Miami institutions maintain a cautious silence on benefactor Frost’s securities fraud charges

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Phillip Frost. Photo: Emiliano Granado /  Bloomberg

Phillip Frost. Photo: Emiliano Granado / Bloomberg

The charging of Phillip Frost with securities fraud last week is sending quiet shock waves through the cultural landscape of South Florida.

As reported last week by the Miami Herald, the wealthy philanthropist was charged along with nine others investors of manipulating the share price of three unnamed companies. Miami-based OPKO Health, of which Frost is the founder, was also named as a defendant in the scheme.

Frost, whose wealth is estimated at $2.6 billion by Forbes, allegedly made $1.1 million off of the fraudulent stock actions.

The SEC charges put the educational institutions and cultural organizations who have been the recipients of Frost’s charity in an awkward position. Frost’s name is on both the Frost Science Museum and the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music by virtue of previous large charitable donations. In the case of the latter, many school ensembles (Frost Symphony Orchestra, Frost Wind Ensemble, etc.) also bear his name.

The 83-year-old doctor-biotech entrepreneur and his wife Patricia gave a total of $55 million to the Science Museum.

Contacted Tuesday for a response to the charges, the Science Museum emailed the same brief statement sent to the Herald last week: “We are extremely grateful for the support of Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost who are steadfast in their commitment to education, science and technology. Without their dedication, the museum would not be here today.”

The Frosts’ philanthropic largesse to UM has been even more vast. The couple bestowed a $33 million naming gift in 2003 that recast UM’s music school as the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music. And in 2016, the Frosts presented a $100 million gift to support basic and applied sciences and engineering. The Frost School of Music declined to make a statement on the charges at this time.

The couple has also endowed the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University.

Barron’s, which has been reporting critically on OPKO for years, posted a story Monday that provided background to the events that led up to last week’s SEC announcement and suggested that the charges against Frost and others were “the tip of the iceberg.”

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Wed Sep 12, 2018
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