitebox Advisors.

And Whitebox Advisors is among those hedge funds that bought convertible bonds issued by Dendreon, a company that suffered a two-year, sustained naked short selling attack while trying to bring to market a treatment for dying cancer patients.

* * * * * * * *

A hedge fund called DKR Management also bought convertible bonds issued by Dendreon. DKR was founded by Barry L. Klein and Gary S. Davis. Previously, Klein worked for Michael Milken as the President of Drexel Burnham Lambert Trading. Davis also worked for Milken at Drexel.

In later years, Klein and Davis founded the predecessor to AIG Trading Group, a unit of American International Group. AIG Trading Group was later run by Joseph Cassano, who had also been a Milken employee at Drexel.

While at AIG, Cassano sold tens of billions of dollars worth of credit default swaps (contracts that pay out if a company defaults on its debt) to hedge funds and investment banks.

Rolling Stone magazine’s Matthew Taibbi, who is one of the mainstream media’s finest journalists, was among the first to establish that AIG Trading Group and Milken crony Cassano destroyed AIG, which ultimately had to be nationalized by the U.S. government – greatly contributing to the collapse of the financial system last fall. Since then, several reports have also implicated Cassano’s Milken-tied predecessors, Klein and Davis.

Meanwhile, various government investigations are seeking to know whether short sellers acquired and manipulated the prices of AIG’s credit default swaps as a way to weaken their target companies – including Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.  The question that remains unanswered is whether the short sellers that bought credit default swaps from Milken cronies Cassano, Klein and Davis were also members of the Milken network (which would mean that some members of the Milken network wrecked the world while the other members of the network bet that they would).

Another highly significant factor in the collapse of the financial system – as can be discerned from statements by countless officials and by reports in virtually every newspaper in the land, though the newspapers seem content not to investigate the matter or state this explicitly – was the naked short selling of AIG, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and hundreds of other companies.

In the years leading up to the financial cataclysm (and during the time when Dendreon was under attack by naked short sellers), certain hedge funds orchestrated an effective public relations campaign aimed at covering up the crime of naked short selling. As part of this public relations campaign, the hedge funds would regularly trot out a certain Yale professor, who would do his utmost to defend the criminals.

This professor’s favorite stratagem was to divert discussion away from illegal naked short selling, and repeat, over and over, that legal short selling was good for the markets–a fact that was never in dispute. The professor’s capacity for obfuscation was unmatched, but he nonetheless became a favorite source for some members of the media. He appeared regularly on CNBC and was quoted in dozens upon dozens of articles – all of which communicated the non sequitor that illegal naked short selling is not bad for the markets because legal short selling is good for the markets. Of course, this is like arguing that sexual harassment is not bad because sex is good.

The name of this professor is Owen Lamont. To this day, the professor is still sought out by the press, which dutifully regurgitates his baloney. But the professor does not work for Yale anymore.

Now he works for the above-mentioned DKR Management, one of the Milken-connected hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds while Dendreon was brutally attacked by criminal naked short sellers.

* * * * * * * *

There are interesting stories to be told about most every hedge fund that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds. One of them, Eagle Rock Capital, run by an Iranian fellow named Nadir Tavakoli, was once a controlling investor in the International Fight League, a promoter of ultimate fighting matches. The other controlling investor in the International Fight League (which went bankrupt amidst allegations of ultimate fighting’s connections to the Japanese Yakuza and stories that fighters were committing suicides and murders at alarming rates) was a “Russian whiz kid” (according to the media) named Dmitry Balyasny.

The first things to know about Dmitry Balyasny are that he is closely affiliated with Steve Cohen and he is the seventh of those seven hedge fund managers who were betting big against Dendreon by holding put options on the company’s stock, after the FDA advisory panel had recommended that Provenge be approved, and before Milken’s cronies successfully lobbied the FDA to ignore that recommendation. So I will return to Balyasny soon.

But first, let’s continue with our list of hedge funds that held Dendreon’s convertible bonds.

One was GLG Partners. As we know from emails acquired in a lawsuit, GLG Partners received updates on Steve Cohen’s attack on Canadian insurer Fairfax Financial, so it would be unsurprising if GLG was also clued in to Cohen’s attack on Dendreon.

Recall also that (shortly before GLG bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds) French authorities fined GLG  for being part of an insider trading ring that included UBS O’Conner (a unit of UBS investment bank, which, until March, 2007, was led by former Milken employee Ken Moelis) and Meditor Capital, a hedge fund (also, of course, with ties to Steve Cohen) that had just made a large investment in Novacea, the prostate cancer company that was then being promoted (by Milken’s fund and Milken’s “philanthropy”) as a competitor to Dendreon. In short, GLG was “in the mix.”

