Michael R. Milken is well known as the mastermind behind a 1980s financial scandal involving the buying and selling of junk bonds. These bonds, deemed too risky by most traditional investors, proved to have a high rate of return. Milken convinced investors to buy them, and continued building his network in an unscrupulous manner, for which he paid himself very well. Finally, in 1988, things began to fall apart. Milken and his firm, Drexel Burnham, were charged with securities fraud. Drexel Burnham paid a huge fine, $650 million, and eventually had to declare bankruptcy in 1990 after the junk bonds market collapsed. Milken himself was ordered to pay an enormous fine of $600 million, as well as serve time in prison.
At the peak of Drexel Burnham's success, Michael Milken was taking home about half of the profits from the sale of junk bonds. That was $550 million in 1987, which was the highest annual compensation at the time. Between 1987 and 2020, the US dollar experienced a rate of inflation of 2.52% each year. This does not reflect the even steeper increase in cost of living, however, as average prices are over 125% higher today than they were in 1987. Nevertheless, using the inflation calculation, we can say that in today's dollars Milken would have taken home 1.242 billion dollars.