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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.

If this article concerns you, and you wish to help, then:
1) email it to a dozen friends;
2) go here for additional suggestions: “So You Say You Want a Revolution?

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 7 of 15)

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 7 of 15)



What follows is PART 7 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

Where we left off, CNBC’s Jim Cramer had declared Dendreon to be a “battleground stock,” and we had learned about the ties that bind certain financial analysts, hedge fund managers and journalists, including Cramer.We had also learned that a great many people in this network are tied to the famous criminal Michael Milken or his close associates.

We had learned further that seven hedge fund managers in this network were among the only people on the planet known to be holding large bets against Dendreon as of March 31, 2007 – which was right at the time when criminals were flooding the market with millions of phantom Dendreon shares; and right after Dendreon had received the fantastic news that an FDA expert advisory panel had endorsed the company’s prostate cancer treatment; and right before Dendreon was to be derailed by some singularly strange occurrences.

I will describe those strange occurrences in due course. I will also describe how those strange occurrences coincide with the “philanthropy” of Michael Milken.  But first let us meet another dubious financial analyst, and then let us begin to understand how Michael Milken himself stood to profit financially from the demise of Dendreon, the only company with a viable new treatment for prostate cancer.

* * * * * * * *

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 dying patients?

And who was this Joel Sendek?

* * * * * * * *

Actual Joel Sendek publicity photo
Actual Joel Sendek publicity photo

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 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 more 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 ProQuest (Michael Milken’s investment fund for companies that supposedly have treatments for prostate cancer) 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, who became the “most powerful trader on the Street” largely by maniacally maintaining relationships with his former colleagues. 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, the fraud king’s son-in-law, 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 an upcoming chapter.

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. This was the Jeremy Goldberg who later founded Milken’s ProQuest Investments.

So Barberich was chair of Sepracor (a company that markets sleeping pills), and founding chairman 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.

* * * * * * * *

To be continued…Click here for Chapter 8.

If this article concerns you, and you wish to help, then:
1) email it to a dozen friends;
2) go here for additional suggestions: “So You Say You Want a Revolution?

Posted in Featured Stories, The Deep Capture Campaign, The Mitchell ReportComments (37)

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