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Campus North Residential Commons residential and dining facility at the University of Chicago. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Financier Steve Stevanovich, the subject of a fantastic investigation by the Chicago Maroon, sits on the storied board of trustees of the University of Chicago, alongside real billionaires like Ken Griffin and David Rubenstein.

Background: In 2006 he pledged $7 million to endow the the Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics; in 2014, he followed that up with another $10 million for something called the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. And in 2017, he started talking about a "nine-figure" donation, saying that his funds were worth billions of dollars.

Why it matters: Stevanovich's funds weren't worth billions. The Maroon reveals that far from being a billionaire, Stevanovich hasn't even managed to meet his existing pledges.

  • He's $2.8 million short on the $7 million pledge, he hasn't coughed up a penny of the $10 million pledge, and the university "has agreed not to accept payments" from him while he's embroiled in litigation surrounding his loans to a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme. He's also being investigated by the SEC.

Between the lines: Stevanovich made $280 million lending money to convicted Ponzi schemer Thomas Petters; he got out, suspiciously, just before the scheme collapsed.

  • He also contrived to turn $12 million of loans to a company called Groen Brothers Aviation into a total debt, after interest, of $150 million.
  • That in turn allowed him to take control of the company and enter into a joint venture in Inner Mongolia which allegedly came with rights to 20 million tons of coal worth some $1 billion.

The SEC says that GBA only has one full-time employee. Its former employees are suing it for unpaid wages. But as recently as last year, Stevanovich was claiming that GBA (since renamed to Skyworks) was worth $1.7 billion, and that as soon as he could liquidate that investment, he could make good on all his pledges.

Go deeper

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

6 hours ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.