By Steve Hamm Former star investment banker Frank Quattrone thrived during Silicon Valley's boom days by taking risks. Now, as his trial on obstruction-of-justice charges goes to jury in Manhattan, it seems he may have taken one risk too many.
Quattrone, who formerly worked for Credit Suisse First Boston, made the chancy decision to testify himself and appeal directly to jurors. But during his testimony on Oct. 11 and 14, I thought he looked and sounded evasive and dishonest. And his behavior and statements from those days will form some of the last impressions jury members take with them when they begin deliberations -- expected on Oct. 15.
"HEAVILY MEDICATED." I found some of Quattrone's statements downright disturbing. One concerned an incident last January, when he told CSFB's top lawyer that he hadn't been informed about investigations into the company's initial public offerings before he sent an e-mail on December 5, 2000, urging employees to clean up their files. The conversation with CSFB's counsel occurred during a phone call the lawyer had made to Quattrone's home. On the stand Oct. 14, Quattrone admitted the statement he had made to the lawyer that night in January wasn't accurate.
Quattrone's explanation to the courtroom: "I was awakened from a deep sleep and was heavily medicated." And on Oct. 11, he undermined his defense when forced to admit that he had been more involved in the matters under investigation than he had formerly let on.
The government's evidence is circumstantial, so Quattrone's credibility will be the key to a finding of his guilt or innocence. The feds say he intended to hinder their investigation into CSFB's allocations of IPO shares to investors by sending out the e-mail. During the trial they have produced a blizzard of e-mail and memos sent to Quattrone notifying him of the steadily intensifying pressure on the company, first from the National Association of Securities Dealers, then the Securities & Exchange Commission, then a federal grand jury probe. Quattrone says he didn't realize the investigations involved his banking unit and denies he intended to hinder them.
"TOP OF HIS GAME." The trial may turn on how well the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments. Each side chose a metaphor they thought would resonate with a serious-looking, alert jury made up mostly of working-class New Yorkers. David Anders, one of the prosecutors, compared Quattrone to Yankees star Derek Jeter. "When you're in the batters' box facing Boston's Pedro Martinez, you pay attention," said Anders. "Frank Quattrone, like Derek Jeter, was at the top of his game. He doesn't get overwhelmed. Nothing gets by him."
John Keker, Quattrone's attorney, blamed everything on CSFB's lawyers -- for failing to tell the investment banker explicitly that he and his people shouldn't have destroyed documents. Keker said they had a series of opportunities to warn him but passed them up -- with dire consequences. Said Keker: "Mr. Quattrone was a victim of a multicar collision on the information superhighway."
How will the jury react? It was hard to read their faces as they listened to testimony. But in the court of public opinion, Quattrone could be at a disadvantage. Early in the trial, it was revealed that he made more than $120 million in 2000. That would be reason enough for many people to convict him. The question now is whether the jury finds enough evidence to do so. Hamm is a senior writer for BusinessWeek