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May 12, 2003 | New York Post New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has changed tactics and is conducting a criminal investigation into the activities of disgraced tech banking star Frank Quattrone, The Post has learned.

Spitzer's office had earlier said it would file civil charges against Quattrone, former head of Credit Suisse First Boston's California-based tech banking practice.

Quattrone turned himself in to U.S. Attorney James Comey last month to face obstruction of justice charges tied to an e-mail he sent in December 2000; he is expected to be arraigned in federal court in the next week.

Now, prosecutors in Spitzer's office have been interviewing the so-called "friends of Frank" in some cases offering immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for information.

The "friends" are CEOs and other Silicon Valley insiders who made millions with special tech-stock accounts. Prosecutors are telling these account-holders they might face criminal charges because they accepted bribes, according to those familiar with the interviews.

Spitzer's office believes the accounts were given to company officials in exchange for steering business to CSFB's tech practice.

A person familiar with the actions Spitzer's office has taken described the investigation as a broad look at ways in which tech executives may have misused the assets of the corporations they managed. Since the "friend of Frank" accounts enriched the individuals not the companies the execs may have abused their corporate positions to personally profit.

A spokesman for Spitzer's office declined to comment on the investigation, but cautioned that any action against Quattrone will not be announced for some time.

A Quattrone rep said yesterday the banker had nothing to do with tech stock allocations. "We know they're investigating; we've never acknowledged it's criminal."

Spitzer's office may not be completely serious about charging the "friends," according to sources. Instead, they may be trying to find someone who will testify that they received a "friend" account in return for doing business with CSFB.

"They're doing that for leverage. They're just trying to flip somebody" who will agree to testify against Quattrone, making a criminal case easier to try, said one of the sources who knew about the investigation. "White-collar guys don't want to go to jail."

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