Another outfit that bought lots of Dendreon’s convertible bonds (shortly after it was caught running an insider trading ring with Meditor and GLG Partners) was…UBS O’Conner.

Then there was Quattro Partners, which bought Dendreon bonds convertible into a more than a million Dendreon shares. The founding partner of Quattro is named Michael Baldock. He had a long career in biotech investing after spending time as an investment banker at Michael Milken’s Drexel Burnham Lambert.

* * * * * * * *

Another of the big investors  in Dendreon’s convertible bonds was Forest Investment Management, a hedge fund controlled by a man named Michael Boyd. Prior to founding Forest, Boyd was a partner in an outfit called Forum Capital Markets. Boyd’s co-founder in Forum was C. Keith Hartley, yet another of Milken’s disciples from Drexel, Burnham Lambert.

Boyd was also the co-founder of a brokerage called McMahan Securities. One of his partners in that operation was Santo Maggio, who later became chief executive officer of Refco Securities, the brokerage that was allegedly processing the phantom stock sales of Rhino Advisors, which illegally naked shorted companies after providing them with finance brokered by Milken crony Carl Icahn’s Ladenburg Thalmann. When Refco was found to be fraudulently hiding $400 million worth of liabilities (liabilities that many believe were related to naked short selling), Maggio pled guilty to two counts of securities fraud, one count of conspiracy, and one count of wire fraud.

Another of Michael Boyd’s many accomplishments is his son, Roddy. Refco employed Roddy as a trader, perhaps as a favor to his father’s former partner, the criminal Santo Maggio.

But Roddy soon abandoned the securities business to become a business journalist – first at the New York Post and now at Fortune magazine. Roddy Boyd is a key figure among the small coterie of journalists who turn up repeatedly in Deep Capture‘s analyses.

Like all members of the coterie, Roddy has spent several years trying to cover up the naked short selling scandal, ridiculing anyone who mentions the crime or the remarkable coincidence of companies appearing on the Reg Sho list (the SEC’s list of companies suffering from naked short selling) when those companies are the targets of a select group of hedge funds whose names will be familiar to the reader who has made it this far.

In addition to covering up naked short selling crimes, Roddy writes hatchet jobs on the public companies targeted by this same select group of short selling hedge funds. The sources of the information in Roddy’s stories are, of course, the short sellers themselves, and most of the short sellers are, as has been explained over and over, tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

For example, Roddy spent a great deal of time working with a soon-to-be arrested criminal named Spyro Contogouris, who had been hired by a subsidiary of Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital, to sabotage, harass, and trash Fairfax Financial.

As mentioned, we have obtained a great number of emails between Cohen, Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates, and others in the network that was attacking Fairfax. In one email, hedge fund manager Chanos writes to journalist Roddy Boyd, “your courtesy was a boon to me. Thank you!”

With the exception of Roddy’s particular clique of journalists, it is not typical for reporters to receive thank you notes for the “courtesies” that they have extended to help hedge funds make money.

Another holder of Dendreon’s convertible bonds was CNH Partners, run by Todd Pulvino, who used to work for Grosvenor Capital. Grosvenor is managed by Scott Lederman, who was the grad school roommate of Steve Cohen and later the chief operating officer of Cohen’s SAC Capital. While Pulvino was presenting himself as a legitimate investor in Dendreon’s debt, was he in touch with Steve Cohen, who had bet big against Dendreon right before Provenge was derailed by the unprecedented lobbying effort of Milken’s other cronies?

We can’t say. And we can’t say who was illegally naked short selling Dendreon’s stock. That, remember, is a big secret – “proprietary trading strategies.”

* * * * * * * *

On October 12, 2007, Dendreon, still desperate for capital to continue clinical trials that might eventually help its cancer treatment receive FDA approval, signed the paperwork on its first PIPE deal. A dreaded PIPE – the sort of deal that dilutes equity and tends to attract naked short selling that sends a company’s stock into a “death spiral.”

The provider of this PIPE finance was the Azimuth Opportunity Fund, managed by an outfit called Acqua Wellington Asset Management.

Acqua Wellington is controlled by a “prominent” investor named Isser Elishis. In an otherwise flattering article, Herb Greenberg – a journalist whose entire career was devoted to granting “courtesies” to hedge funds in the Milken network – described Elishis as the “banker of last resort.”

