He was a high-flying investment banker capitalizing on the late 90s technology bubble, setting up deals to launch billion dollar IPOs. Now, after three years of court battles against the government involving charges that he obstructed an investigation, Frank Quattrone is free to pursue his business once again.
A judge approved a deal between Quattrone and government prosecutors on Tuesday. The judgeâ€™s decision means Quattrone will walk away legally unscathed, and opens the door for him to return to his formerly lucrative Wall-Street career.
U.S. District Judge, George B. Daniels approved an arrangement ensuring that Quattrone avoids a third trial for obstruction of justice. All charges will be dropped within 12 months as long as the he doesn't break any laws and reports to a court supervisor regarding address changes and international travel.
Prosecutors accused him of trying to block regulatory and grand jury probes into his firm, citing an email he sent in December of 2000 suggesting that colleagues clean up those files, allegedly after he learned of the federal investigation. Quattrone maintained that he was simply following the firm's document retention policy.
Following Tuesday's announcement, Quattrone was jubilant, saying he was very pleased the case had reached a conclusion and thanked supporters who stuck by him during his ordeal.
I look forward to the dismissal of all charges, he said outside the courtroom.
Trials and Tribulations
Judge Daniels' decision in Lower Manhattan Tuesday to dismiss charges if Quattrone stayed away from trouble for a year was the culmination of a three year legal battle involving two trials and a possible third.
In the first trial the jury could not reach a conclusion, while the second one ended with a judge overturning a conviction which would have seen Quattrone serve 18 months in prison.
In 2003, he was charged with blocking government attempts to investigate kickbacks given to Quattroneâ€™s firm, Credit Suisse First Boston Group. The allegation accused Quattrone of giving shares of IPO companies to investors in return for kickbacks.
At the time, Quattrone was head of the technology investment at Credit Suisse. In 2000, his best year for personal income, Quattrone made $120 million.
In the second case, he was initially convicted in May of 2004. Several months later during sentencing, he was fined $90,000 and was scheduled to spend 18 months in prison. However a judge found that the jury had not been properly instructed in the law and overturned the conviction.
Battling Corporate Crime
The case ends after a span of several years where federal prosecutors have targeted high profile corporate crime cases. Quattrone's court ordered 12-month waiting period for all charges to be dropped is in stark contrast to the penalties suffered by company leaders in other recent cases.
Corporate scandals in the last five years have resulted in convictions and lengthy sentences for crimes including accounting improprieties and bank fraud. Some of the cases involved became news staples, including scandals at energy seller Enron, and communications firm WorldCom.
In the Enron case, which began in 2001 and involved the loss of billions in shareholder losses, two of the company's top officers were convicted on various counts in May.
The late Kenneth Lay, the companyâ€™s former chairman, and Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO, faced up to 165 years and 185 years in prison respectively at the time of conviction for pocketing millions in sales of inflated shares. Skilling's fate will be decided in September.
Other recently resolved cases involving top executives involved sentences ranging from 5 to 25 years. The firms include medical services company Healthsouth Corp., Adelphia, and Tyco International.
Even home living guru Martha Stewart spent five months in prison for in a case involving insider trading.
A Career Revived
Through the course of his 23 year career, Quattrone raised more than $65 billion in capital for technology companies in 175 IPOs. Some of them include some of the standard bearers of today's Internet economy, including Amazon.com Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Intuit Inc. and Netscape.
When asked of his future endeavors outside the Manhattan court house, Quattrone stated I plan to resume my business career. The deal agreed required no admission of guilt.
The judge's decision imposes no restrictions on his choice of work, which means that Quattrone can go back investment banking. Other hindrances to keep him from working have been dropped, such as an effort by private industry regulator NASD to punish him. In addition, there are no outstanding civil cases against Quattrone still pending.