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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 4 of 15)

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 4 of 15)



What follows is PART 4 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

Where we left off, we had learned that CNBC’s Jim Cramer, who once planned to run a hedge fund out of the offices of Michael Milken’s famous criminal co-conspirator Ivan Boesky, had declared Dendreon to be a “battleground stock.” And we had learned that Dendreon eventually came under a brutal, illegal naked short selling attack, right at the time that an FDA advisory panel voted in favor of the company’s prostate cancer treatment, and right before some strange occurrences were to prevent that treatment from reaching patients.

We had also learned that naked short sales are often “married” to put options (bets against a company), and at the time of the Dendreon attack, in 2007, only ten hedge fund managers on the planet owned large numbers of put options on Dendreon’s stock. Finally we had learned that those imminent strange occurrences (which will be described in due course) might have had something to do with the “philanthropy” of Michael Milken, the famous criminal. Thus, it seemed worth noting that at least seven of those ten hedge fund managers who placed large bets against Dendreon can be tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

One of the seven hedge funds was the Mafia-connected Bernard Madoff, who orchestrated a $50 billion Ponzi scheme while helping author an SEC loophole that enabled hedge funds to “marry” naked short sales to put options – creating phantom stock “bullets” that could be used to drive down prices. The second of the seven hedge fund managers worked for Lindsay Rosenwald, a Milken crony who once helped manage a Mafia-affiliated brokerage called D.H. Blair.

Now we learn a bit more about D.H. Blair and meet two more of the hedge funds that stood to profit from the demise of Dendreon, a company with a promising treatment for prostate cancer…

* * * * * * * *

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 co-founded by Felix Sater. Felix Sater, remember, is the alleged son of a top Russian Mob boss. 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’s wife, Elaine, sits on the board of Michael Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation. Steven Wynn is Milken’s closest friend, according to Milken.

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, right after Dendreon received the fantastic news that the FDA’s advisory panel had voted that the company’s treatment for prostate cancer should be approved. In other words, after Dendreon received its fantastic news 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. 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 please 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 will return to 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 other co-founder has said that he once worried that Felix Sater might murder Chalem. As we know, Chalem eventually was assassinated in his New Jersey mansion (which does not, of course, prove that those fears 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.

* * * * * * * *

As mentioned, Carl Icahn, who would later owe his status as a billionaire to Michael Milken, founded the options department at Gruntal & Company, which owed its existence to Michael Milken.  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 the same stocks. 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 claimed to have a promising treatment for prostate cancer, though that treatment was (and is) largely untested and years away from recieving FDA approval.

In future chapters, we will begin to ask why Michael Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, went to lengths to promote Milken crony Rosenwald’s untested prostate cancer treatment while seeming to dismiss (and perhaps even seeking to derail) Dendreon, whose treatment had received the overwhelming endorsement of an FDA expert advisory panel and was capable (if it had not been derailed) of saving patients’ lives right away.

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 surpirise that Cohen is the fourth of those seven “colorful” hedge fund managers (the other three being Millennium’s Izzy Englander; Joselph 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 Paramount Capital employee 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 that the SEC decries as illegal, but refuses to address, except to say that naked short selling is a big secrety — a “proprietary trading strategy.”

* * * * * * * *

To be continued…Click here for Chapter 5.

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