Herb, who disappeared from public sight after he was exposed by Deep Capture,  now owns a company that ostensibly sells financial research to hedge funds in the Milken network (or, arguably, merely receives payment from them for the extensive string of “courtesies” that Herb extended while working as a journalist).

Among Azimuth’s first forays into the markets was an investment in a company called SulphCo, which claimed to have a method for turning sulphrous crude into clean-burning oil. Elishis collaborated on this deal with SulphCo’s principal investor, Zev Wolfson, who, you will recall, was the investor who financed Milken cronies Carl Icahn, Saul Steinberg, John Mulheren, and various brokerages tied to the Mafia, naked short selling, or both.

SEC data shows that on the day that Dendreon signed its PIPE deal with Azimuth, naked short sellers flooded the market with more than 2 million phantom shares. During the following week, more than a million Dendreon shares “failed to deliver” every day, despite (or perhaps because of) the news that Dendreon had enrolled 500 patients in a trial to confirm its earlier positive results, putting Provenge back on the track to FDA approval.

* * * * * * * *

In the late 1980s, a fellow named Jeffrey Yass and his two friends, Eric Brooks and Kenneth Brodie, set up a partnership to place bets at horse racing tracks across the country. On one single day at Sportsman Park in Chicago they pulled in winnings of more than $600,000. This seemed somewhat excessive, so Sportsman Park banned the three friends from its premises. The punters filed a lawsuit claiming that Sportsman Park had violated their rights to visit a public facility.

At any rate, Jeffrey Yass and Eric Brooks eventually abandoned the business of betting on horse races and instead pursued careers on Wall Street. Now they are “prominent” investors, the proprietors of a mid-sized investment and trading house called Susquehanna International.

In the spring of 2008, Susquehanna was introduced to Dendreon by a placement agent, Lazard Capital Markets. It is not clear why Dendreon would want to do business with Lazard. After all, Lazard was home to the singing Joel Sendek, who had been busily trashing Dendreon in his research reports.

Sendek had also been trumpeting Dendreon’s competitor, Cougar Biotechnology, as the next big thing in cancer treatment. In turn, Cougar Biotechnology (the company then controlled by Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly of the Mafia-affiliated pump-and-dump shop D.H. Blair) had been quoting Sendek in its SEC filings.

Sendek’s endorsement, Cougar seemed to be suggesting, was evidence that the company was making progress toward bringing its prostate cancer treatment to market. This was odd, because most pharmaceutical companies use data collected from clinical trials to demonstrate this, not quotes from singing Wall Street analysts.

Meanwhile, it was widely understood that Lazard’s stock loan department was one of the go-to shops for hedge funds looking to short sell Dendreon’s shares. We cannot say that Lazard was loaning phantom stock to the short sellers (if it were, that would be a big secret), but Lazard’s coziness with short sellers ought to have given Dendreon pause.

There was also the fact that Lazard Capital had only recently been spun off from Lazard Ltd. Given that the two operations remained closely affiliated (sharing business and so forth), it might have been of some concern that the chairman of Lazard Ltd. was Bruce Wasserstein, a close associate of Michael Milken.

In “Den of Thieves,” James Stewart, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, quotes a criminal named Denis Levine as saying that Wasserstein was “owned” by Milken’s famous co-conspirator, Ivan Boesky. Given that Denis Levine was indicted for participating in Boesky’s insider trading schemes, one would think he knew of what he spoke, but there is no hard evidence to support his allegation.

In any case, Dendreon followed Lazard’s advice, and did a “registered direct offering” with Capital Ventures International, an affiliate of Susquehanna, the firm founded by Yass and Brooks. A “registered direct offering” is similar to a PIPE, the difference being that the securities sold to the investor are registered with the SEC and immediately tradable.

For most of March 2008, naked short sellers were failing to deliver less than 500,000 shares per day. As negotiations for the “registered direct offering” were underway, the amount of phantom stock gradually increased. And on the day the deal was signed, April 3, at least 1.6 million phantom shares had been sold into the market and remained undelivered.

For the next two months, more than one million Dendreon shares remained “failed to deliver” every day. This despite (or perhaps because of) the fantastic news, on March 12, 2008, that the FDA had agreed to an amended “Special Protocol Assessment,” which would enable the company to release, one year ahead of schedule, the results of an “IMPACT” trial that seemed likely to confirm the company’s Phase 3 trials showing substantial evidence that Provenge was safe and effective.

As Dendreon’s enemies must have known, it would soon be impossible to stymie the company with arguments about data, but stock manipulators were not yet ready to end their campaign against the company.

* * * * * * * *

To be continued….Click here for Chapter 13.

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